In the 30th round of the 2016 First-Year-Player Draft the New York Yankees selected outfielder Ben Ruta out of Wagner College. Ruta, a senior recently earned his second consecutive All-Northeast Conference First Team honors after hitting .335 over 50 games for the Seahawks.
First, congratulations on being drafted by the New York Yankees. How did you find out that the Yankees were selecting you in the draft?
“I was in the dugout, up in the Cape Cod League and I got a few messages saying my name with an exclamation points, congrats. So I figured that it happened and about a minute later Cesar called me and told me.”
You being a local kid, playing college baseball in New York City does it have a special meaning to you to be drafted by the Yankees?
“Oh for sure, I grew up in Princeton, NJ, that was my favorite team ever since I could remember. I remember watching baseball, watching legends like Bernie, Derek Jeter was always my favorite player, my whole family is Yankees fans, all my friends are Yankees fans so it is pretty indescribable to be drafted by the Yankees.”
What was your reaction when you heard the news that the New York Yankees drafted you?
“My reaction was, what I actually said was “I think I just got drafted.” then all my teammates kind of huddled around and then I got the call and everyone just started cheering and hugging me. So it was pretty cool. I was pretty much just speech less and smiling.”
You are a local kid, played baseball at Wagner College on Staten Island with your home games at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark in St. George. What was that like for you to play college ball on a professional field with the NYC skyline behind the outfield wall?
“It was a great experience playing on that field for four years. It’s one of the nicest fields in the whole country and it was a true field unlike many college fields are pretty short or have weird dimensions where this is a pro-ball feel to it and I really enjoyed it. The view is spectacular, probably one of the best in all of college baseball and I really enjoyed my time there. Also the Yankees draft workout was at that stadium and I felt so comfortable there, just because I played four years there. So that defiantly helped also.”
Since you played your college ball there, are you hoping that the Yankees would assign you to Staten Island to start your professional career?
“I would love to play there but I am ready for all new experiences wherever that maybe. If it is not there, it will be somewhere and I will hope to get there and beyond so. I know there will be some parts of it that are going to be comfortable, other parts are going to be uncomfortable and new. I am pretty excited for just the chance and the opportunity they are giving me.”
If you had to compare yourself to anyone in the majors, who would it be and why?
“If I had to compare myself to Michael Brantley of the Indians. Because he has pretty good speed, a sweet lefty swing and hits the ball away. So that is something I definatly focus on, and he is just an all around good player and I try to be good in all facets of the game. That is who I like to be compared to.”
You are a Yankees fan and you have followed the minor league system a bit, are you planning on signing and joining the ranks?
“Yea, I definitely plan on signing. I have an extra year of college, a fifth year but I want to get started now.”
Who would you say have been the most influential person (or people) in your baseball career thus far?
“Definitely my father. He never played baseball but he is the guy that keeps me never too high, never too low and keeps me on track if I need to be put in place or something like that. He has always believed in me and never let me stray away, we always had this goal ever since I was in little league and we have been working all these years for today but the work, he just told me that “I am happy for you to accomplish your goals, but that is just the beginning now we are on to the next goal.”
Can you tell us a bit about your experience with the draft process, from your initial experience with scouts to finding out you were drafted.
“I been on the Yankees’ radar for a couple of years. I went to the draft workout last year too, but I didn’t get taken as a junior. I just been in contact with Cesar throughout the spring season with Wagner and he came to a few games and contacted me to see how I was doing, giving me advice and then I went to the work out at the Staten Island Yankees [ballpark] and I did really well there in front of the whole scouting department which was awesome for me. Cesar called me on Wednesday [before the draft] making sure I wanted to get started and sign, I said yes. He then texted me last night saying that he thinks that I will get drafted today [Saturday] and was hoping that I would. Then he called me when I got drafted and that was pretty much it.”
Can you reflect back on your time playing baseball in college and how you have grown during that time.
“College was a huge growing experience for me. I came in very small, always tall but probably about 6-2, 155-160 pounds so I had to work pretty hard to put on some weight and get some power. I decided to work really hard on all facets of the game and I have, looking back I went to some pretty cool places. Places I never would have experienced without baseball so I am grateful for that and grateful to the coaching staff. Not just the current ones but the ones from previous years too that developed me and believed in me to give me a chance to play. Really no other division 1 schools wanted me out of high school so I can’t thank Wagner and my head coach Jim Carone enough.”
You were drafted as an outfielder but also spent time as a third baseman in college. Which position do you feel most comfortable at?
“I am most comfortable in the outfield but I pride myself on being a guy that can play kind of a utility role because I believe that Is a way to get your name in the lineup more than you would if you couldn’t play multiple positions. I want to work on all defensive positions, and where ever they see a fit I will work my hardest at.”
Back in April you had a pretty big game for Wagner, going 5-for-5 with 4 RBIs, 2 runs scored and 2 doubles. Tell us about that game. What was that like for you?
“That game was against Central Connecticut; it was a fun game for me. You get a hot your first at bat, I got a bloop hit my first at bat off a lefty and it kind of just snowballed from there. I just kept getting up and I would find a whole, once I got to 3-for-3 I was thinking this could be a real special day. Then my last at bat was off another tough lefty, I was down 0-2 or 1-2 and I was able to slap a double over third and just got on second and was like I guess this is one of those days where you are just really hot and finding all the holes. Five-hit days don’t come very often but when they do you definitely enjoy them.”