BAKERSFIELD, Calif — During the second to last week of March at the Pro Player Academy of Baseball in Bakersfield, there were big smiles, kind words and some tears shared.
As Kennedy senior Frankie Ruiz signed his national letter of intent to play baseball at Blackburn College, a Division III program in Illinois.
“I just think it's a blessing because not a lot of people may get past the high school baseball. And I want to take it as far as I can,” Ruiz said.
Along with his trainer, Bill Gentry, and many friends and family. . .fellow Delano native and Cesar Chavez senior Julianna Tabian shared the moment.
“We're setting examples for the town that both female and male are capable of going for. And no matter your size, your strength, where you come from, money, your background, you can do it as long as you put your heart and soul into it,” Tabian said.
She officially signed to play Division I softball at Jackson State back in November.
But both athletes shared this special moment together as they are eager to represent their families and community at the next level.
“I was always doubted. I was the smallest player on the team. And it just shows that even being the smartest person if you work the hardest you can go somewhere,” Ruiz said.
You can tell these two have a lot in common. A love for a sport played on a diamond, big smiles, big dreams and possibly even bigger hearts.
“I know it was Frankie's moment, but for him to be able to share that only with me, it was just amazing. That was pretty cool that we got to do it together you know the power couple,” Tabian said.
And she’s not just talking about the power at the plate. Although they both have that, too.
These two connected by their heart for the game, they also are connected by their own.
“She's just so like, motivating, as a person and she just brings happiness to everyone, and she's just a good person all around her family,” Ruiz said.
“I love laughing and just smiling you know he's a happy-go-lucky guy, comes from a good family. As a big heart and I think it was truly his heart that made me fall in love,” Tabian says with a laugh.
A friendship that started around the game, Frankie asked Julianna to be his girlfriend last November.
“Actually one of my friends told me he goes you wanted to softball girl there's a girl from CC and she’s legit. And it just went from there,” Ruiz said.
Well, it went with a baseball and an important bible verse Ruiz wrote on the ball he used to ask her out.
“It says Corinthians 13 Four, three, and that was one of my favorite verses is ‘Love is patient, love is kind,’ and I think that just fits us perfectly,” Tabian said.
Love can also remain competitive, too.
“I think we're always trying to one-up each other,” Tabian said.
“She's always like, oh you suck or hit the ball farther so it's like that's the little boost that you need,” Ruiz said.
And when you ask who throws harder?
“Me!” Tabian exclaimed.
“Sometimes on a good day, she does,” Ruiz said.
Both of course laughing at each others responses, but likely the answer doesn’t really matter.
As a catcher, Frankie was used to catching baseballs, but he didn’t know that his biggest catch would be a softball pitcher who shared his love for the game and for God.
“When we feel like we're falling apart. God is there putting the pieces back together and healing this together and keeping us on the right track. And his name. Amen,” Tabian said.
As Ruiz smiled and said, “Amen.”
Both seniors will begin their final high school season next week while making sure to soak up as much time as they can together before they leave for college this fall.