By Ray Hamill — With a big decision to make later this summer, Caleb Ruiz is relishing his time with the Humboldt Crabs.
The former St. Bernard’s Crusader, who is slated to start against the West Coast Kings on Sunday, is the team’s only returning player this year and he leads the pitching staff with a record of 4-0.
Ruiz admits that playing in front of the fans at the Arcata Bay Park is always fun, but that’s not the only reason he’s enjoying his summer with the team, even more than last year.
“I always like playing for the fans here, but the team this year has been awesome. Some really good dudes.”
That includes some old friends he reunited with this summer.
Ruiz is one of six local players to feature for the longtime summer collegiate club this season, most of whom he has played against and alongside for several years.
That group includes his former St. Bernard’s teammate, Garrison Finck, as well as his former Humboldt Eagles and Renegades teammates Cameron Saso and Merek Sears.
“It’s pretty crazy to see them all here now,” he said. “It’s a good thing. All those guys are good friends.
“We all played Renegades ball together, and that was a really cool experience. We all grew up on the same team since we’ve been 10, or maybe even 9. We’ve created that bond, and it never changed.”
Ruiz’s journey to the Crabs has taken some unexpected turns, but all of that has helped shape him to be the player and person he is today, and he says he has matured because of it.
He played for College of the Redwoods out of high school, before transferring for one spring at Umpqua Community College in Oregon and then moving back to California to play at College of San Mateo this spring.
“I do feel in my time at those schools that I have matured an extreme amount,” he said. “I look at myself a lot different and I look at what I’m doing a lot different. I’m just more mature.
“You’ve got to go about it in more of a mature way when you’re in college. You can’t be that kid in high school.”
Ruiz’s college tourney is far from over and the soon-to-be junior has a big decision to make in the coming days or weeks.
With his community college eligibility up, earlier this year Ruiz made the decision to take his talents to Ottawa University, an NAIA school in Kansas.
But after some consideration, he has decided not to move that far from home and is looking at his options in California for the next step in his career.
“I have a few colleges I’m talking to,” he said, adding that “These past two days I’ve been getting phone calls left and right, and text messages.”
He has been one of the Crabs’ most reliable arms this season, and word is getting out there.
“They’re hearing about my summer with the Crabs and they’re really enjoying seeing it,” he said. “That helps me out.”
Ruiz has certainly helped the Crabs too.
His fours wins have come in five starts and a team-high 34.2 innings. He has yet to lose a game and has an ERA of 2.85.
More impressively, the former H-DNL standout has 32 strikes and has remarkably allowed just four walks.
“He’s been throwing strikes like crazy,” Crabs manager Robin Guiver said. “And he’s developed a change-up, which has turned into a very good pitch for him.
“And I’ve been really impressed with his ability to throw quality strikes.”
It’s also been a different role for Ruiz after appearing out of the bullpen at San Mateo, where he was used as a closer.
“I had a good experience there,” he said. “I learned to understand a different role — being a closer, which is a completely different role — and honestly that was a big change for me. I was in a different situation. I had to fight out there.
“My mantra is ‘be where your feet are.’ Essentially be in the moment.”
While he says he’s only now considering colleges in California, he is open to whatever role a new coach might want him to play.
“All I’m hoping for is to get to the next level and play some more baseball,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m a starter or a closer. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”