Goss: John Ruettiger on fast track with Orioles
July 27, 2012 8:54PM
John Ruettiger | Supplied photo
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:18AM
On his second day playing for A-Advanced Frederick Keys, the Baltimore Orioles’ prospect went 6-for-6 in a nine-inning game, the first player in the franchise’s history to accomplish the feat.
During his first week at Double-A Bowie, the rifle-armed center fielder already had an outfield assist, throwing out a runner at third base.
In three stops during his first full pro season, which began at Class A Delmarva, he has stolen 26 bases in 33 attempts.
Put all that together and you understand what makes John Ruettiger the baseball player he is.
Ruettiger, a 22-year-old Joliet native and Joliet Catholic graduate selected by the Orioles in the eighth round in 2011 after completing his junior season at Arizona State, is on a fast track.
“It’s pretty exciting to be here in Double A, but I try not to think about that too much,” Ruettiger recently said, a few days after his promotion to Bowie. “I just go out and play hard every day.
“For my first full season, it has been pretty exciting. They seem to be moving me pretty quickly through the system. But all I can do is worry about things I can control, not get caught up in things I can’t.”
Review a box score or the stats sheet and you learn certain things about a player.
Over his three stops in 2012, Ruettiger entered this weekend hitting .285 overall (88-for-309) with 15 doubles and 24 RBI. He hit his first home run to right-center field in one of the later games he played for Frederick.
Good numbers, but they do not paint a complete picture.
“There are little things in baseball that go unnoticed by people who look at stats,” said Ruettiger, who has spent significant time in left field as well as center in pro ball. “But those little things get noticed big time within a major league organization.
“If you are playing winning baseball, that’s another thing that helps you move along. It’s very important, as well as the stats everyone sees.”
Ruettiger said as much as he and everyone else would love to hit safely in every game, it won’t happen.
“But if I don’t get a hit in a game, the way I see it, I have to find another way to help my team win,” he said.
Still, the highlights can be lasting memories.
“That was pretty exciting,” Ruettiger said of his 6-for-6 game. “That was actually only my second game at Frederick. It was one of those nights where the timing was there, things go your way and it winds up being pretty special.”
And what about that first home run?
“That was exciting, too,” he said. “I haven’t hit with power yet; I think that will come. It’s a matter of learning what pitches I can hit out and staying within my game at the same time.”
Ruettiger, you may recall, quarterbacked the Joliet Catholic football team that won the Class 6A state championship in 2007. He was All-State in both sports and played football in much the same manner as baseball — with smarts, and doing whatever it took to win.
Joliet Catholic football coach Dan Sharp was helping coach youth baseball when Ruettiger played at St. Joseph Park. He tells the story of Ruettiger throwing out something like 11 or 12 runners at first base from center field one summer on balls that otherwise would have been singles. Even at that age, he was lightning-quick to the ball and had a quick release and that strong and accurate arm.
“I never saw anything like it,” I recall Sharp telling me.
As a left-handed hitter slotted more often than not at the top of the batting order in his professional life, Ruettiger said facing left-handed pitching has not been a big issue.
“You’ve got to have a different approach against lefties,” he said. “You can’t try to do too much. You have to hit the ball on the left side of the field, or go up the middle and not try to pull it.”
For Ruettiger, it’s all about controlling what you can, day after day, even in the inevitable rough times.
“Through a full season of playing every day, this is a game of failure,” he said. “You’re going to go through some tough times. But it’s all about staying positive and trusting in yourself.”
Bowie, located in Maryland, will host a series Tuesday through Thursday against New Britain, the Minnesota Twins’ affiliate. Joe Benson, also a baseball and football All-Stater at Joliet Catholic but two years older than Ruettiger, is with New Britain.
A Hilltopper reunion.
“You’re kidding. I didn’t even know that,” Ruettiger said when informed of the New Britain series. “That’s exciting. Joe is older than me, and in high school he led by example. I watched him and learned a lot from him.”
It has worked that way for Ruettiger as he continues learning and climbing in the Orioles organization.
“I’ve been a part of some great teams with great coaches and teammates so far,” he said. “Every team I’ve been with, we’ve put together a good season.
“The (parent) Orioles are a good club, too. (Manager) Buck Showalter really runs it well. There’s an attitude in the organization that started in spring training and has run all the way through the season.”