Whether you like it or not, Ruben Amaro Jr’s blood is Philadelphia, through and through. His father, Ruben Sr., a native of Mexico, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1954. After playing one season for the team, Amaro packed up his belongings and made Philadelphia home from 1960-65. Ruben Amaro Jr. was born on Feb. 12, 1965, in Philadelphia, where he would call home most of his life.
Amaro Jr. grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, playing baseball in the city leagues just like any other Philly kid. He went to William Penn Charter High School as an obvious baseball standout. Amaro Sr. was the Phillies’ first base coach from 1980-83 while Amaro Jr. was in high school. Junior served as the bat boy during his father’s stint as first base coach and was in uniform for the team’s first World Series in 1980. Both Sr. and Jr. were in uniform, along with brother David, celebrating the Tugger’s final pitch. What a moment for a Philadelphia family, especially Amaro Jr., in which all he knew was Philadelphia.
After high school, Amaro Jr. traveled out west to Stanford University, helping the Cardinal win the the College World Series in 1987. After his Cardinal days, he stayed out west as he was drafted by the California Angels in the 11th round in ’87. Ruben was a late bloomer, not reaching the majors with the Angels until 1991, playing only just 10 games for the club.
After just 10 games in the ‘91 season, Ruben scored an opportunity to play. On opening day 1992, he made an appearance as a pinch hitter for the Phillies. For the man born and bred in Philadelphia, who played his little league and high school ball in Philly, who celebrated a World Series on the field with his family, a lifelong dream was achieved.
Ruben played the most games of his eight-year career in 1992, making 126 appearances. The right-hander hit .219/.303/.348 with seven homers and 34 runs batted in. Ruben also added 15 doubles, seven triples, and swiped 11 bags. Sure, looking at those numbers, it’s easy to see that he was not likely to become a capable everyday major league starter. His best string of games in ’92 spanned 25 games from late April to early June; the outfielder hit .302/.389/.381. Though Ruben didn’t have the best of seasons in ’92, his dreams became reality.
Ruben’s playing career took some odd turns along the way. After ‘92, he played in fewer than 28 games in each of the next season three seasons. He stuck around for parts of the Phillies’ ’93 run but was left off the postseason roster. After the ’93 season, he was shipped to Cleveland for pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb (who would become an all-star in 1995). Ruben played 26 games for the Indians in 1994 and 28 games in ’95, where he made five postseason appearances, mainly as a pinch runner.
What do you think happened next? Ruben came back, again. After the Indians released Amaro after the ’95 season, the right-hander signed with the Phillies in May of ’96, playing in 61 games. He shockingly hit .316 in 117 at-bats and played the next two seasons in Philadelphia before calling it a career.
And you know what happened next.
After his playing days, Ruben was hired as the assistant general manager to Ed Wade. He was held under the thumb of Wade and the Pat Gillick until after the 2008 season, when the Philly lifer was named the general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. During his tenure the Phillies made the postseason an additional three times, and he acquired players like Cliff Lee (twice), Roy Halladay, Hunter Pence and Roy Oswalt. He also extended Ryan Howard in a questionable move and seemed not to understand the difference between a plate appearance and an at bat. That said, his front office oversaw the beginnings of a rebuild that continues today, and includes one of the top farm systems in baseball. He remained a general manager until 2015. Today, he mans the first base coach’s box for the Boston Red Sox, just as his father did as a Phillie.
It’s possible the comments section of this piece will include some choice words for Ruben Amaro Jr. But, if you can, save them for another day, because it’s pretty remarkable how he did it. Ruben is a Philadelphia kid who got to live his dream as a Philadelphia Phillie in every way imaginable, something any of us wish we could say.