- July 9, 2018
Randy “RJ” Ruiz was just 6 months old the first time he held a bat in his hands.
It comes with the territory when your dad is a professional baseball player.
Now 10 and a resident of Windermere with his family, RJ Ruiz has the unique and exciting opportunity of playing in this week’s 2017 USSSA All-American Games at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports. The event features hundreds of kids from across the country who were selected via tryouts that drew thousands of would-be competitors.
RJ showed what he could do at the tryouts for the Atlantic Region teams in March and was one of only 24 10-year-olds selected to comprise two teams — American and National — representing Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Although he was confident he had done well at the one-day tryout and could make the team, RJ still remembers what it felt like when he found out he had been named to the roster.
“I was excited to try out and I was very confident that I was going to make the team,” RJ said. “But, when I figured out that I made the team, I turned around and looked at my grandma and said, ‘Is it OK if I cry?’”
This was RJ’s first time trying out for the USSSA All-American Games. He usually plays baseball for Windermere Little League, where he has been an All-Star for the past several seasons, and for Chandler Baseball’s 11U team, coached by Jason Slattery.
A jack of all trades, RJ shows great range in center field — where he enjoys tracking down and diving for fly balls — but also plays the infield and pitches. At the plate, RJ has shown himself to be a strong hitter and has hit several home runs dating back to the spring.
The son of Randy Ruiz Sr. and Lena Covel, RJ and his family have been in Windermere since July 2013, when they relocated from Las Vegas. His father. Randy, also an assistant coach for the Atlantic Region teams, has played baseball professionally for two decades — including three years in Major League Baseball (for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins) and six years in Japan, among other leagues.
RJ said he enjoyed the process of trying out and meeting kids from different states, and he is excited to do more of the same this week at Disney. The event began Aug. 7 with opening ceremonies in Champion Stadium, and pool play is ongoing from Aug. 8 to 10. Championship games will be played Friday, Aug. 11.
However the weeklong tournament goes, this young ballplayer is excited to soak in the experience and continue to improve.
“It’s going to be fun,” RJ said. “It’s going to be at Disney, it might be on TV, we’ll be having a nice time — all kinds of stuff.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]