PHILADELPHIA -- Once word trickled out about the surprise guest, a group of fans eagerly awaited the arrival of one of their favorite Phillies.
All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz made an unexpected appearance at the Phillies Blood Drive at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday afternoon. Shortly after noon, Ruiz entered along with the Phillie Phanatic and helped the Phillies and the American Red Cross honor the 10,000th fan to donate over the eight years of the drive.
An estimated 1,500 fans stopped by the Hall of Fame level of the ballpark to donate blood over the eight hours of the drive. Each donor received a baby blue "Chooch" T-shirt embroidered with the catcher's No. 51. They also got the chance to take a picture with the 2008 World Series trophy and tour the ballpark.
"It was a great experience," said Phil Carr of Huntingdon Valley, the lucky 10,000th donor. Carr, along with his wife and two young daughters, took a picture with Ruiz, who autographed their T-shirts. "We just came down to give blood. We had no intentions of anything like this. For the kids, it's wonderful."
"He's so down to earth," Carr's wife, Sharon, said of Ruiz. "I just love the guy."
Anthony Tornetta, the regional communications manager of the Red Cross, said it's always exciting when one of the players comes out to support the cause. Players aren't always able to make it, but because Ruiz is injured, he did not travel with the team to its current road series at Milwaukee.
Including Saturday's well-attended event, Phillies Blood Drives have collected more than 10,000 pints of blood, potentially helping more than 30,000 patients in the area.
"It brings a little bit of extra excitement to the event," Tornetta said of Ruiz's participation. "Chooch is a great guy. He's been a supporter of the Red Cross all year. He's been our spokesperson for this event. It was nice to have him come out and sign some autographs and take some pictures."
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.