Cormier fondly remembers Ruhle

Cormier fondly remembers Ruhle

PHILADELPHIA -- From the first day Rheal Cormier shook hands with his new pitching coach in Spring Training 2001, he knew their friendship would go beyond baseball.

That pitching coach was Vern Ruhle, who lost his battle with cancer on Saturday at age 55. He had been Philadelphia's pitching coach in 2001-02, Cormier's first two seasons with the Phillies.

"Vern made everybody around him feel good, and it didn't matter what background you were from," Cormier said. "He involved you and made you feel comfortable. With him, it always went beyond the game. Vern was someone to trust and was easy to care about."

If Cormier had a bad outing, something that happened frequently in 2002, Ruhle would find the silver lining, a particular pitch sequence or a well-located pitch. If a pitcher got beat around a little bit, Ruhle still found something good to say.

"He re-enforced that there can always be a better outing, and no matter what sport you play, or what level you reach, you need to show people respect," Cormier said. "It's important to be yourself."

When Ruhle was not asked back following the 2002 season, Cormier stayed in touch, and the two spoke on the phone over the years. Cormier received an added bonus last July when he was traded to Cincinnati. Not only was he headed to a contender, but it was a team with which Ruhle was associated.

Ruhle had been the pitching coach there until last spring, when he was diagnosed, and left to begin his fight, a battle he ultimately lost at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Complications arose from a donor stem cell transplant for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Near the end of September, Cormier and his new teammates were thrilled when Ruhle came for a visit. Though weakened by treatments, Ruhle spoke optimistically about his chances. Cormier spoke to Ruhle again just before Christmas.

"He said he was very tired, but he said he was doing well," Cormier said. "It's sad, and it doesn't feel right. I'm glad I got to see him one more time, and I'm happy he's not in any pain."

Ruhle's impact is still felt in Philadelphia from pitchers and fellow coaches whom he touched. One of those is longtime bullpen coach Ramon Henderson, who has also worked with Galen Sisco, Joe Kerrigan and Rich Dubee. Ruhle was always prepared.

"One time, I went to his room [on the road] at the Holiday Inn, and his room looked like an office," Henderson said. "He had so much information and so much papers lying around, you wouldn't believe. He had it on every player, and never stopped working. Sometimes he overdid it, but that was because he cared so much about everyone. He's going to be missed."

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.