Panama’s Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz ready for 2013 Philadelphia Phillies and World Baseball Classic

Thanks to a clubhouse joke played by pitcher Antonio Alfonseca–who in a 2008 television interview referred to Ruiz as “chucha” (a Colombian slang term for “underarm odor”)–teammates, the media and baseball fans have since referred to the Panamanian MLB All-Star catcher by his beloved nickname “Chooch”. The sweat rebels sacrificed over a century ago which gave Panama independence from Colombia is reminiscent to that of national hero Carlos Ruiz’s in his improbable “I Think I Can” MLB ascent.

“The Panamanian Express” Allan Lewis stole 116 bases for the ’66 Leeburg A’s before playing six seasons in MLB.
Having passed on the 5-foot-8 Ruiz in two prior 1998 tryouts–once as a pitcher and a second time as an infielder–Phillies’ Panamanian scout Allan Lewis (AKA “The Panamanian Express” for being the 1967-73 Athletics’ pinch-running specialist) insisted on new international scouting director Sal Agostinelli fly to Ruiz’s hometown in David, Panama to give the Phillies organization one last look before giving up on this natural-born talent with an outstanding bat. While Agostinelli was having trouble considering Ruiz an infield prospect during the 1998 work out, Lewis suggested they try him out at catcher. After a few drills behind the plate with former Phillies Minor League catcher Agostinelli, it was apparent that Ruiz possessed enough athleticism, physical arm strength and promise to suggest it might just work. In what appeared to be a long shot $8,000 signing bonus in converting a second baseman to a position he had never played before, Philadelphia offered Ruiz a pro contract and an invitation to the Phillies Dominican Baseball Academy to become a catcher.
Phillies scout Sal Agostinelli signed MLB All-Star Catcher Carlos Ruiz in 1999.

When Ruiz shared the news with his schoolteacher mother that he had been offered a $8,000 signing bonus with the opportunity to play in the Dominican Republic to start his professional baseball career in the Phillies organization, Inocenicia Rios was a bit nervous. After all, her 19-year-old son would be dropping out of school and abandoning his college coursework toward a degree in physical education for little money to beat the odds of making it to the Big Leagues at a position he was unfamiliar with.

Carlos Ruiz’s parents (shown above) knew how important it was for their son to pursue his dream of playing MLB and ultimately supported him.
Nearly a decade later when her son caught the final pitch of the 2008 World Series to give the Phillies their second championship in franchise history, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos called Ruiz’s mother to congratulate her for supporting Carlos’ decision to realize his dream. Call it Panamanian pride or unconditional love for her son in what seemingly was a futile trip to the Dominican catching baseballs… In the end, the journey to MLB was definitely worth the 2008 World Series ring and the subsequent Presidential Ceremony honoring the Phillies catcher at President Torrijos’ residence at Palacio de las Garzas. When Ruiz was caught between a rock and a hard place having to decide whether to report early to 2009 Phillies Spring Training to work with the Philadelphia pitching staff or represent his country in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, President Torrijos sealed the deal for Team Panama with a personal phone call to encourage the isthmuth nation’s eighth ranked all-time leader in hits to participate in the international competition.
Panama’s Rubén Rivera, left, jokes around with Carlos Ruiz during a training session before the 2009 World Baseball Classic in San Juan, PR. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Howard, Halladay and Ruiz celebrate
the 20th perfect game in MLB history.
Although Ruiz has been heralded as one of baseball’s best hitters today, his skills behind the plate are top-notch. He has taken the initiative to study as much as he can about hitters by reading countless scouting reports on players. As he began to notice things take place on the field, Ruiz learned about which situations required certain strategies. By seeing the adjustments hitters were making, he adapted by calling pitches to counteract them. His confidence to call pitches and to control the pace of the game garnered him the trust of the Phillies pitching staff. Ruiz’s natural leadership skills and keen understanding of the game has made him perfectly suited to playing catcher. Perhaps the true testament to Ruiz’s mastery came and went twice when he caught Roy Halladay’s perfect game during the 2010 regular season and Doc’s no-hitter encore in the 2010 postseason.
Panama’s Carlos “Calicho” Ruiz & “El Hombre Araña” Rubén Rivera.
Phillies cleanup hitter Carlos Ruiz
It was recently announced that the Phillies picked up the $5 million club option on Ruiz’s contract for the 2012 All-Star catcher to return next season. That’s a good move for the rebuilding organization–considering that in 2012 Ruiz posted an all-time career best .325 batting average, which put him in a tie for seventh-best in the league among players with at least 400 plate appearances. His 32 doubles, 16 home runs, 68 RBI and a .935 OPS in 114 games kept Philadelphia alive in the NL wild card hunt late in the season. Despite a lagging foot injury in August which kept Chooch out of the lineup for some time, Carlos Ruiz hit cleanup for the 2012 Phillies in 32 games and fifth for another 32 games. However, Ruiz absolutely raked in the four hole, batting .365 with a .587 slugging percentage and 1.008 OPS in 138 plate appearances.
If Philadelphia doesn’t acquire a big right-handed slugger during the offseason, the Phillies may very well use Ruiz again in 2013 as their cleanup hitter.
Panamanian flags will be waving during the World Baseball Classic Qualifier on November 15-19
at Panama City’s Rod Carew Stadium. Host Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia and Brazil compete
in a modified double-elimination tournament with the winner qualifying for the 2013 WBC.
The pride of Boquerón–Carlos Ruiz will undoubtedly give host Panama an edge over neighboring Colombia, Brazil, and Nicaragua in the upcoming World Baseball Classic Qualifier on November 15-19 at the newly renovated Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City. If you can’t make it there in person, MLB Network will televise the final Qualifier game live from the Panama City, Panama pool on Monday, November 19th beginning at 5 PM (PST). The WBC Qualifiers, which expanded the competitive field of the tournament from 16 to 28 countries, has already seen Spain and Canada advance to the main tournament.

