By Ray Hamill — Like many St. Bernard’s pitchers that have come before him, senior Caleb Ruiz will be taking his game to the collegiate level after graduation.
And like many St. Bernard’s pitchers that have come before him, he has Greg Shanahan to thank in large part for that.
Ruiz closed out his high school career on Friday in a 4-3 North Coast Section playoff loss to Branson, and will now take his talents to College of the Redwoods, opting to stay local for the next chapter in his life.
That’s good news not just for the Corsairs, but also for local baseball fans who will get the opportunity to continue to closely follow the development of one of the area’s most promising young pitchers.
But it wasn’t always that way.
And Ruiz says Shanahan played a big part in changing that.
“In Babe Ruth, with all the kids, I was known as ‘Wild Thing’, from Major League,” Ruiz said with a laugh. “My coaches would call me Wild Thing, I would hit so many people.”
He hit them hard too, which at least showed he had some power behind his pitches.
Fortunately for Wild Thing, those control issues began to disappear at St. Bernard’s, and Ruiz says the Crusaders’ pitching coach had a lot to do with that.
“Greg Shanahan really taught me to go directly at the catcher,” he said.
Shanahan is credited with helping a lot of SB pitchers over the years.
“He just brings an experience that no one else around here can offer,” St. Bernard’s head coach Matt Tomlin said. “And he builds such a relationship with the kids. They absolutely love working with him.”
Close to home
Ruiz’s decision to stay local is another big coup for a CR athletic department that has pulled off a few of them in recent months.
The senior standout received interest from several other schools, including CR’s conference rivals Lassen, Feather River and Shasta, but decided to stay close to home.
“I’m still not ready to leave my hometown yet,” the 17-year-old said. “And I wanted to play ball, and I wanted to play multiple positions.”
Ruiz will get that opportunity at CR, where his presence on defense and at the plate will also help a CR program that struggled to a 6-30 record this past season.
Pitching, however, remains his first love.
“I like hitting, but I love pitching,” he said. “There’s just something about pitching that’s fun.”
Ruiz was the lone senior on a young Crusaders team that won the Little 4 this spring and made it to the second round of the NCS playoffs.
But it’s not the wins and losses he’ll remember most about his time at the school.
“Just having a good time with my friends honestly is what I’ll remember,” he said. “I got to know all the people at the school so well because its such a small school.”
Redwoods is planning a media day to introduce their newest player this coming week.