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Senior captain Connor Cruz contributed to the Westbrook baseball team at several positions this spring, most notably behind the dish and on the bump. (Photo courtesy of Connor Cruz )
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Baseball has always been the No. 1 sport in Connor Cruz’s heart. As a member of the Westbrook baseball team, Connor displayed his passion with his performance in the batter’s box, behind the plate, and on the pitcher’s mound for the Knights.
Connor served as a senior captain while seeing time as a catcher, a starting pitcher, and at shortstop for Westbrook this spring. The recent graduate posted a .441 batting average and a .506 on-base percentage to complement his 1.75 earned-run average on the hill. Connor also helped the Knights make a late-season run to qualify for the Class S State Tournament.
“Being a pitcher and catcher is unique because, as a catcher, I’m used to calling all my games, so I know how to approach certain hitters,” says Connor. “Knowing everything from both sides of it really helped me grow as a pitcher. It’s funny, because when I came into high school, people said I had to pick one or the other, but [playing both] really helped me out.”
While it’s a little unusual to play both catcher and pitcher, Connor worked hard to become a key contributor on each end of the battery pairing. Along the way, Connor realized that having heart is more important than an athlete’s physical stature.
“It helps that I just enjoy playing the game so much. I don’t mind practicing for multiple hours each day and on weekends. My attitude has helped me improve, too,” Connor says. “I’m not a big person with my size, so I worked a lot on my technique for having an efficient swing. I just focusing on the things I could control versus those that I couldn’t because of that size.”
Connor enjoyed guiding the Knights on their crusade to the playoffs while captaining the ship this season. Connor says that having a great group of teammates in the dugout made leading the club that much easier.
“It was a lot of fun being a captain this year since everyone around this team and the coaches were such good people,” says Connor. “Working with the underclassmen was such a pleasure. They were great to talk to, and I just tried to help them anyway I could.”
Head Coach Derek Hanssen praises Connor for the cerebral approach that he brings to the field. Hanssen also compliments Connor for moving over to shortstop in a pinch when Westbrook needed him to this year.
“Connor is an extremely hard-working individual. He puts in a lot of extra time outside of the usual practice hours working on his game. He is a very intelligent baseball player and knows the game very well,” Coach Hanssen says. “Connor is a team-first leader. He was put in a situation to play out of position after our shortstop was injured, and he did without hesitation. He had never played there before, but he jumped into the spot to try to make the team better.”
Connor says that playing baseball for Westbrook helped him learn how to stay calm when the going gets tough. Connor believes this is an invaluable attribute that will serve him well long after his time on the diamond is done.
“Having baseball as my main hobby definitely helped me mature as a person. I learned that perseverance and hard work from baseball are important in sports and life in general,” says Connor. “I also learned that having a great team behind you helps you succeed.”
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