Baseball / Sports

Phillies' Ruiz tells of friends' harrowing outing, rescue

PHILADELPHIA -- 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 David, close to his heart. He returns there, to his ranch, every winter. His thoughts Sunday, understandably, were not about baseball.

He contemplated flying Sunday morning to Panama.

"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."

Upon 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."

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