Oklahoma Sooners reliever Jason Ruffcorn toed the rubber in an appearance in 2019, peering toward the catcher to take the sign.
However, there was one big problem: Ruffcorn’s contact lenses had shifted on his eyes, preventing him from clearly seeing what pitch was called.
“My catcher was not a fan of me that day, let me tell you that,” Ruffcorn said with a laugh in a phone interview with Phillies Nation earlier this week. “We kind of just had to guess what I was going to throw. We didn’t really talk about it before.
“So, ever since then, I started wearing glasses.”
The incident resulted in a unique look for Ruffcorn, who’s continued to wear glasses on the field. He’ll bring them along his journey into professional baseball, which is set to begin this summer after the Philadelphia Phillies, a team for which his father Scott pitched in 1997, selected the bespectacled bullpen arm with pick No. 205 in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball draft on Monday.
“As weird as it sounds, I kind of like the look of having glasses on, being a high-leverage reliever,” Ruffcorn said. “It’s something different, and I just like it.”
Named the nation’s top reliever in the preseason by D1Baseball, the 22-year-old posted a 4.00 ERA in 21 outings in 2021. It was far from a dominant season, but it produced some memorable moments, including Ruffcorn closing out an 8-5 win over then-No. 1 Arkansas in March.
Ruffcorn’s performance, his intensity and — of course — his glasses stuck in people’s minds.
“I think it’s just a little different, a little weird,” he said.
All the best relievers seem to have something. Whether it’s glasses like Eric Gagne, celebrations like Fernando Rodney or a persona like Brian Wilson, the bullpen always holds some weirdness.
“I think most of the good ones are a little off,” Ruffcorn said.
While the right-hander’s distinct style might give him a slight edge, it’s Ruffcorn’s arsenal that’ll help him climb towards the big leagues for the Phillies.
Ruffcorn comes out of the bullpen creating deception with a low arm slot. He throws a sinker that he keeps down in the zone and pairs that with an elevated fastball reaching the upper 90s mph. He also mixes in a changeup and slider as his offspeed pitches.
His pitching style and locked-in demeanor on the mound make Ruffcorn a fit for the back end of the bullpen.
“There’s just something about those high-leverage situations or being able to end the game that I love,” he said.
Those aspects also might lead him on a more direct path to the majors.
On Monday, Scott Ruffcorn pulled out some old Phillies jerseys for him and his son to take photos in after Jason was chosen in the draft. It made Jason realize that reaching the same height his father did may not be too far off.
“With me being a reliever and maybe being a little bit older, my goal is to see how quickly I can make an impact in the big leagues,” he said. “Ever since I’ve thought about it, being able to look at that picture of me and my dad with ‘Ruffcorn’ on his back for the Phillies and everything like that, I want to do that as quickly as possible and as long as possible.”
Until that opportunity comes, Ruffcorn will need to continue developing in the minor leagues. But at the very least, there should be one thing that sets him apart from most other pitchers.
“It’s like a little signature,” Ruffcorn said of the glasses, “saying, ‘Hey, I’m not normal. You might want to remember me.'”
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