Jose Cruz Jr.  aims to take Rice back to the baseball top

Jose Cruz Jr. aims to take Rice back to the baseball top

26 years after he last played baseball at Rice, Jose Cruz Jr. had again wearing an owl shirt Tuesday night. Cruz, 47, was formally introduced as Owls’ new baseball coach at Reckling Park, five days after being hired to replace the fired Matt Bragga.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and what I want to do for a long time,” Cruz said. “I put on the jersey with great pride. I look forward to what we can achieve. The goal is to win a national championship and come together as a rice community.

“I am in ecstasy. I’m very excited. It’s very emotional. I’m looking forward to the challenge, I’m ready. This will be fun to have the rice nation come together. The goal is to be the last (team) to stand. ”

A highly committed alumnus, Cruz has been a long-time supporter of Rice Baseball. Wearing No. 22, Cruz becomes the 22nd head coach of the program.

Cruz is brought in to lift a once proud program that comes from four seasons that lose straight out three under Bragga. Cruz was in his first season as the Detroit Tigers’ assistant coach.

Under Wayne Graham, Rice made 23 straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1995-2017, winning the 2003 National Championship in Omaha, Neb.

Cruz played for Graham from 1992-95 and was a three-time All-America outfielder before starting a 12-year major league career in which the substitute made up 204 home runs. Number 3 of the Seattle Mariners in the 1995 draft, Cruz played for nine franchises. He ended his career in 2008 with the Astros.

“This is an exciting day for Rice Baseball,” said Rice Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard, “when we welcome one of the architects of the dynasty who sent seven owls to Omaha and won a national title 18 years ago.

“Jose is ready for this challenge, and we are ready to support him in bringing Rice Baseball forward with championships and trips to Omaha. This is the right match at the right time. ”

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