Carlos Ruiz lives in his native Panama, where he’s raising three children (ages 4 to 19) and tending to a horse farm. Getting away to Philadelphia, even for reunions of the Phillies’ 2008 and 2009 World Series teams, isn’t always easy.
But the popular former catcher was here for all of Roy Halladay’s big moments with the Phillies. He wasn’t about to miss one now.
And so, on the occasion of the posthumous retirement of Halladay’s number Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, Ruiz tugged at one side of a black sheet that covered the No. 34 statue near the third-base gate. He then pressed his fingers to his lips and touched the “3,” a poignant moment from a pregame ceremony that hit all the right notes.
“He’s always present,” said Ruiz, speaking in Spanish and translated by former teammate Raúl Ibañez. “I get asked a lot in Panama about Roy and about my experiences with the Phillies. He holds a very dear place in my heart. I think about him quite often. I think about his family, as well. I love sharing stories about his dedication to his craft and his professionalism and also the man that he was.”
With the unveiling of No. 34 between Steve Carlton’s 32 and Robin Roberts’ 36 -- nice rotation, isn’t it? -- Halladay became the seventh Phillies player to have his number retired in center field. The others: Richie Ashburn (1), Mike Schmidt (20), Jim Bunning (14), and Dick Allen (15).
Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Nov. 7, 2017, spent only four seasons with the Phillies. But he went 55-29 with a 3.25 ERA in 103 starts, authored a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter, won a Cy Young Award, and cemented his election to the Hall of Fame in 2019.
The ceremony, which lasted approximately 25 minutes and was emceed by longtime public-address announcer Dan Baker, was attended by several former teammates, including Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Halladay’s wife, Brandy, and two sons were unable to travel from their home in Florida because of a positive COVID-19 test in the family, according to Ibañez.
“She said Philly will always be their home away from home,” Ibañez said.
Ibañez delivered a touching speech in which he reflected on playing with Halladay and facing him earlier in their careers. In a lighter moment, he recalled once asking then-Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun during an at-bat if the always-intense Halladay was having any fun. Zaun, typically talkative behind the plate, offered a curt answer and looked down. A day later, Zaun told Ibañez there was no talking to opposing hitters when Halladay was on the mound.
“It means a lot,” Ibañez said of being asked to speak. “It’s a privilege and an honor. I took it as a serious responsibility as well. Doc the pitcher, everybody knew. But Doc the man, we got to intimately know. That was what made it very difficult, knowing his family, knowing how much he loved his family. It’s a great honor.”
Ruiz’s bond with Halladay is indelible. He caught Halladay’s perfect game on May 29, 2010, and his no-hitter in the NL Division Series on Oct. 6, 2010, against the Cincinnati Reds. He recorded the final out in the latter, fielding Brandon Phillips’ tapper in front of home plate and firing to first base.
“I came out probably too aggressively to make that play, and the ball was kind of caught behind me and I had to get around and get on top of it and make the throw,” Ruiz recalled. “I was thinking, ‘If I mess it up, I screw this whole thing up.’”
Ruiz came through for Halladay then, just as he did Sunday.
”It was something really special for me,” Ruiz said. “It’s a whole gamut of emotions, from joy to pride to sadness, then just the appreciation that we got to share those times together.”
The Phillies scratched outfielder Odúbel Herrera a few minutes before the game because of right Achilles soreness, an issue that’s related to his ankle injury last month. ... Rhys Hoskins (groin) missed his third game in a row, while shortstop Didi Gregorius (elbow) didn’t play for a second consecutive game. ... Reliever Seranthony Dominguez threw a scoreless, nine-pitch inning for high-A Jersey Shore. In three appearances on a minor-league rehab assignment as part of his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery 12 months ago, Dominguez has allowed one hit and one walk and racked up four strikeouts in three innings. The Phillies are hopeful that he will rejoin the bullpen in September. ... In his first start since being acquired in the trade-deadline deal that brought starter Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy from Texas, pitching prospect Hans Crouse gave up two hits and three walks in five scoreless innings Friday night for double-A Reading. ... After the Phillies’ first day off since July 19, Aaron Nola (7-6, 4.49 ERA) will start Tuesday night at home against the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer (9-4, 2.75).