Alfred Ruiz still considers his trip to AT&T Park last month to try out for a position with the San Francisco Giants a surreal experience.
Ruiz passed the tryout, and on Wednesday , he’s going back to take the field as a Balldude when the Giants face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ruiz, 51, a lifelong Tracy resident and local financial planner, coaches children in the Junior Giants program in Tracy and was chosen for the position at the Giants’ May 30 Balldude Camp.
“It was a Norman Rockwell kind of day,” Ruiz said of the camp, where he 31 other Balldude and Balldudette candidates took turns in the batting cage and on the field, both infield and outfield.
The camp was their chance to show if they had the skills to snag foul balls during the Giants’ regular-season home games — and the personality to interact with fans, especially kids.
Ruiz said every moment on the field was memorable, including a view of the stands as he fielded flies or stood on the base paths where Giants players and their rivals compete.
“When I got to field ground balls, I was at shortstop and realized that there were so many famous players who had run these paths,” Ruiz said. “I was like a kid in a candy store.”
At the end of the camp, the Giants handed out “Slugger” and “Gamer” awards and named two Balldude Camp winners, including Ruiz.
On Wednesday, he will take his place seated in foul territory along the first-base line. The Giants provided tickets to the game for his wife, Sandy, and three children, Alfred, 8, Emily, 6, and Andrea, 3, who will be in the stands nearby.
Bill Mauldin, development and health coordinator with the Giants Community Fund and organizer of the Balldude Camp, said Ruiz will be one of two Balldudes at the July 2 game, and there is a chance that the Giants could call him again in the future if there’s an opening among the 20 or so regular Balldudes that work the home games.
The Giants started the Balldude-Balldudette program more than 20 years ago, when the team played in Candlestick Park. The team selected fans to put on a glove and a Giants uniform, field foul balls and then hand the balls to children in the stands.
Ruiz is going on his third year as a coach with the local Junior Giants, a non-competitive league for boys and girls. He joined the program to share his love of baseball with his son. This year, his daughter Emily will get involved, too.
Ruiz said he was attracted not just by the program’s goal to train kids in baseball skills, but also by its emphasis on teaching teamwork, confidence and integrity.
His opportunity to get involved in the Balldude Camp was a surprise organized by his wife, who found information about it and filled out an application when she signed the kids up for this summer’s Junior Giants program in Tracy.
“It was kind of a Father’s Day present, and she surprised the heck out of me with that,” Ruiz said.
The annual Balldude camp is a benefit for the Giants Community Fund. Attendees make a $450 donation to the fund, which supports programs such as the Junior Giants.
Mauldin said he and his staff usually nominate four or five participants that stand out, but the final selection is a random choice after the name of the top nominee is picked out of a hat.
He said that he and his staff were unaware until after they made the final choice that Ruiz coaches a local Junior Giants team. He added that as soon as they announced his name they knew Ruiz was the best choice.
“It’s a tense time because everybody wants to win,” Mauldin said. “He got an ovation from everyone at the camp, which is really cool. Everybody looked at him as someone who would be a good Balldude.”
Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com or 830-4227.