Nelson Cruz buys fire truck for his hometown in the Dominican Republic

David Brown

It could be any small boy's fondest wish: To ride his own fire truck down his street with the sirens blaring and the lights flashing.

But Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz is no boy, and he didn't buy a fire truck to fulfill a childhood fantasy. He did it so his hometown in the Dominican Republic would have the same, basic protection that any municipality ought to have.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the details:

"In my hometown we don't have ambulances or fire trucks, so I decided to buy one," Cruz said. "It was yellow, so we had to paint it red."

That's not all. After hearing about Cruz's initiative, American Medical Response, which provides ambulance service in Arlington, is donating two ambulances. The Fire Department, which found a suitable truck in Minnesota, and the dealer that sold it are chipping in hand tools, hoses and nozzles.

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Other athletes give back to their hometowns. Sometimes we hear about it, sometimes we don't. Pedro Martinez has built a church — and who knows what else? — for his town in the Dominican. The same goes for players from other countries, including the United States. Jonny Gomes of the Athletics sponsored a Little League team from his hometown in Petaluma, Calif., that went to Williamsport. That counts, a great deal. Lots of players give back. But there's something special about Cruz's gift.

People have died, as Cruz notes, because firefighters couldn't reach fires in more timely fashion, or because ambulances weren't there. But thanks to him, the city of San Francisco de Macoris — a provincial capital with a reported 245,000 residents  — will be safer. It's a most thoughtful gesture and pragmatic gift on the part of Cruz. He is going to be saving lives. Town pride will be boosted as well.

[The San Francisco de Macoris] department provides service to three neighboring provinces and three outlying communities, according to a news report from January in which the chief lamented a lack of equipment and low firefighter pay.

"They cover a lot of territory with just a few trucks. Having an additional truck will help them out tremendously," Arlington Assistant Fire Chief David Carroll said.

The key to the truck will be ceremoniously given to chief Luis Esmurdoc before the Rangers game on Wednesday. The ambulances already are in Florida, and Cruz hopes everything is delivered and in place come November.

Once the baseball season has ended, perhaps Cruz can ride in the fire truck after all — no matter if the Rangers win the World Series. He should be given a hero's welcome home.

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