Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
Volume 02, Issue 04
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Power to the pitcher

Boeing employee to suit up in 2004 Olympic Games


Frank Ruscin and fansAfter playing organized baseball since he was 5 years old, Frank Ruscin will get a second chance to fulfill a childhood dream when he takes the field as a pitcher for the first Greek Olympic baseball team in the 2004 Summer Games.

As the host nation, Greece can enter a team in any sport without prequalification. So, Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles and the Greek government teamed up to create the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation to help establish baseball in the country and assemble a team for the Olympics.

Ruscin, a right-handed power pitcher and avionics engineer on the V-22 program at Boeing Integrated Defense Systems in Philadelphia, was among 45 players chosen from more than 800 international athletes who auditioned for the team. Since most Greek baseball players have not yet honed the skills needed to field a competitive team, the Greek government and the International Olympic Committee opened the tryouts to anyone of Greek descent who had at least one grandparent born in Greece.

"Both of my grandparents were born in Greece, so I easily qualified," said Ruscin, who heard about the tryouts from a friend. "Like most kids, I grew up with dreams of playing baseball, at a high level, in a stadium full of cheering fans."

Ruscin has stayed in fine pitching form over the years thanks to a vigorous workout regimen and "mound time" in various summer leagues. Physical fitness and proper mechanics, he said, are the keys to his prolonged athletic success.

In preparation for the Olympics, Ruscin and his teammates played in a pre-Olympic tournament in Greece called the ELLINIADA this summer and faced competition from around the world. The team won the gold medal and a championship cup that will be placed in the Baseball Hall of Fame international wing. Ruscin's performance in the tournament—11 strikeouts in five innings—earned him a spot on the team's final 25-man roster.

Ruscin's road to sports' greatest stage has not been easy.

Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates, his hometown team, in the 14th round of the 1986 draft, Ruscin entered the minor leagues with hopes of making it to the big show. After a successful season in the Pirates farm system, the then-18-year-old player experienced a loss greater than any game—the loss of his mother.

"My mother's death had a tremendous impact on my entire family," said Ruscin, who has worked at Boeing since 1997. "Family comes first, so I gave up playing baseball to help out around the house. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and you have to make sacrifices."

Ruscin's love of the game eventually drew him back to the diamond, where he regained his amateur status playing in summer leagues and junior college before earning a scholarship to play baseball at Point Park College in Pittsburgh. While there, Ruscin and his team earned berths to two College World Series tournaments and set a then-NCAA record with 45 consecutive victories.

His stellar performance earned him another invitation—this time from the California Angels—to try out for the big leagues. After discussing it with his father, Ruscin decided to stay in school and focus on his engineering career.

"I'm a better, more disciplined pitcher today than I was when I played in the minors," he said. "I've made good use of my time away from the game."

Ruscin, a modest but fierce competitor, carries the subtle swagger one would expect from a big league pitcher. He attributes his return to the game to his strong beliefs and support network of family and friends.

"It's not going to sink in until I walk out onto the mound, see my family in the stands and hear the crowd cheer," he said. "It will be a dream come true."


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