Kyle Ruchim, a 5-10, 180-pound senior pitcher/shortstop, is the leader of Stevenson's baseball team, which meets Naperville Central Friday in the semifinals of the Class 4A tournament in Joliet. This is how Ruchim looks at the game he loves:
Coach Paul Mazzuca said this year's team is more balanced that last year's sectional finalist. Is it good enough to win the state title?
Absolutely. Ever since our freshman year, we have talked about this class as the one that can do it. We have pitching, defense and offense. We have a good blend with senior leadership and juniors in pitcher Tyler Radtke, third baseman Mike Martin and relief pitcher Blake Fiedelman.
Mazzuca said the key to this team's success is senior leadership. What does he mean?
As an underclassman, I looked to the upperclassmen to see how they reacted to situations. We handle negatives and don't get flustered by them. The upperclassmen set an example.
He said you are having an All-State year with a .468 batting average and 54 RBI. Is hitting that easy?
Not at all. As a sophomore, I hit .300 and didn't know what I was doing. The more you practice, the better you feel. I simplified my swing, not too much movement, not tight or mechanical. I found a stance that relaxes my body. I don't think too much and I don't put too much pressure on myself.
What does it take to be an outstanding hitter?
When I'm struggling, I tell myself to be confident. There will be times that you don't hit. That's the game. But great hitters reduce the amount of time they are in a slump. In April, I was 0-for-9, my low point of the season. I haven't had a hitless game since.
What does it take to be an outstanding shortstop?
Fielding is the most important thing. If you can field, they will find a spot for you, especially at shortstop. Arm strength is part of it. Get in good shape and practice different throws and positions and situations.
You are also your team's No. 2 pitcher. Which is more fun--pitching, playing shortstop or hitting?
When you pitch, you are in total control of the game. It is the most exhilarating experience. But playing shortstop is my favorite. You are the captain of the infield. Defense is the most important thing to a player and the team, why we are successful.
Why do you wear No. 9?
It's in honor of my close friend, Rory Deutsch, who died of a brain tumor in 1998. Hewas only 8 years old. We played Little League together. He has been an inspiration my whole life. He wore No. 9. March 9 is his birthday. My four siblings wore No. 9.
Are you superstitious?
I have a baby picture of Rory taped on the handle of my bat, above the grip. I give it a kiss before I go to the plate.
Why did you commit to Northwestern?
Education is No. 1. I used baseball to get into school. I want to major in sports medicine. I committed before my junior year. Once they began to show interest, I focused on them. The program has had more than 50 players drafted. I'm optimistic that is a possibility for me. In 10 years, I'd like to be playing in Wrigley Field.
Even my teammates don't know this about me...
I'm a momma's boy. I have a mom and a stepmom and I love them. They are great ladies.
I wish I could play shortstop like...
Derek Jeter. How can you not say Derek Jeter? Every shortstop should model his game after him. Every part of his game is awesome.
In my dreams, I...
See my team winning the state championship.
What is your favorite pre-game meal?
For four years, I bag it to school. My mom makes two sandwiches--turkey or tuna salad or chicken salad or chicken parmigiana. Also fruit, vegetable, chocolate and an apple. I wash it down with water.
Why didn't you go to the senior prom?
I didn't want it to get in the way of playing baseball.