The Celina baseball team's senior class has endured the peaks and valleys throughout the Bobcats' resurgence as a state powerhouse in recent years. Senior RJ Ruais can attest.
The 2022 Star Local Media all-area MVP has been a vital part to three consecutive district championship teams, operating near the top of the batting order and holding down a prominent spot in the pitching rotation.
Ruais has enjoyed his share of individual success along the way, including a record-breaking senior year where the Baylor commit became Celina's career hits leader, but it's the team-wide milestones that have made this run special for he and his teammates.
The Bobcats advanced to the state semifinals last season for just the second time in program history, and there has been plenty of motivation to get back. Celina continued that pursuit in the regional quarterfinals against Life Waxahachie, an opponent Ruais has seen each of the past three seasons.
In this week's student-athlete profile, Ruais discusses the Bobcats' senior class, lessons learned from last year's trip to state, and the impact that playing for Celina has had on him.
SLM: With the way you and the team have built off the success from last season so far, what has impressed you most about the team's level of play lately?
RR: Just the consistency we have played with. We have played a tough schedule and have been the chased team all year with high expectations. This can cause a lot of teams to play tight and be inconsistent. Our team, however, has played through this and been dominant and resilient. I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys we have together and the competitiveness they play with.
SLM: For as long as you and the other seniors have been at this, what is that bond like between you guys?
RR: The bond between us seniors is really great. We truly are a band of brothers and we all love each other. It’s not all the time that teams get to have a core of seniors and this team is full of maturity and passion for each other and winning.
We all know that this is the last time around for us all together and it is bittersweet. We know though that as long as we play for each other till the end that we can achieve all of our goals we set at the beginning of the season.
SLM: How have you seen yourself grow as a baseball player over the past year now that you're a senior?
RR: Over the past year, I have grown physically and mentally through the game. I can tell I am physically stronger this year and starting to mature. Also, I feel like my understanding for the game is better this year as far as pitch counts and sequences.
SLM: What would you say is your favorite pitch?
RR: My favorite pitch is my change-up. I’ve worked on that pitch a lot this past offseason and spent a lot of time learning when to throw it and best utilize it. I love how that pitch is much slower, for a change of speed, and moves the opposite direction of my other breaking pitches.
SLM: What did you learn from the experience of playing in last year's state tournament?
RR: From the state tournament last year, I learned a lot about myself and how bad I want to win. We went down to the state tournament and I had a really tough game. I struggled on the mound and that bothered me and made me realize how bad I hate losing.
I took that experience into the offseason and worked hard so that I could make some improvements in my game in order to become a better player, and hopefully help my team go further than we did last year. It was good for us as a team to be put in that environment, and with the returning players we have this year, we know what to expect.
SLM: What kind of impact has playing baseball at Celina had on you?
RR: Playing baseball in Celina has been awesome for me. Especially the last few years under coach McCartney, I have learned alot about mental toughness and how the game of baseball has a personality. Everything from the lifelong friendships and families I have gained, to the competitive experience has been awesome.
We also have some of the best fans in Texas that constantly support our team and have been very good to the team and I throughout the years. This community has shown me what it is like to play for something bigger than myself and made me develop a love for sharing the game with the younger generation.
There is no other place I would’ve rather spent my high school career at.
SLM: As a senior, what will you miss about Celina once you graduate and head off to college?
RR: My team. These are the same guys that I spend most of my time with, have gone through the journey of high school with, and the same guys I go to battle with every week. I can’t thank all of my teammates enough for pushing me and helping me to be successful and allowing me to do the same for them.
Whether it is pushing each other to go lift after a hot practice, or staying late after a game to go through some recovery with me, or just going crazy when someone hits a double and "milks it." They are the ones who really drive this team and I’m beyond thankful for all of them.
To my team, I love you guys.
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