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Mark Ruiz: Twist Of Fate…Delgado No Longer Major League's Mystery Man

Mark Ruiz: Twist Of Fate

By Shannon Shelton | Sentinel Staff Writer

July 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 




Mark Ruiz since the Olympics

Since Mark Ruiz competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics, his diving career has been up and down. Here are his results from major competitions since 2000:


*U.S. National Indoor Diving Championships: 3-meter (third), Platform (first)

*U.S. National Outdoor Diving Championships: Platform (fourth)

*FINA/USA Diving Grand Prix: 3-meter (sixth), Platform (14th)

*FINA World Championships: Platform (eighth), Synchronized platform (seventh, with partner Kyle Prandi)


*World Cup Trials: 3-meter (first), Platform (third)

*Speedo National Diving Championships: 3-meter (second), Platform (19th)

*FINA/USA Diving Grand Prix: 3-meter (14th), Platform (second), Synchronized platform (second, with partner Justin Dumais)

*FINA Diving World Cup: 3-meter (29th), Synchronized platform (seventh, with J. Dumais)


*World Championship Trials: 3-meter (ninth), Platform (second), Synchronized platform (second, with Prandi)

*Speedo National Diving Championships: 1-meter (first), 3-meter (second), Platform (first)

Every time Mark Ruiz steps up to compete Sunday at the swimming and diving world championships in Barcelona, Spain, he will be thankful.

Thankful that he can stand on the edge and not be crippled with fear about what might happen next.

Thankful to be able hit the water and not feel pain shoot through his right arm.

Thankful to be able to enjoy diving again.

Struggling with a back injury and a nearly decade-old wrist injury that never quite healed, the Olympic diver from Orlando went through one of the darkest periods of his 24 years after the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

Now Ruiz is in the midst of a resurgence after successful surgery and a newfound confidence in his ability to again dive like an international champion. He's riding a string of recent victories into the FINA World Championships that begin Sunday and run through July 20.

Ruiz qualified for the 10-meter platform and 1-meter springboard events by finishing second in the platform event in the World Championship Trials last April in Athens, Ga. The top two divers in each event made the team.

Coaches then selected the Dr. Phillips High product to represent the United States in the 1-meter competition. Lake Highland Prep junior Brittany Viola, the daughter of former major-league pitcher Frank Viola, will also compete in Spain along with Olympian Laura Wilkinson in synchronized platform.

Ruiz recently landed a berth on the United States' Pan American Games squad competing Aug. 1-17 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, after winning the 1-meter and 10-meter titles at the national championships in Indianapolis last month. He also finished second in the 3-meter springboard.

He now has 20 national diving titles, making him second among American men to Greg Louganis, who collected 47 in his career.

"I'm just glad to be healthy," Ruiz said. "I'm hungry -- I want to win an Olympic medal."

It was three years ago that the Puerto Rican-born Ruiz finished sixth in the 10-meter platform event, seventh in the 3-meter springboard and seventh in synchronized diving with teammate David Pichler at the Sydney Olympics.

He quickly became a popular national figure thanks to a winning combination of skill off the board, an outgoing personality and good looks. Behind the smiles, however, Ruiz kept quiet about the burning in his wrist and the pain in his back, trying not to do anything to deter him from his goal of winning an Olympic medal.

Once the emotional high of Sydney subsided, though, Ruiz found himself struggling to retain his intensity and interest in the sport he loved -- and found his injuries increasingly hard to ignore.

Taking a few months off helped, and Ruiz continued to capture titles in national and international competitions the past two years. Although his back pain -- which surfaced during a meet in Madrid earlier that Olympic year -- subsided, the bone spur in his wrist became harder to ignore.

"I'm one of those really stubborn athletes who think things will go away naturally," Ruiz said. "There were days where I wondered whether I wanted to continue diving.

"The pain was unbelievable. It was unbearable. I couldn't even dive off the side of the pool. I dreaded going to dive."

Ruiz said he remembers his right wrist hurting from the time he was 15, when he grew about seven inches in a year. Apparently, as the tendons attempted to keep pace with his growth, the pounding they took from his jumps off the 10-meter platform caused them to overlap the bones in his wrist. Extra bones grew in to protect the tendons, creating the problem.

"This has gone back years," Ruiz said. "It would be on and off. It would go away and then come back."

