Behind The Scenes

Double duty: Jose Cruz Jr. joins Baseball Tonight, Beisbol Esta Noche

Jose Cruz Jr. played 12 major-league seasons.

ESPN announced this month that former Gold Glove Award-winning outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr. has joined the network as an MLB analyst.

Jose Cruz, Jr.

Cruz will make his debut on the midnight ET edition of Baseball Tonight on Wednesday, May 16 and appear regularly throughout the season. The bilingual Cruz will also contribute to Beisbol Esta Noche on ESPN Deportes.

Front Row caught up with Cruz, who was suit-shopping for his new TV role, to discuss the new gig, the great Cruz family legacy, and which current ESPN analysts impress him.

Are you excited for your Baseball Tonight debut?
Yes, I’m excited. The ESPN name is arguably the biggest name in all of sports. It’s a great product and a great brand. It’s something I always felt would be amazing to be affiliated with — just the opportunity to be at ESPN is one that I couldn’t pass up.

What surprised you about your audition with ESPN?
Well, I just remember thinking this is a way bigger production than I could ever have imagined. To me, the surprising part is how fast-paced it is. You have to be on your toes at all times and you have to be quick. What the Baseball Tonight guys do is like clockwork how quickly they move from one segment and one topic to the next.

How long have you thought about working in TV?
Towards the end of my baseball career, my teammates used to joke around with me and say that I’d be good on TV. Then once I retired, more and more people said you should do it. A close friend of mine said you should look into ESPN, so I did.

Have any current ESPN analysts given you tips?
The tip I hear the most is just to be yourself. Tim Scanlon (ESPN vice president, talent planning & development) told me that — be yourself, that’s why we like you. I also watch the current ESPN analysts. I like Jalen Rose (NBA analyst). I like how he brings it all together. I like how he talks and how much he’s improved since he first started. I like how he articulates his point and also explains why. On the MLB side, I think Nomar Garciaparra (Baseball Tonight, Wednesday Night Baseball) does a very good job. He’s a former teammate of mine. He’s very polished, very positive and very genuine.

What does being part of the legendary Cruz baseball family mean to you?
It’s something that I grew up with, but the older I get, the prouder I am of the whole family thing. I look at it from a father’s perspective because I’m a father too. I’m very privileged and very blessed to be a part of this. I look at what I did, and then I look at what my father did. It’s impressive. I’m proud to have that legacy in both Puerto Rico and in Houston. Both my father and I were able to help put the game of baseball in such a high place in Puerto Rico. We grinded it out and gave it our all – and that’s what we try to show to my kids.

Do you think soaking in all that knowledge from your father and uncles will help you provide insights and analysis at ESPN?
I was around baseball since I was young. I had things about baseball that were instinctual. At the beginning of my professional career in Puerto Rico, my father was the manager and my uncle was my coach. I remember driving in the car with them to and from games. My dad was driving, my uncle was in the passenger seat and I was in the backseat. We used to go through all different kinds of scenarios, matchups and lineups. What’s the right way to get an out? What’s the wrong way? All these things that people don’t think about. That’s where I get my perspective. And I got it from all angles. There’s a different style of baseball played in the Caribbean than in the United States. I was able to soak up a lot of knowledge in both the Caribbean and in MLB. There are a lot of different ways to view the game, to win and to lose, fortunate to get a lot of perspective.

Jose Cruz Sr. played for the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees from 1970-1988
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