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Vanderbilt's video coordinator Josh Ruchotzke overcomes obstacles, inspires program

Posted at 7:28 PM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 20:28:32-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For the team's playing in the College World Series, there are countless members of the baseball programs who never take the field. Coaches, support staff, trainers and managers are a crucial part of bringing the team to Omaha.

On Vanderbilt's program, one of these member is Josh Ruchotzke, the team's video coordinator.

"Whether that's in-game video, whether it's training sessions, it's one on one on a daily basis to get some video that they want," Ruchotzke said.

"He helps us on the field and does things other teams and fans don't know about," said Julian Infante, a Vanderbilt senior infielder and Rchotzke's former roommate.

What separates Ruchotzke from every other video coordinator at the CWS is he's a quadripeligic. He had amputations done to parts of both hands, below the knee and below the legs.

"I want to be quote-normal, I don't want any help, I don't want a sympathy vote," Ruchotzke said.

From a young age Ruchotzke loved sports, especially baseball.

"It was the sport I was always drawn to," Ruchotzke said. "I played a lot of different sports growing up, basketball, football, I ran track for a while and baseball was always the one I came back to and was most passionate for.

Everything was fine for him until after Christmas when he was in seventh grade. He started feeling ill and thought he would miss a few days of school.

"I'm in a lot of pain, it's tough for me to walk, my joints started hurting and we realized this is not the flu this is something worse," Ruchotzke said.

A bad case of strep went in to his blood stream. His family had been dealing with strep for a while and it turned out he was the carrier. Doctors admitted him to the hospital.

"Basically I'm medically induced in to a coma within 12 hours of being there and put on life support and given less than a five percent chance to live," Ruchotzke said.

Though he survived, doctors had to amputate his hands and legs. When Ruchotzke woke up, all he wanted to do was get back on the playing field.

"They're like what do you want to get out of this, where do you see yourself in a couple of years and honestly I said I want to keep playing sports, playing baseball and basketball again and live a normal life," Ruchotzke said

Ruchotzke ended up finding a way to play baseball again and was a team captain, .300 hitter and all-conference second baseman in high school. But playing Division-1 baseball looked out of the question. During his sophomore year of high school at the urging of MLB-star Matt Holliday and current Oklahoma State Head Coach Josh Holliday, who was coaching as an assistant at Vanderbilt at the time, Josh sent a letter to Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin asking him if he could one day help out with the squad as a manager.

"I picked it up and read it and it was a kid who had a desire to be in college baseball not as a player but as a student assistant," Corbin said. "When I googled it and started to research it more I saw there was more substance in the individual and we started to recruit him and it's the first time I really recruited a student manager."

"I was fortunate enough to be accepted in to Vanderbilt academically and to work with the baseball program was a win-win for me," Ruchotzke said. One thing that intrigued Ruchotzke about Vanderbilt's program was that they didn't treat him any different even though he was a quadriplegic.

"I think the staff and the players treated me just like that," Ruchotzke said. "Obviously if I needed a little help they were there to give it to me but they understood I didn't want to be treated any differently."

"He's certainly a kid if you ever tried to help him in any way he won't respond well to that," Corbin said.

Ruchotzke spent four years as a student manager at Vanderbilt and was a part of the program's 2014 national title. After graduating Vanderbilt in 2017, Ruchotzke stayed with the program in 2018 as a graduate assistant while obtaining his online master's dergree from Georgetown University. He graduated with a degree in sport management in 2019.

"He just goes about his business and is just proud, strong, confident and the way he goes through everything is unbelievable, he's such an inspiration," said Infante.

Following the 2018 season the program named him their inspirational player of the year.

"To be voted on as most inspirational by the players was certainly special for me because they see me as a positive figure," Ruchotzke said.

"I was fortunate to room with him for a year and he was somebody special. He took me under his wing and showed me how to go through the things the program goes through," Infante said.

Ahead of the 2019 season, Coach Corbin promoted Ruchotzke to video coordinator, keeping the Illinois-native in Nashville for a sixth season.

"The timing of everything has been perfect for me, being the student assistant and then a graduate assistant and then the position of the video coordinator opened up." Ruchotzke said.

"I knew he could do the job and I knew he could do it well so I knew he was the best hire," Corbin said.

The Vandy Boys are one win away from a trip to the title game. Luckily for them the guy helping them scout is already used to overcoming challenges.

"When I look at him now I look at him like anyone else, he's a human that can do what anyone else can," Corbin said.

"Just trying to take in this experience and everything that it's worth has been fun and trying to live in that moment and enjoy it as much as I can," Ruchotzke said.