Reds star Elly De La Cruz addresses reporters entirely in English for 1st time: 'It's so important to me'

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 22: Elly De La Cruz #44 of the Cincinnati Reds high fives teammates after a run during a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on September 22, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/Getty Images)
Elly De La Cruz wants his fans to be able to understand him. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Reds infielder Elly De La Cruz's 2024 season has yet to start, and he's already accomplishing milestones.

During a Wednesday news conference, the 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic addressed reporters entirely in English for the first time.

De La Cruz, a native Spanish speaker, garnered plenty of fans while communicating through his interpreter as a rookie last season. Now, he wants to be able to communicate with them directly.

"It's so important to me because now you guys understand what I say and it's important to fans to understand me and me understand the fans," he said. "I've put a lot of work on my English to talk with you guys."

He laughed as he added that he thinks he's doing a good job, and it would be difficult to disagree. Twenty percent of Americans could speak two or more languages in 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. De La Cruz managed to add another language to his arsenal while being one of the most exciting players in the highest level of organized baseball.

When asked about his process, he made it seem easy:

"I practice every day, talking with the other guys," he said in reference to his teammates. "I just started with them, and I let it go. I like talking with the American guys because I create confidence."

When a reporter joked that interpreter Jorge Merlos wasn't cutting it anymore, De La Cruz had some fun.

"I don't need Jorge anymore," he said with a smile. When Merlos joked that he would just leave, De La Cruz laughed, "He helped me a lot."

Merlos has been with the organization since he was hired as an intern for the Reds Community Fund in 2016. He took on the responsibility of interpreting for players in 2020. In addition to working with De La Cruz, he can be seen translating for All-Star relief pitcher Alexis Díaz.

In other recent interpreter news, Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired last week after an accusation of "massive theft" from the Japanese player.

De La Cruz's effort to learn English is simply an example of his character, according to Reds manager David Bell:

"He's incredibly thoughtful. He's humble, the way he listens and learns," Bell said. "It's amazing. I can't relate to that. The courage that takes, and just the respect that he has. It's impressive."

The courage isn't surprising, as the Reds dubbed themselves “America’s Team" last season. The nickname was supported by the group's overall confidence, and De La Cruz is at the center of it.

He has been a human highlight reel from the moment the Reds called him up from Triple-A Louisville last June. The 6-foot-5 phenom was quick to make an impact, obliterating the hardest-hit Reds ball in years for his first home run in the majors.

De La Cruz hit .235 last season with 13 homers, 67 runs and 35 stolen bases over 98 games during the rookie campaign.

He and the Reds will face the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park on Opening Day.