April 21, 2013

On Baseball: One eye on game, one on Boston

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - In the Portland Sea Dogs' win Friday night, Pete Ruiz pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

click image to enlarge

Friday was an eventful day for Sea Dogs reliever Pete Ruiz, who got the final three outs of a 12-1 win over the New Britain Rock Cats while waiting for news about the manhunt for a Boston Marathon bombing suspect. Ruiz had a personal connection to the manhunt – his fiancee’s father was part of the search team.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Bob Bonina, the father of Pete Ruiz’s fiancee, was on the SWAT team that tracked down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday in Watertown, Mass.

Contributed photo

Later that night, his future father-in-law, Bob Bonina, sent him a text:

"Good job. We both closed it out tonight."

While Ruiz was striking out the three batters he faced, Bonina wore a different kind of uniform as he canvassed the streets of Watertown, Mass.

Bonina, 48, was a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics team sent into Watertown to search for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

"He sent me a text saying, 'going into the hot zone,'" Ruiz said.

"Friday was a stressful day all day."

Ruiz, 25, followed the happenings, using Twitter a lot. That provided up-to-date information, but not all of it accurate.

"You hear so many things -- they're strapped with dynamite. There are more (suspects)," Ruiz said. "But (Bonina) would be OK. I have all the faith in the world in him."

Eventually, Ruiz had to turn off his cell phone and get ready to pitch. He entered the game and used his curveball, low 90s fastball and new slider to strikeout the side.

Then he heard about Tsarnaev's capture and got the text from Bonina.

"That was pretty cool," Ruiz said.

Ruiz refers to Bonina as his father-in-law, although that title won't become official until October, when Ruiz marries Ashley Bonina.

Ruiz is from Rough And Ready, Calif., a small town of about 1,000, 63 miles northeast of Sacramento. Bonina is from Marlborough, Mass. The couple met three years ago when Bonina traveled with a friend to the Red Sox spring training camp in Fort Myers, Fla.

Ruiz had signed with the Red Sox after being drafted in the 10th round in 2008.

"We met, hit it off, kept in touch and it worked out," Ruiz said.

Ironically, his fiancee now has a job in California.

Ruiz's goal, of course, is to eventually be working in Massachusetts in the Fenway Park area. To accomplish that, Ruiz must achieve what every other minor league pitcher strives for -- consistency.

Ruiz entered Sunday's game against New Britain and struck out the side in the seventh. But in the eighth, two walks, a wild pitch and a single brought in two runs.

Still, Ruiz has shown good stuff, with 15 strikeouts in eight innings.

He did not become a pitcher until college. Recruited as a third baseman, Ruiz was headed toward a red-shirt season at Santa Barbara Community College when he asked if he could try pitching.

"I said I pitched a tiny bit in high school and I have a good curveball," Ruiz recalled. "They went 'yeah, yeah' I had to ask three times and they finally let me throw a bullpen. I threw six pitches and the pitching coach said 'you're mine.'

"It just kind of fell into place."

After two seasons at Santa Barbara, Ruiz was drafted by the Red Sox based on his fastball and curveball.

They wanted him to develop a change-up. He never really did, and ended up in the bullpen last year for Class A Salem, posting a 3.14 ERA. He was promoted to Portland this year.

Everyone in New England was affected by the events in Boston. Everyone was relieved after Friday night's capture of Tsarnaev. For Ruiz, it was a little more personal.

After hearing from Bonina Friday night, Ruiz fired off a message on his twitter account (@Pete_Ruiz):

"Couldn't be more proud of my father-in-law Bob Bonina. SWAT team in Boston. Thank you for keeping our country safe. #TrueHero."

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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