Former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz has been an All-Star, caught four no-hitters, won a World Series championship and become one of the most popular players in franchise history over the years.
On Tuesday night, he added another honor to his resume in the place that helped shape his professional career.
Ruiz was inducted into Reading’s Baseballtown Hall of Fame in front of 4,517 ecstatic fans on a rainy night at FirstEnergy Stadium, the park he called home in 2003 and 2004 as a member of the Reading Phillies.
“It was special, because here [in Reading], it was my best season in the minor leagues,” Ruiz said.
The 2004 season was Ruiz’s breakout as a prospect, helping him make his way to the majors in 2006 and beginning a 12-year career in the big leagues. It put him on the path to becoming the starting catcher for a Phillies team that won five straight National League East titles from 2007 to 2011 and the 2008 World Series.
Ruiz was primarily a backup in his first season in Reading. When he took over as a starter in 2004, he began to feel more comfortable in all aspects of his game.
“I feel like everything clicked when I came here,” he said of his second season in Reading, “and then I went from there.”
Ruiz, converted to catcher at 18 years old, improved his defense with more experience in Double-A. And in the friendly confines of FirstEnergy Stadium, his offense took off.
The catcher hit .284/,338/.484 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs in 100 games in 2004.
“I remember when I used to come to Reading when ‘Chooch’ was a player,” Charlie Manuel, Ruiz’s former manager, said during the induction. “… I always used to think he was a better hitter than catcher back in those days. Once he made it to the majors leagues, he really improved a lot.”
Ruiz teamed up with 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard in that 2004 season. The two had their eyes on the majors, imagining what the success could look like if things went right.
“When I was here, I was looking a lot at the big leagues because I was so close,” Ruiz said. “Looking to the way they were playing there and how they were hungry to win.”
The Phillies, of course, did win when Ruiz made it there, especially early in his career.
Ruiz remained with the Phillies until 2016, when they traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He saw more postseason action there, before ending his career with the Seattle Mariners in 2017.
The 42-year-old now lives in his native Panama with his family, spends time on his horse farm and runs a construction company. He played baseball in Panama until 2019. They asked him to play again this season, but Ruiz declined.
“My shoes are already hung up,” he said with a laugh.
Ruiz has plans of possibly returning to spring training next season as an instructor. But in the meantime, returning to see the fans and people within the Phillies organization at his induction in Reading and the alumni weekend at Citizens Bank Park in the days prior has been a blessing.
“Seeing everybody in the ballpark and when I saw the reaction, it was special,” Ruiz said.
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