Justin Ruggiano, aka “Scrooge,” is number 11 in your Durham Bulls program. A 28-year-old outfielder who has seen action in 52 big league games, Ruggiano is hitting .289/,356/.469 with 13 home runs and 21 stolen bases for Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate. He is also doing his best to keep track of his teammates’ names, nicknames and numbers.
David Laurila: Tell me about names and numbers in the minor leagues.
Justin Ruggiano: In spring training, there are about 150 guys there, so you don’t even worry about trying to learn names. Once you break camp, you kind of learn people’s names. There are the guys you’ve played with the last few years, and obviously you know them, but I think every year there’s a guy who I go through the whole season and have no idea what his first name is. Guys are cycling up and down so much that there is no stability, really. There’s usually a core group that stays intact, but for the most part you just don’t know who is going to be at the field the next day, so you really just worry about the name on the back of the jersey. You know people’s names from that and you know their numbers, and unless a guy has a nickname, you always refer to him by his last name. That’s kind of how we roll down here in the minor leagues.
DL: What are some of the nicknames you’ve encountered?
JR: Well, Fernando [Perez] calls me “Scrooge” and I think that’s pretty hilarious. He calls me that because if there’s something I don’t like about a certain situation in minor league baseball, and there’s tons not to like, I usually harp on it for a little bit.
We call Fernando “Freddy”. We call E.J. [Elliot Johnson] “Rabbit” and I really like that one. He’s a really high-energy guy, an upbeat kind of guy, so he’s kind of got that rabbit persona wrapped up in him.
DL: Do guys care about their uniform numbers in the minor leagues?
JR: Oh yeah. We had a guy on our team this year actually get a free iPad for switching numbers with a guy who came down. It’s all about superstition; baseball is such a superstitious game. I try not to pay attention to it, but I’ll be honest, if I eat something on a certain day and go out and go four for five with a couple of home runs, there’s a pretty good chance that I’m going to eat the same thing the next day. Guys who have had the same number since they played Little League kind of just stick to it, or if they have a more personal meaning behind the number, for whatever reason, they’ll try to keep it for as long as they can. That’s just how it is.