(Editor’s Note – We’ll have some content from Wednesday’s Phillies Winter Banquet held at Woodlake Country Club that will be rolled out here over the next few days.)
Previously – Our talk with Ryne Sandberg.
Darin Ruf remembers the last game he played as a BlueClaw. May 12th, 2010 at Greenville and he went 5-5 with a home run.
“I had the worst BP that day off Gorm Heimueller, the pitching coordinator at the time,” he said. “I couldn’t hit a ball square to save my life. Then I went 5-5. Mark Parent called me to his office after the game and told me I got promoted.”
Going 5-5 not only was a great way to finish his time with the BlueClaws, but it also moved his average up 30 points to .330. He finished with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 32 games. Not a bad month for a player drafted in the 20th round the year before from Creighton.
Jonathan Singleton came up the next day and homered in his first at bat and the BlueClaws would go on to win their second straight championship while Ruf spent the rest of 2010 and all of 2011 with Clearwater.
Ruf turned enough heads that he earned a chance to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League in 2011, and was on a team that included, among others, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Will Middlebrooks, and Jean Segura.
“We were on one of the worst teams in the league too. You scratch your head and wonder why we didn’t win every game,” he joked. “It was a great learning experience being around some of the guys and to pick up things from seeing how they work. I’m never going to be as athletic as them so I have to pick up some little things to do well.”
He made the next step in 2012, moving to Double-A Reading. After hitting an impressive 18 home runs through July, he more than doubled-down in August, hitting 20 and finishing with 38, most in the minors that year.
“It was incredible,” he said. “It’s every baseball player’s dream to stay locked in as long as I was. To be able to do that at peak performance, and capture that, it was incredible.”
After the Reading season ended, he was promoted to Philadelphia, where he made history on September 25th (at least to us). In hitting his first big league home run in the same game where both Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown went deep, it was the first time three BlueClaws alumni homered in the same big league game.
He ended up playing in 12 games for the Phillies that year, going 12-33 with 3 home runs.
“It’s a different situation seeing guys like Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, guys you grew up watching,” he said. “I remember when they came over talking to us at minor league camp. But personality wise, they take you in as part of the family. Having that core group of guys that know how to win and guys you can learn from is so important.”
Now, after a year split between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia, he’s ready for spring training and a fight for at bats. Ruf went to Clearwater on January 12th to get ready (before a quick venture north for a week on the banquet circuit) for what he hopes is his first complete season in the big leagues.