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Eric Correa

Eric Correa proudly carries Puerto Rican flag at Rice

Rice freshman outfielder Eric Correa appreciates coach Jose Cruz Jr.

Although he was born in Puerto Rico, Eric Correa doesn’t listen to much Spanish music. The Rice University freshman outfielder prefers to listen to music in English, especially rock. 

Yet, he strategically introduced himself to Rice baseball fans with a walk-up song in Spanish. The rap song he chose pays tribute to his hometown of Carolina, the birthplace of the late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

Until he changed his walk-up song to Pitbull’s “Calle Ocho” last week when all the players on the team changed their songs, Correa had strolled to the plate to the tune of Rauw Alejandro’sDe Carolina.”

“I think a lot of people think that I listen to a lot of Spanish music, which is a fun fact that I don’t,” Correa said. “I’m a big fan of rock music. I’ve always been big on bringing a part of where I’m from with me wherever I go. 

“Thank God that (Rauw Alejandro) made a song from Carolina. I took a chance and chose it as my walk-up song. I’ve always been big on carrying the Puerto Rican flag everywhere or somehow showing that I am from Puerto Rico.”

Eric Correa settles in

Correa grew up a short walk from Roberto Clemente Stadium in Trujillo Alto. He is the step-grandson of two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez. Like most kids from his neighborhood, he grew up playing baseball and learning about the legendary Clemente and other Puerto Rican baseball stars. 

He attended Montverde Academy in Florida, following the path of Mets superstar Francisco Lindor. Knowing his Puerto Rican baseball history, Correa was thrilled when former big leaguer Jose Cruz Jr. recruited him to Rice.

“If we talk about the name Jose Cruz (Sr.) itself, he’s a big name,” Eric Correa said of the legendary outfielder who is a member of the Houston Astros’ Hall of Fame. “He’s a legend. Coach Cruz, everybody knows who Jose Cruz Jr. is back home.

“It’s funny how people just talk over there and say, ‘Oh, I wish I met him. I wish I had a chance to talk to him.’ I actually have the chance to talk to him every day and learn from him. He’s been a great mentor so far, and he’s taught me a lot of things throughout this year. I’m looking forward to learning more from him.”


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The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Correa is still adjusting to college life. He readily admits that it has been a challenge to adjust to the academic rigors at the premier academic university in the Southwest. He has slowly settled in on the baseball diamond and in the classroom as a non-native English speaker. 

New tune at Rice

Mired in a slow start to the season, all of the Owls changed their walk-up songs last weekend for the series against the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Eric Correa chose rapper Pitbull’s Calle Ocho, which features English and Spanish lyrics.

The change appeared to work. Correa hit a walk-off double in the 15th inning last Saturday to secure Rice’s first series victory in the American Athletic Conference. Eric Correa caught Cruz’s attention at the first prospect camp Cruz held at Rice after taking over the job two years ago. 

Correa didn’t arrive in the best shape in the fall, though. Cruz challenged him by asking him what he was doing. Correa then got injured, delaying his adjustment to college baseball even further.

Eric Correa
Freshman outfielder Eric Correa bats game 2 of the series between the UAB Blazers and the Rice Owls at Reckling Park on April 13: Photo by Maria Lysaker | Rice Athletics.

“You know what, coach, I’m really sorry about this. I promise you I want to be out here and I’m going to work my butt off,” Jose Cruz Jr. remembers Correa telling him.

“OK, great. Look, man, I know you’re young; you’re supposed to make some mistakes. But now what are you going to do about it?” Cruz told Correa.

Correa accepted the challenge. He has lived up to his promise.

“Really a credit to him. He did exactly what he said,” Cruz says. “He worked his butt off. Always in the cage, always a workaholic, always asking questions. He worked on his craft quite a bit.”


Cruz raves about the adjustments Correa has made. The coaching staff could see how hard Correa worked on his outfield defense and footwork. Correa’s growth, improvement and work ethic prompted Cruz to start giving him more at-bats. 

There is more to accomplish, of course, but Cruz considers Correa a good example of work ethic and desire to represent Rice the right away. It’s clear that Correa is playing for more than a school and a “coach.” He is honored to play for a fellow Boricua.

It means something extra to Correa to play for the son of one of the greatest figures in Puerto Rican baseball history. 

“He’s the reason why I came, why I chose Rice, other than the great history the program has itself,” Correa says of Cruz Jr. “It’s a great feeling knowing that Puerto Ricans are capable of accomplishing whatever they propose to themselves, like I did, like coach Cruz did. 

“It would be fun if we could have more Latinos actually on the field. It’s a surreal feeling. It’s a dream come true.”

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