Six weeks ago, during the 25th anniversary celebration of the Orioles' last world championship, Todd Cruz stood on the field at Camden Yards and reveled in the moment.
"Being with these guys here is like being a little kid ... getting ready for Christmas," said Cruz, who played third base on the 1983 title team. "I love them all, and I'll be an Oriole for the rest of my life."
Cruz, 52, died Tuesday while swimming in the pool at his apartment complex in Bullhead City, Ariz. The coroner's office is conducting tests to determine the cause of death.
"Todd was in the 'character' field, but he played good and he played hard," said Joe Altobelli, who managed the 1983 Orioles.
Cruz came to the Orioles in a midseason trade in 1983. Unhappy with the play of third baseman Leo Hernandez, the club acquired Cruz, a light-hitting shortstop, from the Seattle Mariners, and plugged him in at third. The move clicked, Altobelli said.
"Todd was the perfect piece for our team," he said. "Boy, oh boy, did he fit our infield. ... He joined us on the road in Detroit, a .190 hitter, and hit two home runs in his first game. Having been a shortstop, he had great range at third base. I can still see him in the World Series [against the Philadelphia Phillies] when somebody hit a shot in the hole and Todd turned a double play."
Cruz played for six teams in a seven-year career, which ended with the Orioles in 1984.
"Todd really enjoyed that year," said Gary Roenicke, an outfielder on the 1983 team. "Even though he'd played for many other teams, he always thought of himself as an Oriole. He had an outgoing personality, he talked real fast and he kept everybody loose, on and off the field. And he sure filled a gap on our team that needed to be filled."
Cruz is survived by a sister, Sharon Maceri, and two sons, Thaddeus and Dario.