Former Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox infielder Julio Cruz dies at age 67

SEATTLE -- Julio Cruz, an original Seattle Mariners player from their inaugural season who later became a Spanish-language broadcaster for the franchise, has died, the team announced Wednesday. He was 67.

Cruz died Tuesday at his home, according to a statement from his family. Cruz played for Seattle and the Chicago White Sox during his career.

"Julio shared his kindness and humor graciously, and we know he is beloved in the baseball community and beyond," the family said in their statement.

Cruz, a switch-hitting second baseman, played 10 seasons total in the majors. He played parts of seven seasons with the Mariners, beginning with their inaugural year in 1977. Cruz made his debut with Seattle on July 4, 1977, after being selected from the California Angels organization during the expansion draft.

Cruz had served as part of the Mariners' Spanish-language broadcasts since 2003.

"Julio chose to make his home and raise his family here," said Randy Adamack, Seattle's senior vice president and special adviser to the chairman and CEO. "He's been closely associated with our club for over 25 years, one of the longest relationships of any player in our history."

Cruz was traded to the White Sox during the 1983 season and spent the final 3½ years of his career playing in Chicago. White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said Cruz was the catalyst for Chicago's run to the AL West title in 1983.

"He had electric ability as a player but was such a big part of those teams because of his personality," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "He was a caring guy and because of that had an emotional connection with his teammates on and off the field. Most of us had kept in pretty regular contact with him over the years, but this is a very sad day. He was much too young to leave us, and he will be missed."

Cruz is survived by his wife, Mojgan, sons Austin, Alexander and Jourdan and their families.