Ruth well-schooled in hitting a baseball
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
Keoni Ruth had a chance to play pro baseball straight out of high school, but decided an education was more important.
Three years later, the University of San Diego junior is happy with his choice.
"I have no regrets whatsoever. It was the best decision," said Ruth, a second baseman. "I matured as a ball player and got the college experience. Academically, I got three years under my belt."
The maturity showed in conference play as Ruth batted a team-best .489 and was named to the West Coast Conference first team.
"Once we got into conference he came out of his shell," USD coach Rich Hill said. "Before he was very quiet, didn't say much. He began showing a lot of fire — he wants to make it to the College World Series. He's emerged as a leader. I think he's matured socially more than physically."
Ruth, a 2003 Kamehameha graduate, heard about his honor from his mother.
"It was exciting. I knew I had a good season. I did well in conference," he said. "She found it on the Web site before I did. I didn't even know it was coming out."
Overall, Ruth was second on the team in batting with a .358 average and in hits with 81. He had 12 doubles, a triple, two home runs and 34 RBIs. He also led the Toreros in stolen bases with 18.
"It's the highest batting average I think in 21 years (in the WCC)," Hill said. "A lot of good players have come through the WCC. Keoni had a higher average than all of them.
"He's anchored the middle of our infield for three years, he's a consistent hitter, and he stole a lot of bases. He's been an athletic presence in our lineup the whole time."
The Toreros advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five years. Besides players on the University of Hawai'i team, other players from Hawai'i in the tournament are San Francisco senior pitcher Patrick McGuigan (Mid-Pacific), Miami freshman outfielder Nick Freitas (Kamehameha) and UC Irvine freshman pitcher Jared Pate (Punahou).
USD, which received an at-large berth into the tournament, has been idle since May 16.
"Our coach told us it was going to be tough to get it, but we tried to remain optimistic throughout the process," Ruth said. "We were excited when we saw our team name up there on ESPN (during Monday's selection show)."
The Toreros returned to practice Monday, rested, healed and ready to play.
"There's a tendency for everyone to get rusty, so everyone did their part," Ruth said. "We were just around, hoping. We took it day to day. We were just practicing on our own, waiting for that selection day to see what would happen."
Ruth was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 17th round of the 2003 draft, but opted for college instead. He will likely make himself available for this year's upcoming draft.
"I feel I'm ready, these three years helped me mature," Ruth said. "I feel I'm ready to go to the next level. We'll see what happens. Right now I'm just worrying about the regionals."
Hill said: "I think he's ready to go out and face the world of pro baseball and beyond. He's a great kid. He makes his parents and family proud."
Reach Leila Wai at firstname.lastname@example.org.