Carlos Ruiz's majestic walk-off home run in the ninth inning guided the Phillies to their second consecutive dramatic win, and propelled a rookie catcher into the spotlight.
In baseball, you know you’ve arrived when you get a nickname. Today’s edition officially assigns that name to a player I’ve admired for a long time. “Chooch,” a name coined in the minor leagues, has been legitimized in black ink following the 28-year-old’s fearless ninth-inning home run, which gave his team the 4-3 victory.
It’s no secret Beerleaguer has been partial toward Ruiz for almost three years, but partiality makes me no different from everyone else these days. Here’s a sampling of what the Phillies are saying:
"He's aggressive. He's a great game-caller. He's a battler. He likes having fun in the game, and that's what I like about him." – Brett Myers in today’s Inquirer.
"Now you see why I have Carlos back there." – Manager Charlie Manuel in today’s Daily News.
Using the words of others, today's stories painted a picture of an individual who’s starting to become a special player, but had still been in shadows before last night's game. “Special” was how Phillies color man Chris Wheeler described Ruiz’s season while he stepped into the waiting arms of teammates, a highlight sure to be seen around the league.
Here's hoping they forgot to set their TiVo, because Ruiz is adding an element of surprise buried down in the order. Short on height but long on talent, Chooch is catching opponents off guard to the tune of a .295 batting average with three homers and 17 RBIs, a line that puts him right at the top among National League rookies. His 17 RBIs are actually the most from an NL eight-hole hitter by a significant margin, and his batting average is also the highest among eight-hitters with more than 25 at bats.
Adding sound defense, a quick arm and now this flair for the dramatic, what’s not to love? See. I told you so.