Goss: John Ruettiger flying high with Orioles
August 17, 2011 5:56PM
John Ruettiger, a JCA graduate, led the Cape Cod League in hitting a .369 average. He has since joined the Baltimore Orioles organization. | Supplied photo
Updated: November 3, 2011 9:48AM
Erik Bedard, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Orlando Cabrera, Javier Vazquez.
And John Ruettiger?
Yes, the day may come when the 2008 Joliet Catholic graduate adds his name to the list of those who played for the Delmarva Shorebirds en route to a career in the major leagues.
After what Ruettiger described as “a long summer” of negotiations with the Baltimore Orioles, the outfielder and 2011 eighth-round draft pick out of Arizona State signed earlier this month. “It worked out well. It was a fair deal, and I’m ready to move forward,” he said during a phone conversation Wednesday.
Ruettiger, 21, played a few games with the Orioles’ team in the Gulf Coast League to begin his pro career, going 6-for-13 with a double. He then was elevated to Delmarva of the Class A South Atlantic League for what remains of this season.
His first game as a Shorebird — whose home base is Salisbury, Md. — was Monday, and although he had not hit safely in five at-bats through Tuesday, he had scored his first run and driven in one.
“From what I have seen, this is a lot like college ball,” said Ruettiger, an All-State football quarterback and All-State baseball player at Joliet Catholic. “But it is fun getting to play every day. We’re on the road now, but this is awesome. We played in front of a stadium full of 7,000 people my first two nights.”
A left-handed hitter and thrower, Ruettiger is playing center field and hitting in the leadoff spot. That’s where he hit most recently at Arizona State. It is where he prefers and where he feels his future lies.
“My job hitting leadoff is to try to see a lot of pitches so the guys hitting behind me can see what a pitcher has,” he said. “Of course, I try to get as many hits as I can, too, however I can do it.”
Some hitters crush certain types of pitchers and have trouble with others. Ruettiger said that hasn’t been his pattern.
“It’s more on myself,” he said. “If I have my timing down on a given day, I can hit anyone. If my timing is off, anyone can get me out. It’s all about how my timing is and my approach that day.”
The South Atlantic League season will end Sept. 5, so Ruettiger said he’s “getting my feet wet. I’ll play hard every day and go from there. In the offseason, I’ll work out in Arizona, and I’m enrolled for classes at Arizona State. I have two semesters left to get my degree.”
That wasn’t the only time in our conversation Ruettiger mentioned playing hard and working hard. That is his M.O.
“My goal has always been to get to the major leagues since I began playing this game,” the Joliet native said. “But my plan right now is to work as hard as I can and let things happen.”
Arizona State leads the nation in terms of colleges putting former players in the big leagues. The count reached 99 this summer when Jason Kipnis joined the Cleveland Indians. At some point this season alone, 13 ex-Sun Devils were on major league rosters.
A review of Ruettiger’s resume suggests he could ride a path similar to so many who have gone before him.
He finished his three-year college career with a .341 batting average, including .327 as a junior, when he was named first-team All-Pac-10. He drove in 37 runs last spring, stole 23 bases in 36 attempts, had a .411 on-base percentage and helped Arizona State to a 43-18 record. The Sun Devils came within a game of returning to the College World Series, dropping a 4-2 decision to Texas in the decisive Game 3 of the Austin Super Regional.
“Arizona State did a great job getting me ready to play on the professional level,” Ruettiger said.
Ruettiger totaled 543 official at-bats in three seasons at Arizona State, which is comparable to a full major league season. He scored 130 runs, drove in 85, had 38 extra-base hits and stole 63 bases. His on-base percentage was .455.
He also played in the wood bat Cape Cod League. In 2009, he led the league in hitting and was selected to play in the league’s All-Star Game at Fenway Park.
In addition, he is injury-free, which he notes “is always a plus.” That’s especially true of a player whose game offensively and defensively depends on speed.
Yes, there is a long way to go. But it will be interesting to follow Ruettiger as he progresses in the Orioles’ organization.
“It would be awesome to get up there and play against the Yankees and Red Sox some day,” he said.
That always has been the goal.