The winners from the Panama and Taiwan qualifying pools will join Spain and Canada in the first round WBC competition against Australia, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela March 7-10 at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. Second round WBC games will be held March 12-16 at Marlins Park in Miami, while the WBC Semi-Finals and Final take place March 17-19 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. MLB Network will televise all 39 games of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. iViva el Béisbol!

Carlos Ruiz is mobbed by his Phillies teammates after hitting a walk-off home run in May 2010.

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Branch Rickey Award nominees are humanitarians in baseball who personify ‘Service Above Self’

2011 Branch Rickey Award recipient Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino, star center fielder of the Los Angeles Dodgers and winner of the 2011 Branch Rickey Award,
was inducted as the 20th member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame last November. Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors MLB personnel who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are positive role models for young people. All 30 Major League teams nominate
a player, coach or executive–either active or retired–who personify Rotary International’s motto of “Service Above Self” for this nationally-acclaimed award named in honor of the late baseball executive Branch Rickey–best known as “Mr. Baseball” for breaking baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson and hiring the first Latin American to be selected to the Hall of Fame, Roberto Clemente.

2012 Branch Rickey Award recipient R.A. Dickey
It was announced recently that the National Selection Committee–comprised of 300 members of the sports media, past award winners, baseball executives and Rotary district governors–had chosen R.A. Dickey, star pitcher of the New York Mets, as the winner of the 2012 Branch Rickey Award and the 21st member of the Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame. Dickey was recognized for his charity work distributing baseball equipment and medical supplies internationally
as well as raising money for an organization rescuing young women from forced prostitution in India.

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey at contract signing
Other 2012 Branch Rickey Award nominees included: Joe Saunders,
Tim Hudson, Adam Jones, David Ortiz, Tony Campana, Jake Peavy, Jay Bruce, Vinnie Pestano, Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Verlander, Bud Norris, Alex Gordon, Jered Weaver, Don Newcombe, Emilio Bonifacio, Rickie Weeks, Justin Morneau, David Robertson, Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Howard, Chris Resop, Matt Holiday, Orlando Hudson, Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, Joe Maddon, Michael Young, Ricky Romero, and Ryan Zimmerman. In years past,
Past Branch Rickey Award recipient and Baseball Humanitarians Hall of Fame Inductee Torii Hunter’s positive impact on youth in need is felt worldwide.
Branch Rickey Award winners have included: Dave Winfield, Toronto Blue Jays; Kirby Puckett, Minnesota Twins; Ozzie Smith, St. Louis Cardinals;
Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres; Brett Butler, Los Angeles Dodgers; Craig Biggio, Houston Astros; Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins; Al Leiter, New York Mets; Todd Stottlemyre, Arizona Diamondbacks; Curt Schilling, Arizona Diamondbacks; Bobby Valentine, New York Mets; Roland Hemond, Chicago White Sox; Jamie Moyer, Seattle Mariners; Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles Dodgers; John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves; Trevor Hoffman, San Diego Padres; Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays; and Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies.

