Detroit Tigers assistant hitting coach Jose Cruz Jr. leaves to coach Rice baseball

Detroit Free Press

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After 60 games with the Detroit Tigers, assistant hitting coach Jose Cruz Jr. is returning to Rice University as the baseball team’s next head coach, the program announced Wednesday.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to come home to Rice, a place that has given me and my family so much over the years,” Cruz, 47, said in a statement. “It’s up to me and my staff to return Rice baseball to the position we worked so hard to build.”

Cruz is sticking with the Tigers through the weekend. He will travel to Rice to be formally introduced next week.

THE CRUZ FAMILY: Tigers prospect Trei Cruz leans on dad, grandpa to add to family’s baseball legacy

Before Rice athletic director Joe Karlgaard made his decision official, Hinch confirmed Cruz had been in conversations with his alma mater about returning to college baseball. But Hinch didn’t say whether Cruz accepted the coaching position.

Also, Hinch recently spoke to Karlgaard about the situation.

“He’s been engaged in their process,” Hinch said Wednesday. “He’s a huge alum there. He’s uber talented to do a lot of different things. It’s not a surprise to me that people came calling about him. Their process is pretty deep. Obviously, he’s a huge candidate and a very popular one. But it’s their timeline in which they’re going to discuss to finalize things with Jose or go in a different direction.”

FROM DECEMBER: Tigers hire José Cruz Jr., a 12-year MLB veteran, as assistant hitting coach

Cruz attended Rice from 1992-95 and was a three-time All-American outfielder. After being selected by the Seattle Mariners with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1995 draft, Cruz played 12 seasons in the major leagues for nine teams.

His father is Jose Cruz, who played 19 years in the big leagues, and his son is Trei Cruz, a 22-year-old infield prospect for the Tigers. Trei Cruz played baseball for Rice, as well, from 2018-20 before getting selected in the third round of the 2020 draft.

“Jose Cruz Jr. understands as well as anyone the trajectory of Rice baseball over the last three decades,” Karlgaard said about the hiring. “As a player, he gave us immediate credibility when he chose Rice. He saw the program grow into a perennial powerhouse through his brother playing on the 2003 CWS Championship squad, and he has felt our recent struggles as the parent of two players. He is passionate about leading the charge to bring Rice baseball back to the top of college baseball.”

Hinch hired Cruz Jr. on Dec. 8. His gig with the Tigers was his first opportunity as a coach, after retiring from his playing career in 2008.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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