For the most part, we all have the collective memories of Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz, running into the arms of Brad Lidge after winning the World Series in 2008, catching Roy Halladay’s perfect game and the no hitter in the World Series, it’s our collective memory. I feel lucky that I have something a little different.
I’ve been going to Spring Training since 2007, so I’ve tried to get his autograph many times. Until the last few years, he didn’t sign a lot at Spring Training. He was what us autograph hounds call a “hard get” or a hard to get autograph. It always seemed like when I did catch him signing, I’d be the one next to the guy who got the last autograph before Ruiz stopped signing. It was frustrating. I’d spent years trying and had nothing to show for it.
I had a good number of the 2008 World Series team and I was just about at the end of my rope. Then, two years ago, Ruiz was making a rehab appearance after his Adderall suspension. Baseball Ross and I went over to Steinbrenner Field where the Threshers were playing the Tampa Yankees. Being familiar with how the stadium was set up, I went to stand on the third base side to the left of the dugout. Pitchers and catchers usually exit the dugout, walk down the third base side and then down to the visitors’ bullpen that is in the corner by left field. I went down to the front row, just next to that side of the dugout and waited before the game. I was the only one there.
On the other side of the dugout was a large group of fans, pens in hand, waiting. when he exited the locker room and entered the dugout they started screaming, “Chooch! Chooch!” They started jostling and pushing for position. I stayed quiet and alone on the third base line. He looked at the cacophony and quietly turned away and headed for the bullpen.
As he approached me I quietly said, “Excuse me, Mr. Ruiz, would you please sign my ball?” He looked at me and gave that smile and signed for me. I said, “Thank you.” and he replied, “You’re welcome.” With a nod of his head he continued on his was as the gaggle of autograph groupies were loudly running from the other side of the dug out, “Chooching” the entire way.
Ruiz just gave me one last smile as he walked away. It always made me like the guy, I felt like I was just a little bit special. I guess he appreciated my politeness and was turned off by the craziness on the other end.
Ruiz was also the subject of my favorite ballpark giveaway, the “Chooching Owl”. It’s a “hoot”!