From the fields of Joliet, Illinois, to Arizona State University, and currently Harry Gro..."/> From the fields of Joliet, Illinois, to Arizona State University, and currently Harry Gro..."/>

Johnny Ruettiger’s Family Ties and Baseball Background


From the fields of Joliet, Illinois, to Arizona State University, and currently Harry Grove Stadium, Johnny Ruettiger’s dream has always been to play the game he loves at a high level.

He is the nephew of Dan “Rudy” Ruettiger, who played football at Notre Dame from 1974-1975, and whose life is the subject of the 1993 movie, “Rudy.”

For those who are unfamiliar with the movie, it is better to watch it rather than read any synopsis as it includes spoilers to an incredible film and story. The movie has made men I know, who never show any emotion; wipe away tears from their eyes at the end of the film.

The true lesson is that everyone who has a dream can accomplish it with hard work, dedication, determination and the motivation.

Ruettiger has always embraced the story of his uncle and wants anyone who is unfamiliar with the story to learn more and follow in his footsteps.

“I think it’s awesome!” He said. “I think watching the way he helps change people’s lives inspires everyone to be all they can be in this world. The more that it is talked about I think the better, because more humans would receive the help they need.”

Ruettiger says he takes the lessons learned from his uncle, who is currently a motivational speaker, to heart and it helps make him a better ball player.  He says the lessons are to never give up and have a positive attitude about everything.

The former Catholic Academy (ILL) high school graduate was selected by the Orioles in the eighth round of the MLB June Amateur Draft in 2011. He was also picked by the Texas Rangers in 2008. The offer was tempting for him to start his professional career right after high school, but elected to sign with Arizona State.

“I always considered signing with Texas,” he said. “I am glad I went to Arizona State. I think it was a great career move for me. I learned a lot of responsibilities and a lot about the game.”

The former Arizona State outfielder batted .341 in three seasons with the Sun Devils and was their most consistent hitter. He was named First Team All-Pac-10 and Second Team ABCA All-West Region in 2011.

A communications major in college, Ruettiger wanted to learn how to relate to people. In terms of whether he would explore it after his playing days into a journalistic role; he was unsure. He does find the field interesting and wants to connect to people in a positive way.

The Orioles’ prospect is off to a hot start in his first professional season.  He began his campaign with Delmarva of the South Atlantic League.  In 26 games with the Shorebirds, Ruettiger batted .305 with 13 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

After a promotion to the advanced-A Frederick Keys in mid-May, the outfielder has shown that he improves at the next level hitting at a .310 clip with three RBI and four stolen bases in nine games.

“It’s about playing the game pitch to pitch,” Ruettiger said. “It’s just coming to the ballpark every day, putting the barrel on the ball and letting the rest take over.”

The transition from college to the professional ranks for the 22-year-old is a challenge, but a key to his success is something we can all relate to in our lives.

“Time management is a big one,” he said. “The difference between college ball and the pros is you play every single day. There is a lot more practice in college ball, so in the pros you have to be ready to play every day.”

In 35 games this season, Ruettiger has swiped 14 bases in 16 attempts, which equates to an 88% success rate.  The art of stealing bases is slowly returning to baseball. However, a player may have speed, but still lack the skill of stealing bases.  The jump is just as important as the speed. His success has come from observation.

“I mean just talking to guys because I like to pick others brains that have done it before me, they have said that it’s more about the knowledge of the game,” he said. “Running in the right counts, picking the right time to steal, and just being sure and 100% convicted when to run.”

He says he tries to wait for a pitcher who has a slower delivery to the plate. He also said the key to successful base-stealing is to run on off-speed counts.

Ruettiger describes himself as a winning ball player and tries to go out every day and help the team win. He goes out and gets his uniform dirty on a daily basis. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox is a player he loves to watch play the game of baseball.

“The kid has a lot of tools,” Keys’ Manager Orlando Gomez said with regards to his outfielder. “He can run, and so far he has shown me that he can catch the ball really well in the outfield.  He is making the correct adjustments at this level and he will have to continue to do so as teams will pitch him differently. He can beat you with an infield single and so many other ways. He’s a pretty good player.”

Ruettiger is among a fraternity of leadoff hitters in the organization, which includes Glynn Davis, Roderick Bernadina, his teammate Trent Mummey, and Xavier Avery, who is currently in the major leagues. The former MVP of the 2008 Perfect Game WWBA 18U National Championship feels like he always has a chip on his shoulder when he plays the game, and that is what will continue to drive him.

“I always feel like I have something to prove,” he said. “I can control only what I can control and that is to come to the ball park with a positive attitude every day and do what I can to help my team win.”