Nelson Cruz, OF, Orioles
Hometown: Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic
Cruz wasn't one of those phenoms from the Dominican Republic who ended up in a big league system and rushed to the big leagues. He is the only Major League player from Las Matas de Santa Cruz, a small town on the northwest coast of the Dominican Republic. As a child, he first grew to love basketball, and once he hit the diamond, his skills were undeniable.
A scout for the Mets came to see Cruz play in the Dominican Republic. With size like his and raw athleticism, the slugger was an obvious choice for the team to take a flier on.
Cruz, however, never made it to the United States with the Mets. The outfielder signed in 1998, and after playing a few years in the Dominican, he was traded to the Athletics in 2000. He debuted in '05 -- after another trade to the Brewers -- and he has been among the best Dominican players in the Majors since.
David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.