In light of the historic season the Oklahoma Wesleyan baseball team just finished, it is only fitting individual honors would follow.
This week, Jose Ruiz was named the NAIA National Player of the Year.
The senior from Venezuela helped the Eagles to the program’s best record (58-8) and first-ever appearance in the NAIA world series, culminating in a third-place finish.
Ruiz said he was grateful for the honor.
“It means a lot to me,” Ruiz said. “I had a really good year and winning the award, especially for the team, it means so much.”
OKWU coach Matt Parker brought dual perspective to the honor.
“For Jose, it shows all of his hard work,” Parker said. “The guy was a four-year player here at Oklahoma Wesleyan. To see the growth that he had and the work he put in to become that player was tremendous. We couldn’t be more proud of him and couldn’t be more proud for him.
“And for our program, it’s the icing on the cake for the season we had. We feel like our program has turned the corner. It’s nice to see that everybody else recognizes the type of player that we have here.
“It’s nothing we did; it’s his hard work. But he embodied what Oklahoma Wesleyan baseball is about and how we want to go about our business. And he just had a tremendous year.”
Ruiz was also the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year and the National Christian College Athletic Association Player of the Year. He led the NAIA in RBIs (91) and runs scored (82).
And Ruiz said he appreciated being a part of the Eagles’ team.
“It was amazing,” Ruiz said. “The team was like a family. Everybody has each other’s back and everybody plays for each other. Everybody plays for the name on your chest.
“The chemistry was really good from the coaches and trainer and everybody. It was amazing.”
Ruiz turned the corner quickly to continue his baseball career. He signed this week to play with the Fort Worth Cats, a United League Baseball club. Ruiz started in his game at right field.
“I’m here in Dallas/Fort Worth,” Ruiz said. “It’s a good experience. It’s a lot different kind of baseball.
“It’s not like college baseball. It’s a different level.”
Jeff Butler also garnered national attention, specifically with his play during the world series.
Butler received the Charles Berry Hustle Award for 2014. His coach said he couldn’t have been more pleased.
“The Charles Berry Hustle Award is an award that, other than winning the national championship trophy or the MVP of the tournament, is the award that you want to win.
“That’s especially if you are a gritty, grind it, hard-nosed type of group. And we talked about that before we went up there. And I wanted them to know that there are a few awards that they give out. And when I told them about the Charles Berry Hustle Award, there were a bunch of guys on our team that, though they didn’t go out there just to win that award, you could see they had that look that said, ‘Hey, that’s us! That’s exactly who we are!’ It’s that kind of crew.”
Butler went 11-for-22 during the national tournament, including tying a world series record six hits with a 6-for-7 performance in a win over Tabor (Kan.) His final hit was a walk off RBI single in the 12th inning.
“There’s not a better guy. If Jeff Butler didn’t win it, I don’t know who would have won it. That’s not a knock on anybody on our team or anybody on any team that was there. It’s just that Jeff Butler is that guy.
“He had a gimpy leg and went on to set a world series record for hits in a game. It’s the embodiment of Jeff Butler and the way he played the game.
“For Jeff, we couldn’t be happier. And winning that award is big for our program because that’s who we are. It was very exciting for our team.”
Butler was also an honorable mention All-American as well as being named to the First Team All-MCAC.