Ruben Felix served as a volunteer coach for the Red Raider baseball team under coach
When Ruben Felix goes to work, this Red Raider is happy to wear orange. It’s not that
so-called brighter shade of orange you see in Stillwater, Okla., and certainly not
the burnt hue the folks around Austin like. For Felix, his color is the orange of
summer – Baltimore Orioles
Felix spends March through October where he always dreamed he would – in a big league
bullpen. A hard-throwing lefty, Felix had his sights set on becoming a major-league
baseball pitcher. From the time he started Little League at age eight with his twin
brother, Felix has dreamed of baseball.
His route to the major leagues took some time and unexpected turns. He played ball
at Howard County Junior College
and Lubbock Christian University
, and went on to sign as a free agent in 1994 with the Corpus Christi Barracudas of
the AA-Texas Louisiana League. That same year, while playing winter ball in the AAA-Mexican
Pacific Coast League for the Sugarcane Growers of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, the Milwaukee Brewers
purchased his contract. Felix played professionally for six different minor league
teams before ending up back with the Barracudas, where he was an All-Star as the team’s
closer with a 7-0 record with a league-leading 15 saves and 2.41 ERA. He seemed well
on his way to the major leagues.
“Being a left-handed pitcher, I thought I had a real chance to make it as a setup
guy or closer in the big leagues,” Felix said.
But the winter of 1997 changed everything. As many young players do, he played in
the Mexican league to sharpen his skills. A freak accident before a game left Felix
with a broken ankle and a foot fractured in three places. The injury could have ended
the dream of making it to the Big Show, but Felix was not one to give up.
He simply rewrote the script.
Felix has always been one to plan ahead. While he was out for five months with his
injury, he knew his ankle would never allow him to play as he had before. He decided
he needed to finish his college degree and find a way back into baseball.
In 2008, Felix joined the Baltimore Orioles as a bullpen assistant.
From Pitcher to Coach
In 1999, Felix enrolled at Texas Tech and became a volunteer coach for Larry Hays
and the Red Raider baseball team
“Texas Tech was good for me,” he said. “I got to work very closely with the kids and
be around great coaches like Frank Anderson and Larry Hays. I have so much respect
for those men, how they talked to the kids. I learned that to be a great coach you
have to treat the kids with respect, no matter their talent level. You must treat
them all the same and show them that you care about them, on and off the field.”
Felix began his coaching days right after graduating from Texas Tech at Lubbock’s
Trinity Christian High School
. From there, he landed a collegiate job as an assistant coach at Galveston Jr. College
in 2001. He then took over as the head coach for two seasons and in February of 2004
was offered a major league job with the Cleveland Indians
where he was part of their big league coaching staff from 2004-2006. In 2007, Felix
helped coach Team USA 16 and under to a World Championship in Venezuela. that same
winter, Felix went on to become the head bullpen coach for the AAA-Tomateros of Culiacan
in Mexico. It was there that Felix received a call from Orioles Manager Dave Trembley
with a job offer to join his staff in Baltimore. Felix joined the Orioles as a bullpen
assistant in 2008.
His hard work with the "Os" earned him a chance to work with Team USA
during the 2009 World Baseball Classic
. Felix wanted to coach for Team USA and applied. But as the time grew closer for
the big leaguers to start practice he had not heard about a job.
Then one day, he was pulled from watching pitchers throw in the bullpen during spring
training by Trembley and General Manager Andy McPhail. Going in, Felix thought he
might be in trouble, but couldn’t think why. As it turned out, they wanted to tell
him the good news that Bob Watson the general manager of Team USA Baseball had called
the Orioles to asked permission for him to join them as an assistant coach for the
2009 World Baseball Classic.
“That call scared me to death,” Felix laughed. “Dave Trembley gave me some great advice
before the World Baseball Classic. He said this was a chance of a lifetime, something
that could help propel my career for future job opportunities in baseball. He told
me I would be part of history and work with the best players and coaches in the world.
He told me whether I stayed in Major League Baseball or went to the college ranks,
this was something that would help me become an elite coach.”
Team USA poses for a photo before the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Click to Enlarge.
The Lessons and Perks
And after the classic, if you ask him what he learned, you’ll get a laugh and a question
back: “what didn’t I learn?”
It was an experience that he’ll never forget.
Besides hanging out with Yankee
captain Derek Jeter, Atlanta Braves MVP Chipper Jones and the rest of a team made
up of some of the best baseball players in the world, he took many lessons from the
experience. He worked with Mel Stottlemeyer, the former Yankee pitching coach. The
biggest lesson Felix learned was seeing how a great coach prepares for a game, what
goes through Stottlemeyer’s mind as he prepares pitchers for a game.
Felix’s spot on Team USA earned him an unexpected introduction to Vice President Joe
Biden. The vice president was at the Orioles opening day game against the Yankees.
“The general manager brought the vice president through the locker room before the
game and introduced me to him as the Orioles representative on Team USA. He shook
my hand. It was amazing,” Felix said.
Always the man with a plan, Felix’s future goals range from becoming a major league
head bullpen coach or a pitching coach to maybe someday becoming a head coach at a
He knows that his major league experience will help him if the right college job comes
along, especially at Texas Tech University where he graduated and started his coaching
“My major league baseball experience would be of great benefit to any collegiate program
in terms of recruiting,” he said. “What you learn in the big leagues is so advanced.
I believe those two things would be a huge help in landing a major college position.”
His contacts are indeed an impressive roster of all-stars, Hall of Famers and future
residents of Cooperstown – the Team USA players and coaches, his Orioles teammates
and the players he met playing and now coaching in winter ball.
Felix as worked alongside an impressive roster of all-stars and future Hall of Famers.
It was in 1994 that Felix first met his hero, Fernando Valenzuela, the great Los Angeles
Dodgers Cy Young and Rookie of the Year award winning pitcher.
“He was such an idol to me as a kid. Here was this Hispanic, hard-throwing lefty who
was so successful," Felix said. "I wanted to be just like him. Then I met him and
my respect intensified. He is so humble and gracious and very helpful. He is a big
influence in my life. He is so excited I’m coaching in the big leagues. He told me
to remember that there are a million guys trying to get where I am now and to not
jeopardize that – to work as hard as I can. Everyday when I go onto the field I think
about that and what a blessed individual I am.”
Eddy Murray, the "Os" Hall of Fame first baseman, and All-Star shortstop Omar Visquel,
now with the Texas Rangers, have also had a major influence in Felix’s life.
“I think I’ve learned the most as a coach from Omar. The way he goes about the game
is what’s so inspiring. He is dedicated to the game on the field and off. I want to
carry that attitude on with me as a coach and as a person,” Felix said.
The Dream Continues
While the dream has changed focus a couple times already – and may again – Felix always
remembers his parents telling him that dreams aren’t impossible; they are what you
“I believe I’m living my dream now because I made it possible by working as hard as
I can as a player and as a coach. It’s something I’ll always do. Fernando told me
‘that the day you stop learning about baseball is the day you stop getting better.’
I’ll always keep that in mind,” he said.
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