Former Blue Jays slugger Randy Ruiz staying in Japan — for now

David Brown
Big League Stew

Several foreign baseball players in Japan already have left the country, or are leaving, because of the mounting disasters there.

Other players have requested permission to go.

Former major league slugger Randy Ruiz, who most recently played for the Toronto Blue Jays, hasn't reached that point. Yet.

Ruiz is staying in a hotel with his team — the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Pacific League — as it trains about 300 miles from its home city, Sendai. It's a port city that was hit particularly hard by earthquakes, along with massive flooding caused by a tsunami.

Ruiz was told that his apartment building has been damaged, but he hasn't seen it himself since the catastrophes started.

That's probably OK, because Sendai also happens to be about 60 miles from the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Ruiz says he feels guilty about living in a hotel and getting daily buffets to eat while others struggle to find water to drink. Or worse. But safer is safer.

"Earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, nuclear power plants exploding and the tsunami," Ruiz told The Associated Press by cell phone this week. "What can be next?"

"It's all over, this all you see," Ruiz said. "I'm from the Bronx, and the only thing I could compare it to is 9-11. It's like, 'Is this real?'"

Ruiz, who has done his best to keep in touch with family and friends — including best friend Jose Bautista — says he wants to help with relief aid and play ball when the time is right. There has been talk of the Pacific League postponing the start of the regular season for a few weeks. Opening day was supposed to be March 25 for it and the Central League, which plans to open on time.

Ruiz plays on a team with other former major leaguers such as Kaz Matsui, Byung-Hyun Kim, Akinori Iwamura and Kelvin Jimenez. Darrell Rasner and Ryan Speier are the other Americans. No matter if there's a delay, Ruiz says he will stick it out.

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"But if it gets worse, we're going to have to do what we do. Everyone worries about their health. We're talking it out," he said. "We're going to stick together. If one guy goes, we're all going."

Five foreign members of the Yokohama Bay Stars — pitchers Brent Leach, Clayton Hamilton and Brandon Mann, along with infielder Brett Harper and outfielder Terrmel Sledge — were granted permission to leave. But they're expected back next week.

Foreign players on the Seibu Lions reportedly were denied their request to leave, with the club insisting there's no health risk.

Americans on the Lions roster include Alex Graman, Dee Brown and Brian Sikorski.

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