Tony dela Cruz joins elite list as Alaska honors 'smart, blue-collar player'
Tony dela Cruz flanked by Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial during his jersey retirement ceremony. PBA Images

TONY dela Cruz on Sunday joined the elite list of former Alaska players who were honored by the proud franchise.

The Fil-Am forward was given tribute by the Aces for his long service for the team - first as a player beginning in 2005 and now as part of the team's coaching staff under Alex Compton.

Dela Cruz joined fellow retirees Eric Menk and Dondon Hontiveros among the recent players also given recognition by the team.

No less than team owner Wlifred S. Uytengsu was at hand during the brief special ceremony held at halftime of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup game between Alaska and Magnolia at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Longtime Alaska sports development and public relations manager CK Kanapi though, clarified the program was not meant to formally retire the playing jersey of Dela Cruz, an honor Alaska has bestowed on Johnny Abarrientos, Bong Hawkins, Jojo Lastimosa, import Sean Chambers, Jeff Cariaso, and three-time league MVP William ‘Bogs’ Adornado.

Nonetheless, Compton expressed elation seeing one of his former players and team captain being recognized by the team where he won all of his three PBA championships.

The Alaska mentor also likened the 39-year-old Dela Cruz to another fellow assistant in two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso

“Tony is like Danny. He isn’t much of a star in terms of MVP awards and things like that, but he’s smart, work ethic guy, he’s a technique guy, and for someone who played as long as he did, he’s a wonderful model for our guys,” said Compton.

“I’m always proud to see Tony get something special like that.”

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