As mentioned yesterday, Carlos Ruiz is profiled in the current edition of Sports Illustrated. The story has hit the web and trust me when I say you need to drop whatever you’re doing and read this right now. It’s equal parts hilarious, heartbreaking, hopeful, and, uh, hinspirational.
Read it on SI.com (or a newsstand, I guess) or check out some choice excerpts after the jump. But seriously, I’m not screwing around here, read the goddamned article.
After his father’s tragic death, Carlos made a vow:
On his father’s last shift before a long vacation, a tire had blown out on Sgt. Joaquin Ruiz’s police jeep as he patrolled a nearby town. The jeep spun into a ditch, flipped, flung the unbelted man from his seat and then crushed him. Two weeks after Carlos’s grandmother died of cancer, his dad, too, was dead.
Carlos, the eldest of Inocencia’s three sons, knew at once that he must become the new father. “Don’t worry, I will play in the big leagues one day,” he informed his mother not long after, unaware that the odds of that were roughly two in one million. “I will take care of the family.” At the cemetery he dug himself an even bigger hole, repeating the promise to his father’s spirit. Then he grew silent and watched what men did, so he could become one too.
Chooch’s role on the team:
He’s the Tailor of Panama. The discreet man whose job and joy is to make his client look and feel wonderful, materializing in the mirror beside him only to smooth out a wrinkle, make a subtle alteration or offer a few quiet words of praise or advice. “Our starting pitchers do not need a tailor to make them look good,” he murmurs. “They make the tailor look good.” The perfect tailor’s words.
The origin of “Chooch”:
Chucha! That was the word that seemed to burst most from the quiet man’s mouth over the long, harrowing years that followed. It was the equivalent of the f bomb in his native land, and in the spring of 2004—when his bat utterly betrayed him—it escaped his mouth so often that his minor league teammate and roomie, Anderson Machado, began to address him that way … and it stuck. How Chucha cringed when he heard his new nickname, praying that no Panamanians were in earshot. His hitting agonies spilled into summer that year, his second season in Double A, but then came his break when Reading’s starting catcher was injured and the chance to play regularly brought Chucha’s bat back from the dead, his .284 average marking him—at the borderline age of 25—as a man who … well, might be a backup big league catcher one day. When his call-up came in 2006, the Philly writers, thank God, anglicized his nickname to Chooch, and the Philly fans took it as a children’s train reference, even sending him cute locomotive pictures as they began to fall in love with his pluck. The man with the steamy nickname became the Little Engine That Could.
There’s so much that’s better than that; honestly the entire article is worth block-quoting. But to take it out of context would be doing the piece a great disservice. GO READ IT ALREADY.