HOUSTON — José Cruz Jr. is returning to his alma mater as the Rice Owls head baseball coach.
In 1992, Cruz chose to remain home and sign with the Owls after leading Houston’s Bellaire High School to the top ranking in country. He became an instant star and helped legendary coach Wayne Graham attract other top talent to Rice.
“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 said in s statement. “Wayne Graham sold me on what Rice could become and he was right. It’s up to me and my staff to return Rice baseball to the position we worked so hard to build.”
Cruz is the son of Jose Cruz Sr., one of the most popular Houston Astros of all time. The love of baseball runs in the family.
“As a player, he gave us immediate credibility when he chose Rice," Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard said. "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.”
After stints with Seattle, Toronto and San Francisco, Cruz returned to Houston in 2008, playing 38 games for the Astros before announcing his retirement.
Both of Cruz's sons, Trei and Antonio Cruz, followed in his footsteps to Rice.
He's the first former Rice player to be named as the Owls head coach since Harold Stockbridge in 1949.
Cruz joins the Owls from the Detroit Tigers, where he was in his first season with the club as a coach, focusing on hitting instruction and working with the outfielders under manager A.J. Hinch.