SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. — He’s been a Hall of Famer for almost a decade, but a baseball coach in the south suburbs is hardly slowing down.

For 37 years, Steve Ruzich been in the dugout at South Suburban College, a junior college program in South Holland that has experienced plenty of success during his tenure. He’s collected over 1,300 wins for the Bulldogs, who play in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I with a host of championships collected.

“It’s never been about me,” said Ruzich of his time at SSC. “It’s always been about giving something back to the game.”

Initially he’d hoped that would be through his play as a catcher on the field when he was a standout at the College of St. Francis (now University of St. Francis) in Joliet. He was drafted by the White Sox in the 30th round of the 1985 MLB Draft and played in six games with the club’s Gulf Coast League team.

But that would be it for Ruzich’s pro baseball career, and at 24, he was on the search for a way to stay in the game.

“I get drafted, I got to play baseball, but then when it’s over with, what are you gonna do,” said Ruzich – but his next job wasn’t far away from the game.

He’d take over with SSC soon after the end of his on-field career and has been in the dugout with the Bulldogs ever since. During that time, he’s built the program into a consistent winner, capturing 11 regional titles while making two appearances in the NJCAA Division I World Series in 1991 and 2006.

During that time, he’s coached 320 players who’ve gone onto play at four-year school along with 15 NJCAA Division 1 All-Americans. There are 24 players in the SSC program who’ve been selected in the MLB Draft with five seeing time in majors.

  • Tim Brydak – Royals (1998-2000), Orioles (2005-2006), Tigers (2007), Astros (2008-2010), Mets (2011-2013)
  • Ron Mahay – Red Sox (1995, 1997-1998), Athletics (1999-2000), Marlins (2000), Cubs (2001-2002), Rangers (2003-2007), Braves (2007), Royals (2008-2009), Twins (2009-2010)
  • Rob Mackowiak – Pirates (2001-2005), White Sox (2006-2007), Padres (2007), Nationals (2008)
  • Julis Matos – Padres (2002), Royals (2003)
  • Tony Cingrani – Reds (2012-2017), Dodgers (2017-2018)

Ruzich has kept that success going in 2023 as the program is currently 40-19, defeating Triton College 20-10 on Thursday in the seminfinals Division Region IV tournament.

“Dedication and hard work,” said Ruzich when talking about the program’s success. “Nobody puts in more hard work than we do, our staff and our players.”

His 37 years in baseball in the dugout have certainly shown that.