Ball met bat as the 15th annual Ruby Rutnik Softball Tournament kicked off Friday at Winston Wells Ballfield on St. John. It continues through Saturday with Sunday reserved as a rain day.
“The tournament has become a living tribute not only to Ruby but to girls’ softball in the Virgin Islands,” Ruby’s father, Andy Rutnik, said between innings of the first game.
The St. Thomas Public School All Stars took on the St. Thomas Private School All Stars to begin the tournament. Other teams expected to play are the St. Croix All Stars, and the Tortola All Stars.
According to Rutnik, pitting all star teams against each other makes for a more evenly matched competition. He said the coaches picked the best players for each team.
Ruby Rutnik died 15 years ago at age 21 in a car crash in Washington, D.C., while attending American University. The tournament is held around the time of her April 9 birthday. She was a pitcher on Antilles School softball team, and the tournament in her name raises money to fund scholarships.
Winnie Powell, a Eudora Kean High School graduate who serves as the Fire Service chief on St. John, played against Ruby Rutnik when the two were in high school.
“She was an awesome player,” Powell said.
Powell recalled that the two would come home from games on the same ferry, razzing each other the entire trip. “But she was always a good sport,” Powell said.
Powell was on hand to support her daughter, Z’Nea Turnbull, 17, who plays for her mother’s alma mater.
To a person, parents said they were out there to support their children.
“It’s so they know we care what they’re doing. We support them academically and athletically,” St. John resident Steve Hogroian said.
He and his wife, Gerry Kotas, were on hand to cheer for their daughter Julia, an Antilles School student who played for the St. Thomas Private School All Stars.
Maribel Okiye trekked over from St. Thomas to see her daughter, who has the same name, play. She attends Ss. Peter and Paul School and played for the St. Thomas Private School All Stars.
“She plays all different sports,” Okiye said.
The players were delighted to be on the field.
“I love the sport. It’s the excitement,” Ebone Adams, 18, a Sts. Peter and Paul student who played for the St. Thomas Private School All Stars.
Across the field, a group of girls from Eudora Kean on the St. Thomas Public School All Stars were scoping out the competition since these girls play against each other in school games.
“I wanted to see how good they were playing,” Reshima Wattley, 16 said of the other team.
For Kathleen Ludvig, 16, a Eudora Kean student on the St. Thomas Public School All Stars, playing on the team was a family tradition.
“Everybody in my family plays softball,” Ludvig said.
For the coaches, it was a chance to keep the girls out of trouble.
“And to give them something productive to do and let them meet girls from different schools,” Christina Farley, a St. Thomas Private School All Stars coach who works at Sts. Peter and Paul School.
St. John resident Velma Jackson wasn’t there to watch anyone in particular.
“I like the game, period,” she said from her seat in the bleachers.