Ruiz helps rescue Panamanian friends lost at sea

Phillies' catcher Carlos Ruiz was honored after a strong week during the road trip.
Phillies' catcher Carlos Ruiz was honored after a strong week during the road trip. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: May 29, 2014

Carlos Ruiz was not scheduled to play Sunday afternoon, but he felt the need to explain to Ryne Sandberg and Juan Samuel why his mind was elsewhere. He pulled the Phillies manager and first-base coach aside, in a hallway near the clubhouse, and told them that morning of a harrowing situation in his native Panama.

Three men were flung from their capsized fishing boat sometime Saturday. Two of them - Walter Dubarran and Jose Mercedes Rodriguez - were Ruiz's close friends. They were missing for more than a day, and Ruiz directed money toward boats and helicopters for a search-and-rescue team that worked with the Panamanian navy.

The men, who clung to gas tanks and buoys, were found Sunday. Ruiz received word after Sunday's game, a no-hitter by Los Angeles righthander Josh Beckett, that everyone was safe.

One of Ruiz's boats found Dubarran. They talked on the phone.

"They thanked me for all I did, for those guys who went out there to try to find them," Ruiz said through Samuel, his translator. "It was joyful. They all thanked me again for what I did financially."

Ruiz, 35, holds Panama and his hometown of David close to his heart. He returns to his ranch there every winter.

That's why his thoughts Sunday were not about baseball. He contemplated flying to Panama that morning.

"It was very difficult," Ruiz said. "I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. At the same time, I had a job to do with the ball club. It was kind of hard to keep my concentration. I just left everything to God. I knew I had to be here."

After hearing of the rescues, Ruiz paid for the men to be transferred to a private hospital.

"I focused on any help financially," Ruiz said. "The good Lord was the one who provided everything for me."


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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