From home plate to first base to second and third and back to home. It's baseball's natural progression.
It's symbolic of its symmetry and simplicity. It's what kept Farmington (Ill.)
senior second baseman Josh Ruchotzke
sane the last five years, focused, balanced and motivated.
And, perhaps his mom says, alive.
To watch the senior maneuver around the bases either elicits a dropped jaw, a quizzical scowl, or for anyone who knows what he and his family have endured and overcome since January of 2008, a flood of tears.
In the middle of seventh grade, Ruchotzke, a spunky, scholarly and highly athletic 13-year-old, was invaded on the inside by the deadly streptococci bacteria, ravaging his organs and tissues and blood flow.
Doctors differed somewhat on a diagnosis — one told his mother Angi he had less than 5 percent chance to survive — but all agreed there was no time to waste. The infection was literally destroying him from the inside.
"A doctor told me this wasn't a day-by-day or even hour-by-hour proposition," Angi said. "It was minute-by-minute."
There's no time to reflect in that situation. No time to ask how or why.
"Your entire focus is to get through each moment, each minute and what are you going to do next," Angi said.
Within an hour, she and her son were on an emergency helicopter from Peoria, Ill. to the Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk. The only way for Ruchotzke's survival was amputation. Four of them.
Both legs below the knee. Most of his two hands, leaving a left pad and a few digits on his right.
Losing parts of his four limbs certainly crushed his dream of playing Major League baseball. But he had life and loved ones, family, faith and support, and most of all, a strong, determined heart and will.
See a slideshow of Josh Ruchotzke in action
His new dream still involved Major League baseball, but now it was to manage it, and to get there he needed more time on the diamond.
"Josh has always been very determined," Angi said. "When he sets his mind to something, he doesn't let anything stop him. ... And the team in Denver didn't stutter for a minute. They told Josh to do what he wanted to do. Like the rest of us, we didn't know how it was going to happen but they weren't going to say no."
Piece-by-piece, limb-by-limb the Denver Clinic put him back together and miraculously, one step, one base at a time, Ruchotzke is in the final stages of a solid high school career.
With the use of state-of-the-art prosthetics, a magic glove made by Rawlings, remarkable patience, preposterous determination and unyielding support from family, community and teammates, Ruchotzke is hitting .279 with 15 RBIs (third on his team) heading into today's regional at Brumfield.
He's also the Farmers' regular second baseman after relearning how to throw with his two disfigured digits and catch with only his left pad.
"It took a lot of time and struggles to get used to all my new parts and the equipment and the prosthetics," Ruchotzke said. "It was definitely challenging. But I never really got down because I just focused on all the positives. So many people were willing to help me out so I just took advantage of it."Read more on the next page, which you can click to below the video