D III player of the year hopeful Joe Ruth is chasing team titles not personal accolades

Published 9:12 am Wednesday, April 27, 2022

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Joe Ruth is on fire for the LaGrange Panthers this season. He has been a great player for the Panthers for three years, but has reached new heights this season he has the highest batting average, on base percentage, home runs and RBIs of his four years as a Panther. Despite the personal success, Ruth is more focused on the team’s success.

“The only goal that matters to me is getting to Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” Ruth said. “Getting to that College World Series and competing for a national championship, something this school has never done.”

Despite the team-oriented focus that permeates his mindset, Ruth is one of the leading candidates for the Division III player of the year.

“As hard as you work in this sport it’s always cool to see your name pop up in places like that,” Ruth said. “I think an award like that or any award in general should shine a light on your teammates.”

Ruth’s career high in batting average was .362 in the COVID shortened 2020 season. His highest OBP was his freshman year with a .418 mark and hit a career high in RBIs with 44. He launched four home runs last year, which was three more than he had in his freshman and sophomore season combined. This year he is hitting at .442 with an OBP of .464 and has seen his home runs number jump to nine with a career high 65 RBIs in 35 games played. Of course, the ever-so-humble Ruth credits his teammates for putting him in the position to see his performance improve but also credits getting into the weight room and hitting the weights harder than ever to prepare for this season.

“My teammates are getting on base, they are making things happen, which makes it easier for me,” Ruth said. “I think it also has a lot to do with the weight room and the work I’ve put in the offseason.”

The team has a mindset that Ruth has bought into. This outlook is personified by the motto “do damage at the plate.” Ruth has been feasting on “hitter’s counts” this season as he is even more dangerous if the pitcher is struggling to throw strikes.

Ruth almost did not have a chance to experience this mindset and the glory of playing college baseball. He only received one offer coming out of his high school in Florida and Coach David Kelton saw a diamond in the rough. Now, other coaches will be ruing the day that they did not recruit Ruth as he is putting together a monster season.

Kelton has been more than just a coach for Ruth. He has also been an inspiration. Ruth aspires to be a coach himself one and said this is directly inspired by what Kelton has taught him and how he goes about teaching guys about the game of baseball.

“He knows what he’s doing and when you get into this program you know that he has your back through the good games and the bad games,” Ruth said. “After I hang up my cleats, I want to teach and coach baseball. The reason I chose that is because I’ve been very fortunate to play under some great coaches, like coach Kelton, and seeing the impact they’ve had on my development makes me hope I can pass that along.”

Ruth will not have to pass that along yet as he still has one year of eligibility after this season in college. Regardless of what happens from here on out during the season, he will be sticking around for another year to chase titles for the Panthers. Ruth plans to try his hand at the next level, but right now he is focused on how to make the Panthers better.

“In terms of the next level, I’m not really worried about how that’s going to work out,” Ruth said. “If I keep doing what I’m doing and work toward my team goals, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to work out.”