LA Teen becomes South Beach’s new Paul Bunyan: Miami Marlins outfielder and slugger Mike Stanton

Having a cannon for an arm, outfielder Mike Stanton adds strength to the Miami defense. Having been thrown out by Stanton at the plate, newly signed teammate and speedster Jose Reyes is happy to be a Marlin under always controversial manager Ozzie Guillen.

After Stanton’s Double-A hitting coach started calling the 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-handed
high school three-sport letterman “Paul Bunyan”,
and later Tampa Bay Ray pitcher David Price coined him “a man-child” during MLB batting practice, it was just a matter of time before Southern California native Mike Stanton would be compared to Harmon Killebrew, Dave Winfield, Mark McGwire, and Bo Jackson. Playing football, basketball and baseball while attending Notre Dame Prep in Sherman Oaks, Stanton was tempted by USC with a football scholarship, but instead was snagged to play professional baseball as a Marlin in the 2nd
round of the 2007 draft. Upon hearing that
Mike Stanton chose baseball, Hall of Famer
Dave Winfield considered the pivotal decision a “potential game changer” and cited that “baseball needed something like this…” Prior to the start of the 2011 season, Terry Francona was asked to identify the MLB’s most improved player and New York Times national baseball writer Tyler Kepner was asked to forecast a MVP candidate; both had Mike Stanton at the top of their lists.

While Ryan Howard (right) had been thought to be one of MLB’s best sources of power, So Cal native Mike Stanton (left) has the best chances of becoming the next home run hero and breaking new ground for professional baseball to find a loyal fanbase of international followers.
Stanton’s short, swift swing rockets balls out of sight.

Despite being plagued by injuries in 2011, Stanton did not disappoint with 34 home runs (5th in NL), a .537 slugging percentage (8th in NL), a .893 OPS (12th in NL), 70 BB (13th
in NL), and 87 RBI (18th in NL).
While most fans were mesmerized at the rate of speed of Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, I was focused on the MLB-best 107.4 MPH velocity of home
runs off Stanton’s bat. Like Stanton growing up in Los Angeles, we both sat in the right field bleachers to get

A healthy Mike Stanton in Miami means that he will be crowned “King Stanton” once he begins setting new MLB home run records.

a close-up look at our favorite players: his being Dodger Raul Mondesi and mine being visiting Pirate Roberto Clemente. Born to an African-American/Puerto Rican mother and an Irish father, Stanton’s parents loved the Italian name “Giancarlo”. On November 8, 1989, Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton was put on this planet to become baseball’s knight in shining armor. Sharing Italian first names and a common love for the City of Angels, I am proud to have witnessed first-hand the rapid transformation of a San Fernando Valley teenager who has become the modern day Sunshine State’s Paul Bunyan. Destined for South Beach super-stardom, Mike Stanton will soon be sharing sunscreen with local celebs Shakira, Anna Kournikova and Gloria Estefan. Whether it’s lather up or batter up in Miami, the future MLB home run king is here to play!

A breakout year for #6 Howard and MLBblogger

#6 Ryan Howard is determined to bring home the glory of a 2012 World Series Championship to Philly.
In celebration of the current #6 ranking in the January 2012
Top 50 MLB.com Blogs
, MLBblogger is pleased to announce the world premiere of the MLB Fan Cave video submission of Roberto Angotti chatting about his favorite baseball memory: Roberto Clemente’s 3000th Hit (see it now by clicking on the hyperlink above). Viewers will be surprised to catch a glimpse of UK reggae legend Pato Banton, who provides an excellent introduction and his signature token “Flash It” phrase at the beginning of this fitting tribute to the late and great Latino hero.
Only LA Angel Albert Pujols stands in between Ryan Howard and his 2012 World Series ring.
Ryan Howard is expected to join the Phillies line-up in May after rupturing his Achilles in the 2011 playoffs.
One thing that Ryan Howard has over Pujols–and even Fielder–is earning power. He will make more than Albert Pujols every year until 2016–at which time their salaries will even–and earn more than Prince Fielder until 2017–when Howard becomes a free agent. Having undergone surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon in mid-October, the Philadelphia Phillies star first baseman Ryan Howard will miss 2012 Opening Day but will return to one of MLB’s most hitter-friendly fields at Philly’s Citizens Bank Park in May.