Teddy Tough

Ruffner resolute in both football, baseball

July 25, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

Mars senior running back Teddy Ruffner has made a name for himself on the football field for the Planets. But he's also emerged as a stellar catcher in baseball. Ruffner is getting recruited by colleges for both football and baseball.

When Teddy Ruffner was 10, he frequented Mars football games.

One player jumped out at him.

Josh Schultheis.

Schultheis was a big, bruising back who could run over a defense or just run away from it.

Ruffner admired his style.

“I remember going to the games and saying, 'I want to be that guy,' Ruffner said.

Now Ruffner is that guy, rushing for 2,898 yards and 33 touchdowns in his career — 1,919 yards and 25 TDs coming last season as a junior.

But the 5-foot-9, 195-pound back has become more than just the latest in a long line of marquee rushers for the Planets.

He has another side not many even in his own school know about.

A side that puts on a different kind of pads and helmet. A side that is just as physically demanding. A side that may get him where he wants to ultimately go just as easily has carrying a football.

A catcher in baseball.

“I've had a couple of good years in football recently and that's how a lot of people know me,” Ruffner said. “A lot of people probably don't even know I play baseball. It's funny. It's just as important to me as football.”

And he's just as accomplished as a backstop as he has been as a ballcarrier.

Ruffner moved to catcher before his freshman season at Mars at the urging of former coach Andy Bednar.

“Teddy is just one of those special players that do not come around very often,” Bednar said. “Teddy's athleticism combined with his baseball savvy makes him a special player.”

Ruffner played behind Jack Anderson, who helped Ruffner get ready to take over behind the plate.

“Whenever we did drills at Mars, he was always going first and showing us how to do it and giving little tips and tricks,” Ruffner said of Anderson's tutelage. “Just watching him work behind the plate, I picked up a lot of stuff. He was definitely a big influence.”

Ruffner took over and excelled, both offensively and defensively.

More than that, Ruffner became energized by the position. He embraced the challenges and enjoyed being at the center of the action.

“If you're in the outfield, you may not get a ball hit to you the whole games,” Ruffner said. “At catcher, you're in the play every pitch. You have a big impact on the game.”

Catching also reinforced one of Ruffner's calling cards.

Toughness.

“I'm, not going to lie, sometimes it stinks when you take a ball off the arm or off the side,” Ruffner said. “Being a leader back there is a big thing for me. I've always took pride in being tough. I'd say about 98 percent of the time I love being back there.”

He loves it so much he's doing it for two teams this summer.

Ruffner is playing for the Pittsburgh Diamond Dawgs and in the Youngstown B League.

He's making up for lost time. His high school baseball season fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I've been playing three or four days a week,” Ruffner said. “So, I've been playing a lot of baseball.”

It's getting him noticed by college coaches for baseball now, too.

Ruffner, though, isn't ready to make a decision just yet.

It's going to be an impossible one.

“I've been playing both sports since I was 5 years old,” Ruffner said. “Giving one of them up isn't going to be easy.”

He hopes he doesn't have to give up football this fall, too, because of COVID-19.

More than a dozen states have already canceled or postponed their fall sports seasons. Several college conferences, such as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and the Presidents' Athletic Conference locally, have also pushed football season back to at least Jan. 1.

“It's definitely a question mark at this point to a certain degree,” Ruffner said. “I know the PIAA said we're going to play, but ... I have to wonder what will happen. I hope we play, but in the back of your mind there's that, 'What if?'”

Ruffner will leave the what ifs to fate.

He's controlling what he can: getting ready for another season of playing a sport he loves.

One day he'll have to make that hard choice.

That day isn't today.

“I'm just going to keep playing both sports as long as I can, and when I have to decide, I'll make the choice then,” Ruffner said. “It definitely does help I play two positions where it's hard to find good guys.”


Mike Kilroy

Mike Kilroy

I joined the Butler Eagle in January of 2000 after spending five years at the Steubenville Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times, where I did everything from editing the sports section to knocking snow and ice off the Associated Press satellite dish. I graduated from Kent State University in 1994 with a degree in magazine journalism and a minor in skipping class. My honors include a 2007 Associated Press award for feature writing, a 2005 and 2007 Keystone award for column writing and a 2003 Golden Quill award for feature writing. I have a high game of 255 at Wii Bowling.