1719 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa FL 33606
HOMETOWN: Downey, California
AT THE OFFICE: Cruz moved to Tampa to become the business manager of then-Tampa Bay Rays superstar (and his longtime best friend) Evan Longoria. But his interest in the restaurant industry was piqued when a popular South Tampa bar was put up for sale. “Evan looked at me and said, you know all the athletes in town and have lots of connections. Why don’t you do your own thing?” Cruz recalls. From there, Ducky’s Sports Lounge was born. As for the name? “Babe Ruth was one of Evan’s favorite baseball players growing up, and Babe would go out after games and go duckpin bowling.” Hence, Ducky’s.
GIVING BACK: Ducky’s frequently donates restaurant sales (usually around 25%) generated during designated meal periods throughout the week to local causes and nonprofits. This year causes they’ve supported include frontline workers at Tampa General Hospital and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, ensuring they’ve stayed fed while responding to pandemic-related calls. Despite Evan Longoria no longer being a Tampa Bay Ray, Ducky’s has also kept its ties to youth baseball, recently supporting South Tampa’s Bayshore Little League with a $25,000 donation. Ducky’s is also beginning to work with Pepin Academies to help kids with autism or disabilities get on-the-job training.
WHEN I’M NOT IN THE OFFICE, YOU CAN FIND ME… Recently, I’ve been trying to make it home to help my wife with our daughter — bathe her, however I can help. She’s about six weeks old.
WHEN I WAS A CHILD I WANTED TO BE… A pro boxer or a police officer.
DO YOU HAVE A MOTTO OR PHILOSOPHY YOU LIVE BY? Never give up, never give in, and never be content.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? One of my mentors, Chris Sullivan, the founder of Outback Steakhouse, always told me, “If you take care of others, they’ll take care of you.” So if you take care of your employees and treat them right, they’ll treat your business right. That’s for business, but I think a simplified version is just to treat others how you want to be treated.
THE BIGGEST LESSON I’VE LEARNED THIS YEAR WAS… Adapt. This year has probably been the craziest year for me, knowing I was going to have my first child and having everything come to a halt. Our airport Ducky’s location was completely closed because of COVID, and the restrictions here meant we could only do takeout. It was a big scare. You just don’t give up and find a way to make it happen.
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT TAMPA IS… There are so many great restaurants. My wife and I love Pané Rustica. I proposed there and we always have anniversaries there, so it has a special place in our hearts. I just love the feel of Tampa. It’s a big city with a small-town feel. Everybody knows everybody.
MY SECRET TALENT IS… I can play the alto saxophone. Now that I’m older, it’s cool. My mom is moving here from California, and I told her to put the saxophone on the moving truck because I want to pick it back up.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM VACATION? We went on our honeymoon to Thailand and loved it. I would say my dream is to take my daughter there so she can experience an elephant ride and the culture of Thailand. It was absolutely beautiful. You change the way you look at life when you see the way the people of Thailand are. The majority of the population is in poverty, and you see how grateful they are and how hardworking they are. It’s a beautiful culture to be around. Besides riding an elephant, my other favorite thing was going to all the temples. I’m a religious guy, so I’d love to show her the elephants and all the temples we got to see.
1719 W. Kennedy Blvd. , Tampa, FL 33606