It's only a matter of time before the autograph seekers start showing up in increasing numbers at La Puente Bishop Amat baseball games armed with programs, photographs and anything that might prove valuable in the years ahead that has a signature from Rio Ruiz.
He's a 15-year-old sophomore shortstop from Bishop Amat with the combination of speed, power and instincts that make professional scouts drool with anticipation. And what a show he puts on. On Saturday night in a championship game of the Redondo tournament, he had two triples and a single and scored three runs in Bishop Amat's 11-1 victory over Lakewood.
He came in with a .492 batting average, and to watch him run the bases is a highlight itself. His speed propels him to another level, and right now he's hitting as if he can't get out.
"I'm seeing the ball good right now, and when you're in the zone, there's really nothing that can bug you or faze you," he said.
Bishop Amat (22-2), ranked No. 1 by The Times, scored seven runs in the first inning against Lakewood (23-5), ranked No. 2. Jordan McCraney had the big blow, a three-run double. Brandon McNitt (7-0) struck out 10 in six innings.
What Bishop Amat has already accomplished this season is pretty impressive. Its schedule has been second to none, with games against the likes of Orange Lutheran, Santa Ana Mater Dei, Chatsworth, Long Beach Wilson, Palm Desert and just about every top team in the Southland. Coach Andy Nieto did it because his team plays in Division IV when it really would like to be in Division I, as its football team is.
"I'm very proud," he said of his team. "What they've done is special. But it also puts a big bull's-eye on our backs. It's a grind every day to get things right."
Nieto is a former USC assistant who knows what a top player looks like, and Ruiz fits the bill. He has been committed to USC since his freshman year, and Nieto's task is to keep him prospering on and off the field.
"My goal is to make him complete offensively, defensively and off the field," he said.
As for Lakewood, it came into this week ranked No. 1 in Southern Section Division I but had a rough week, losing to Long Beach Wilson and to Bishop Amat. Its hitters struggled and the pitching was inconsistent. Lakewood still is in position to win the Moore League title but needs someone to get hot at the plate .