Ruiz finally went for surgery last September, without guarantees from doctors that he would be completely healed. Ruiz aided the process with cortisone shots, icing and massage therapy, and for the first time, the pain seemed to evaporate for good.

"I was jumping up and down," he said. "I was like a little kid in a candy store -- I was just happy to dive without pain."

Jay Lerew, Ruiz's coach and the head coach of Team Orlando Diving, had to adjust Ruiz's training to accommodate his rehabilitation process. Ruiz took fewer dives in practice to ensure that he didn't aggravate his injury.

The shift from quantity to quality forced Ruiz to work harder toward making every dive count, and Lerew said he believes that focus on accuracy helped him become a better diver.

"His progress was very quick," Lerew said. "With the world trials so close to surgery, we had one shot at each dive. He's in good condition, physically strong and diving with no pain for the first time in four years. We still have to watch the number of dives, but in four more months, he should be 100 percent. He's close to that now."

The love for diving that Ruiz developed jumping into lakes in Puerto Rico has returned. And just in time, because he figures the time between now and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, will be his last go-round in competitive diving.

"I've accomplished everything in diving there is -- the only thing missing on my resume is an Olympic medal," he said.

Delgado No Longer Major League's Mystery Man

July 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003
REUTERS. All rights reserved. 

CHICAGO - He has more homers than anyone in the American League, has batted in more runs than anyone in the majors and makes more money than every player in baseball with the exception of one.

Yet Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado remains Toronto's most under-valued sporting celebrity despite being an almost permanent fixture on the city's baseball scene since 1995.

Now after years of toiling in one of the Major League's northernmost outposts, the softly-spoken first baseman has become the first Blue Jay in nine years to be voted by fans to a starting position on the American League All-Star team, pulling in more than 1.4 million votes.

It took one of the greatest first halves of a season ever witnessed in the Major League to get fans' attention.

Heading into Tuesday's mid-summer classic, Delgado leads the AL in home runs with 28 and is just the ninth player in Major League history to drive in 90-plus runs prior to the All-Star break.

Contributing a single in Toronto's 6-2 loss to the New York Yankees Sunday, Delgado added a pair of RBIs bringing his league leading total to 97 -- the third most ever before the All-Star break, behind only Detroit Tigers' Hank Greenberg who had 103 in 1935 and Texas Rangers' Juan Gonzalez with 101 in 1998.

``I was pleasantly surprised,'' said Delgado, about being voted onto the All-Star team. ``It was cool, it feels good that people recognize you for what you do.

``It's just that everything this year seems to be working together.''


He added: ``We have a great offensive ball club and it makes it a lot easier when you have guys swinging that bat good and you have guys in scoring position.

``But then I aim high and I have pretty high expectations so I'm not going to act all surprised that I didn't think I could do this.''

While many are just becoming aware of Delgado, opposing pitchers have known about the Puerto Rico native for some time.

The first Blue Jay to hit 30 home runs or more in six consecutive seasons, Delgado is the franchise's all-time leader in home runs and RBIs.

Certainly Blue Jay management is aware of Delgado's value to the team, inking the All-Star infielder to a four-year $68 million deal that will pay him $18.7 million this season, second only to Texas Rangers' $25-million man Alex Rodriguez.

``I heard about him for a long time from afar and after seeing him up close it doesn't surprise me the kind of numbers he is putting up,'' said Blue Jays second year manager Carlos Tosca.

``If he were playing in New York or LA markets he would have a lot more notoriety.''

For as much noise as Delgado makes with his thundering bat he is seldom heard away from the ballpark.

The call of big money endorsements has not tempted Delgado, who remains in Toronto despite the lure of fame and fortune south of the border where the game is the national pastime and not hockey.


While Toronto Raptors' Vince Carter can be spotted at music awards or his hip bar in Toronto's downtown entertainment district and local paparazzi pursue any number of Toronto Maple Leafs, Delgado is more likely to be seen at the theater, having a quiet dinner or scouring book stores with relative anonymity.

The books found in Delgado's locker are not the usual assortment of light reading material found scattered around baseball clubhouses but more likely biographies and self-help books.

Private and cautious, particularly with the media, Delgado said in a recent interview that he reads more ``to educate than to be entertained.''

Delgado's education continues at the plate while he entertains fans and takes a run at the Major League RBI record.

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