Cruz thrills kids with PLAY BALL appearance

Cruz thrills kids with PLAY BALL appearance

SEATTLE -- When Nelson Cruz showed up to the field behind the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club, all the kids started shouting.

"He's here! Nelson Cruz!"

They started climbing the fences to get a better look before their coaches and parents promptly told them to get down.

Cruz smiled, seeing all the waving kids outfitted in Mariners gear and wristbands embroidered with his number. He gave high fives, shook the mayor's hand, and it was time to play ball.

Tuesday afternoon, before the Mariners played the Yankees at Safeco Field in the second game of a three-game series, Cruz and Mayor Ed Murray joined the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club at a Wiffle ball game as a part of the Major League Baseball and U.S. Conference of Mayors' PLAY BALL Month activities. MLB's PLAY BALL campaign is designed to encourage youth participation in baseball.

"This is so much more fun than sitting in the mayor's office having meetings," Murray said. "Being out here with young people in a program that talks about how we need to be active -- including the adults, but focusing today on kids -- so we can reduce obesity in America."

Cruz jumped right into the game. He borrowed the Mariner Moose's giant glove to catch for newly appointed Mariners CEO John Stanton. At one point, they switched spots and Cruz took a turn on the mound, joking with the kids and throwing out hitting tips here and there. Mariners president Kevin Mather and the Moose also joined them on the field.

For Cruz, it brought back memories from his childhood.

"Nothing like this," he said. "It was more like a farm that I used to play on. But same type of intensity. We have fun, we enjoy it."

Cruz signed autographs in both dugouts and even stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded to drive in a run.

"We are a citizen in the community," Stanton said of the Mariners organization, "and it's important for us to be responsive to the needs of the community."

Maddie Lee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.