How Philadelphia Phillies Catcher Carlos Ruiz Got on the Right Track: Fan’s Take

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz broke into the major leagues in 2006. In 2007, he became a key member of an upstart group that came from behind to beat the New York Mets and win the National League East crown.

Ruiz' .9446 career fielding percentage currently places him eighth on baseball's all-time leader board.
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One year later, he joined his teammates on a Halloween-day parade route that moved through the streets of Philadelphia two days after their World Series win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Seeing yourself in other people

Ruiz was a second baseman when he caught the eye of Sal Agostinelli, who was a catcher I knew over two decades ago. Agostinelli's name isn't one that many baseball fans would recognize, but it's one that fans of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons heard announced over the Lackawanna County Stadium loudspeaker during parts of the 1990 and 1991 seasons.

That Bronx, N.Y. native was at the tail-end of his professional playing career when my own time, as part of the Red Barons front office team, had begun. The classically stocky catcher had actually played two games at second base when he was in the St. Louis Cardinals organization earlier in his career.

But, this backstop's background hasn't been culled merely to walk the reader down my memoried lane. Instead, it has been offered to set a reference point to explain how he carried his love for the game forward and became an International scout for the Phillies.

Less than a decade after I last saw Agostinelli, it was his influence that led the Phillies to sign Ruiz to an amateur contract.

Ruiz' professional debut came in the Phillies Gulf Coast League in 2000. By 2005, he squatted behind the same Red Barons plate that Agostinelli had once seen. As his defensive skills were being developed, Ruiz also hit .300 during his first Triple A season and .307 during the final minor league year of his career in 2006.

Never looking back

From 2007 through the end of the 2011 season Ruiz had caught 619 games in the major leagues. His .9946 fielding percentage currently places him eighth all-time among all catchers who have ever played more than 500, or more, games.

While he hasn't caught nearly as many games as the all-time greats, the 33-year-old stands with the elites of his modern peer group.

The 2013 season will be the final guaranteed year of the current Phillies catcher's contract. The recent $75 million, five-year, contract extension that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina agreed to may serve as the outer range of per year dollars that Ruiz' agent, Marc Kligman discusses with general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.

With whatever 'Chooch' chooses to do, continued good health should allow him to remain on the right track during what has become the prime of his career.

Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.

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Updated Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012