The large tractor trailer was taking up about half the parking lot at the Toronto Blue Jays spring training baseball facility, and one by one, the luxury automobiles began to roll off.
One of the first out was a sleek, jet black Ferrari, the owner of which nobody seemed to know - or was willing to admit knowing.
After that, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SL belonging to Randy Ruiz was carefully backed off the truck to await his arrival.
Ruiz said he bought the car last year "as a present to myself," but his baseball career keeps on getting in the way of him being able to drive it much through the streets of Las Vegas, where he makes his off-season home.
"Basically I'm paying for a car I never drive, so I had to ship it here so I can drive it, put some miles on it," Ruiz said yesterday of his ride, which sells for well over $100,000 (all figures U.S.).
If spring training works out the way Ruiz would like, he will soon have to ship the vehicle to Toronto to ensure he is able to get around in style.
Ruiz is one of the more intriguing stories here at the Blue Jays camp, a wizened veteran at 32 who is hoping to crack the lineup of a team that is fully committed to a youth movement in the 2010 American League season.
Talk to people in the know here and they will tell you Ruiz has a pretty good shot at breaking in with the team for the start of the season as the designated hitter and backup first baseman.
"I think he deserves a chance," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said this week. "This kid's hit everywhere he's went.
"I think this kid, you put him in there day in and day out, or DH him day in or day out, I believe he'd hit you over 20 home runs. I think he'd drive you in close to 80-90 runs and hit .280 or so in the big leagues."
Ruiz has bounced around between seven different minor league organizations over nine seasons and landed at Rochester in 2008 for the start of the International League.
He wound up being selected as the rookie-of-the-year at age 30 after hitting .320 with 17 home runs and 68 runs-batted-in during 111 games.
Later that season, he made his Major League debut with the Minnesota Twins and in the off-season signed as a free agent with the Blue Jays.
He started last season in Triple-A at Las Vegas, made the all-star team and was selected as the most valuable player of the Pacific Coast League after swatting 25 home runs and driving in 106 runs.
A late season call-up by the Blue Jays, Ruiz continued to impress when he hit three home runs in his first six games and would wind up with 11 in just 115 at-bats in 33 games.
Ruiz making the Blue Jays likely hinges on how 22-year-old Travis Snider performs during spring training.
The young power hitter was inconsistent when he was with the Blue Jays last season and the team has told him that he has to come to camp this year and earn a spot.
If Snider begins the season at Triple-A, it would create an opening in left field that could be filled by Adam Lind, with Ruiz moving into the designated hitter's spot on a full-time basis.
"If a guy like Randy has a great camp, it's certainly not out of the question that he wins the everyday DH job," Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If not, could he be a right-handed bat off the bench.
It was unseasonably cold here yesterday with temperatures hovering around 11 degrees and accompanied by a brisk wind that made it feel much chillier.
The conditions actually forced Bruce Walton, the Blue Jays pitching coach, to don a black woollen tuque for the morning workout.
Anthopoulos arrived at camp yesterday after returning from the Dominican Republic, where he has spent the last several days scouting.
Since taking over from J.P. Ricciardi at the end of last season, one of Anthopoulos's stated goals is to improve Toronto's ability to scout at the international level.
The team was right in the mix for pitcher Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban defector who wound up signing with Cincinnati for $30.25-million.
Anthopoulos said even though his team is in a rebuilding phase, he has assurances from president Paul Beeston and the owners at Rogers Communications that money is there for him to go after top-flight free agents if need be.
"I'd really say there's no cap if it's the right baseball opportunity," Anthopoulos said. "Ownership's clearly committed to spending when we feel it's the right time to spend and it's the right opportunity to spend."Report Typo/Error
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