Frederick Keys outfielder Johnny Ruettiger keeps very simple goals. He just wants to keep working hard and improving on a regular basis.
He sticks to that strategy, and it has worked nicely so far as Ruettiger, the Orioles' eighth-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, makes his way through the Minors. Spending most of his time as a leadoff hitter this season, Ruettiger had a .262 average through Monday's games and ranked third in the Carolina League with 27 steals.
Ruettiger is a player who concentrates on the hard work. Making it to the Major Leagues puts someone into the spotlight, but there's a lot to be done away from the bright lights -- and the former Arizona State outfielder understands this well.
"I just come out here every day and try and get better," he said. "That's the name of the game. If you can consistently do it on an everyday basis, that's what's going to lead to your success in this game. Taking the failures and turning them into success is [important] -- just grinding it out every game."
For inspiration, Ruettiger talks regularly to someone many sports fans know. His uncle is Dan "Rudy" Ruettiger, the subject of the 1993 film Rudy, which showed the hurdles he needed to overcome as a walk-on trying to play football at Notre Dame.
The outfielder speaks to the former football player every day and takes a lot from those talks.
"He keeps me going," Johnny Ruettiger said. "He gives me insight about what he's gone through. A lot of people in this country can relate to the underdog. He gives the underdog hope and gives the underdog inspiration."
That's why the Frederick outfielder keeps banging away every day. Ruettiger said baseball's all about being relentless in your attitude and understanding the importance of pushing hard on a daily basis.
That's something Frederick hitting coach Torre Tyson certainly has seen in the 6-foot-1 outfielder.
"He is one of the few guys that wears me down in the cage day after day in his pregame work," Tyson said recently. "He takes more swings than most other players do in his preparations to play."
The Rangers drafted Ruettiger in the 35th round out of high school in 2008, but Ruettiger wanted to play for Arizona State instead. He batted .341 over three years there before Baltimore picked him.
He's moved up through the team's Minor League system and gotten some time with Double-A Bowie last year (nine games) and this year. When the Baysox got Henry Urrutia early this season, Ruettiger was moved back to Frederick even though he was hitting .262 in 14 games with Bowie.
Ruettiger batted .274 in 64 games with the Keys in 2012 and shrugged off being sent back this year. He simply went back to work, ready for a new challenge and is playing well with Frederick again this season.
"The next day's a new day," Ruettiger said. "I believe if I continue to take that attitude, things will work out the way I dream."
Big night: Myrtle Beach first baseman Joe Maloney just missed the cycle in Sunday's 9-7 win over Winston-Salem. Maloney singled, doubled and hit a two-run homer to finish 3-for-4 with five RBIs, and his two-run single was a key hit in in the Pelicans' four-run first inning.
A true pitcher's duel: Wilmington edged Lynchburg, 2-1, on Saturday in a game that belonged to the pitchers. Neither team scored until the 11th inning when Lynchburg got a run on a fielder's choice, but the Blue Rocks went on to win it on RBIs singles from Jack Lopez and Alex McClure. The Lynchburg pitchers struck out 12; Wilmington's fanned seven.
On a roll: Carolina's Joe Wendle had a .316 average with three homers and eight RBIs during a 10-game stretch though Monday. He had 12 hits during that span -- six of which went for extra bases -- and Wendle owns a .318 average overall, tops among active Carolina League players.