Carlos Ruiz


Phillies all-star catcher & 2008 World Series Champion

On the night of October 29, 2008, Carlos Ruiz snagged Brad Lidge’s most important slider of the season and sprinted to the pitcher’s mound for a World Series Championship embrace that remains etched in the hearts and minds of all Philadelphia sports fans. The journey to that triumphant moment began ten years earlier, in the summer of 1998, when Ruiz was a 19-year-old second baseman chasing a dream on a sandlot in his native Panama. Allan Lewis knew Ruiz and wanted to help the kid. Lewis had played in the majors with the Oakland Athletics and was back home in Panama, coaching youth ball and doing some part-time scouting for the Phillies. He arranged for Ruiz to work out for Sal Agostinelli, the Phillies director of international scouting. Agostinelli watched Ruiz hit, run, throw, and field balls at second base. What he saw was OK but OK doesn’t get you signed, not when you’re 5-foot-9, don’t run particularly well, and are three years older than the rest of the second basemen signing their first pro contracts in Latin America that summer. “Wait,” Lewis told Agostinelli. “I think he can catch.” Agostinelli’s scouting antennae shot up. Catching is a premium position. Scouts are always willing to look at a kid who can go behind the plate. Ruiz donned the catcher’s gear. He showed promising footwork, good hands, a quick release, and a throwing arm with some zip. Done deal. Carlos Ruiz signed with the Phillies for a modest $8,000. To put that in perspective, the team signed Pat Burrell for $8 million that same summer. “I would have signed for free,” Ruiz said some years later. “I came from nowhere, a little town. All I wanted was a chance to play professional baseball and I’m thankful the Phillies gave it to me.” It was a mutually beneficial relationship. After a lengthy minor-league apprenticeship that saw him blossom behind and at the plate, Ruiz made it to the majors in 2006. Over the next eight-plus seasons, he became the Phillies’ starting catcher and a beloved fan favorite known to all as Chooch. Or Chooooch, as was the popular chorus at Citizens Bank Park when he came to the plate or stood on second base after smacking a gapper. Ruiz is one of just four Phillies to start 1,000 games at catcher for the franchise (Bob Boone, Mike Lieberthal, and Red Dooin are the others). He caught four no-hitters with the Phillies, tying a major-league record. He was an All-Star in 2012 and a World Series Champion in 2008. Lidge joined the Phillies before that season after struggling in Houston the year before. The right-handed closer bounced back and went 48-for-48 in save chances that magical season. But he didn’t do it alone: Ruiz was a stone wall behind the plate and his ability to block balls in the dirt gave Lidge the confidence to throw his signature slider with championship conviction. “Carlos could hit a fastball and get a big hit for you,” said Philadelphia Sports Hall of Famer Charlie Manuel, who presided over the team that won five straight National League East titles, two National League pennants, and a World Series from 2007 to 2011. “He was a big part of the success of all those teams, a huge part, really, with his bat and his defense. People talk about how important catching is. Well, he was the guy who caught all our big stars, and they loved throwing to him.” Ruiz was behind the plate for Roy Halladay’s perfect game in May 2010 and again for the Hall of Fame right-hander’s playoff no-hitter that October. Halladay and Ruiz enjoyed a legendary bond. “Chooch was the little engine that could for a team loaded with big names,” Halladay said in 2016, a year before his death. “No player was more valuable to the team as a whole than Carlos. He was so humble and grateful you couldn’t help but just want to do anything for him, including win. He flawlessly handled one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled and was just as important offensively. It was nothing short of miraculous that he could handle so many different personalities and approaches on a day-to-day basis the way he did. He was the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to and, in my opinion, the best catcher in baseball the years I was with him.” Not bad for a guy who just wanted a chance. by Jim Salisbury

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Charter Class (2004)

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