Veteran Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz helped save the lives of childhood friends after their fishing boat capsized in their native Panama.
Walter Dubarran and Jose Mercedes Rodriguez were among three men who were tossed into the sea when the boat capsized.
Ruiz's friends were lost in the water for 35 or 40 hours, but they were rescued, thanks in part to Ruiz, who hired boats, helicopters and airplanes to search for them.
"For almost two days, we were so worried," Ruiz told ThePostGame. "We didn't know if something was going to happen to them. I'm so happy they are OK. Now I can get back to the field.”
Although Ruiz arrived for the Phillies’ game against the Dodgers on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, he did not enter the game. He let the team know that he would serve as backup, if needed, but it was hard to focus while he was worried about his friends lost at sea.
Meanwhile, the National Air and Navy Service of Panama found Rodriguez. He had used a gas tank as a flotation device.
When Ruiz arrived at his locker after the game, he had seven missed calls from Panama. He breathed easier knowing that Rodriguez was all right, but he still feared for Dubarran's life.
One of the private boats he hired had a search team that included his uncle, Manuel Rios; his brother, Joaquin; and other family friends.
Dubarran strapped himself to a buoy and used a broken boogie board to help him float, but he had started to become weak and doze off the buoy.
As Joaquin told Ruiz, Dubarran was on the surface enough to trigger the attention of the boat Ruiz deployed.
The crew told Dubarran it was Carlos who funded his rescue, and he got on the phone with Carlos as soon as he got to shore.
Blas Pitti, the third man on the boat, was the only one rescued Saturday shortly after the boat capsized. A diabetic in his 50s, Pitti was found by the National Air and Navy Service of Panama, floating on a gas tank that had been part of the boat.
Pitti and Rodriguez suffered burn wounds from a mix of gasoline and sun on their bodies. All three were dehydrated, with Dubarran especially fatigued. The three were taken to a nearby hospital.
In addition to funding rescue teams, Ruiz helped pay for his friends’ medical treatment.