No matter what you have accomplished, it likely can’t compare to Josh Ruchotzke. That’s not demeaning anyone’s accomplishments, it’s just highlighting how unique and inspiring the senior baseball player at Farmington (Ill.) High truly is.
Ruchotzke is a lifelong athlete, a kid who grew up playing multiple sports. Of those athletic pursuits, Ruchotzke’s true passion was baseball, where he always had a knack for providing what his team needed to win.
Then, suddenly in seventh grade, Ruchotzke was the one who needed something from baseball. As chronicled in this terrific profile by MaxPreps, Ruchotzke was struck with the sudden onset of a debilitating streptococci infection. The middle schooler was sent to the Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk with his life in the balance. To save his life, Ruchotzke underwent four amputations.
The then 13-year-old who had always excelled at sports was left with zero full natural limbs. He had lost both legs from the knee down and nearly all of his fingers, with just two remaining on his right hand. All that remained of his left hand was its pad.
As soon as Ruchotzke entered rehabilitation, he set a goal for himself. He would return to baseball. Where he had always dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues, he instead decided that he would try to manage in professional baseball.
First, he would play again, and do so at Farmington, the school where he had always planned to attend and star for the school’s baseball team.
Incredibly, he achieved just that. The long path to high school baseball required four prosthetics, a custom-made glove and a special prosthetic bat the teen calls “Batzilla.” More than that, it took enormous wells of faith that Ruchotzke would eventually get there and return to the field.
"It took a lot of time and struggles to get used to all my new parts and the equipment and the prosthetics," Ruchotzke told MaxPreps. "It was definitely challenging. But I never really got down because I just focused on all the positives. So many people were willing to help me out so I just took advantage of it.
“Putting all the pieces in place was sort of like a puzzle. I won't lie, it was pretty challenging. Sometimes everything would all fall apart because the torque and force I used was too strong. A lot of the models broke."
In fact, Ruchotzke didn’t just return to the field. Once he got there, he excelled. The senior hit .279, notching an impressive 15 RBI during his final baseball campaign on the field, helping lead Farmington to the regional playoffs.
Ruchotzke’s determination was noticed by plenty, and his dream of managing in the majors wasn’t lost on some of those in a position to help, either. Eventually Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin caught wind of Ruchotzke’s story, and he offered the Illinois native a position as the team manager for the Commodores, among the nation’s top collegiate baseball programs over the prior decade.
With a 3.96 GPA, Ruchotzke will fit right in to Vanderbilt classrooms, too. And with a new dream in his sights, it would be wise not to count Ruchotzke out when it comes to MLB dugouts and front offices in the future.
"It's really the best of the best at Vanderbilt," Ruchotzke told MaxPreps. "There was no need to visit any place else. It's everything I want."
As we all now know, Ruchotzke gets what he wants, no matter what gets put in the way.
- Sports & Recreation