Part of our continuing series of the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies players' "Exit Interviews."
Drafted in the 20th round in 2009, Darin Ruf was a low-profile minor leaguer and a fringe prospect at best. His minor league offense, while impressive, garnered little note. Then, in 2011, he discovered a little power; smacking 17 homeruns at High-A Clearwater, alongside an .894 OPS. Still, he was considered an "all-bat" first-basemen, and would, at best, be blocked by Ryan Howard until he was eligible to join the AARP.
This year, though, a funny thing happened. The Nebraska farm boy did what Nebraska farm boys are supposed to do to baseballs: he crushed the shit out them. In 139 games at AA Reading, Ruf blasted 38 homeruns, leading the Eastern League, setting a franchise record (previously held by Howard). As the Phillies continued moving as fast as Coleridge's painted ship; the calls for his promotion steadily increased.
Finally, on September 10th, Ruf got his call. He didn't see much playing time at first, despite Charlie Manuel's prognostication that, "They found a place for Killebrew, they found a place for Babe Ruth. Yeah, we can find a place for you. We'll find a place for him if he can hit." He went 0 for 3 in pinch-hit appearances, while the Phils thought they might have a chance at an outside shot at a prayer of sniffing the box where the second Wild Card is stored; but once those hopes were crushed, he started getting regular time.
And boy, was it awesome. In the nine games he started, against both righties and lefties, Ruf assembled a .355/.382/.774/1.157 line, with 3 home-runs (two in one game) and a triple. Of course, this was driven by a .471 BABIP, but that's totally sustainable. He even drew an intentional walk, and in the season's ultimate series, against the Nationals, Ruf accounted for all five of the Phillies runs. Kid can hit. And, to top it off, he carried his glove well, both at first and in left. He won't win a Gold Glove, but this is a team whose LF defense for the last few years has come from Raul Ibanez and Pat Burrell. He'll be fine.
Ruf's interview was conducted by the Sarge:
1. Home run record, Reading, you come to the plate with runners on, do you look for a fastball in that situation?Well, golly, Mr. Matthews, I mean, I just go up looking for a pitch to hit, you know, and try to do my best to help out the guys and win the game.2. Well, you had a good eye all year, you been gettin' walks, takin' pitches, takin' walks, you're looking for a ball to just try and drive and just get on base.Yeah, Sir, I mean, Goldarnit, it's just, you know, doing my part and all to help the team the best way I can. Most kids in the city, they don't ever get to see grass 'cept that where we get to play every day, and I owe it to them, you know, and my team to just do the best I can.3. When you connect with a pitch, drive it, once you see it go off over the wall, what's goin' through your mind?Well, gosh, Mr. Matthews Sir, I mean, I just try to put the barrel on the ball and make good contact, and, you know, do everything I can, to help my team out. I mean, gee-whilickers, the guys need my help 'cause they brought me here, and if I can get a hit, I'm not gonna act like my favorite cow died just 'cause it didn't go over the wall.4. Please, son, call me Sarge. That's my nickname, I got it from Pete Rose, who gave me the nickname, at the time he said it.Ok, Sir, Sergeant...5. Sarge....Sarge, I was just always taught to respect my elders and stuff, and you're in the Hall of Fame and everything.6. Speaking of nicknames, what do you think of what they've been calling you, the nickname you've been given, "Babe Ruf?"Well, Mr. Sarge, they always used to call me Rube, so I think they're just confused. Still, though, we used to have a pig named 'Babe' and it was our best pig, so, gosh, you know, this is kinda special.6. What do you think, about the pitching staff, the relievers, specifically in the bullpen for the Fightin' Phils goin' forward into next year?Oh they're just a great buncha guys. I mean, I guess they had some problems before I got here, but gosh, the guys I've seen, they're the best pitchers I've ever gotten to play with. I know some of them are younger guys, like me, and they just want to try and do whatever they can to do their best to help out the rest of the guys.7. Well, continued success, and congratulations on the Eastern League MVP and your call-up to the big leagues and continued success, and better luck next year for the Fightin' Phils. Continued success.Well thank you Sir! I'll do my best.8. Sarge.Thank you Sarge. It's been a real honor to meet you, Sir Matthews. Could I ask you please to sign this Douglas County road map? Gosh, it would be such a treasure for me!