There were hoops to jump through and long distances to travel, but Jose Ruiz has found a home away from home with the Werribee Giants in the Baseball Victoria summer league.
“God have plans for me and the plan was coming here to Australia,” Ruiz told Star Weekly. “I like the team, I like my teammates, I like the city – everything is good. They’ve made me feel comfortable since day one.”
Ruiz has come all the way from Venezuela to play for the Giants in division 2.
The 24-year-old is a proven performer at college level in the US with the shortstop claiming Golden Bat and Gold Glove awards for Oklahoma Wesleyan University to become the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics baseball player of the year in 2014.
His quality was on show on Sunday when he went five-from-five at bat, including two doubles, to lead the Giants to a 14-3 mercy rule win over the Malvern Braves.
Ruiz has won a swag of awards in his 20 years in baseball but his next goal is to play a role in a Giants premiership.
“We have good defence, good pitching staff and good hitting,” he said. “Our older guys have good experience playing the game … I’m pretty sure that if we do the little things, we’ll get there and eventually we’ll win the title because we have a pretty good team.’
Baseball is life for Ruiz.
He first picked up a bat aged four and has spent the past 20 years devoted to the sport.
His passion for the game is sure to endear himself to his Giants teammates in the coming months.
“I love playing baseball,” Ruiz said. “It’s my job, it’s my life and everything I do is about baseball.
“I can provide my knowledge. I’ve played professionally … the guys are really good, they listen to me. It’s really like a family at the club – everyone listens and everyone is respectful.”
Ruiz came to Australia with the blessing of his mum and dad, something that is of the utmost importance to him. They are 100 per cent supportive of their son making a career in baseball.
“I’m here because of them,” he said. “They’re my everything – I do everything for my mum and my dad.
“I keep playing baseball because of them – they support me with everything and never let me down.”
Ruiz is hoping his summer Down Under will be a mere stopover en route to a long career in the US.
He dreams of landing a minor league contract and following in the footsteps of his Venezualan baseball heroes – Miguel Cabrera, a 10-time all-star who plays with the Detroit Tigers, and Omar Vizquel, a retired three-time all-star with the Cleveland Indians who is now a fielding coach at the Tigers.
“That’s the goal – to get a minor league contract and work my way up to the big league,” Ruiz said.
“I have to keep working hard and making good numbers, hopefully the opportunity will come and I take advantage of it.”