RUTHERFORD – After Dennis Hulse took the reins of the baseball program at St. Mary's High School in this past January, he bumped into his predecessor, Charlie Giachetti, at a Bergen County coaches meeting. There, the two talked about Kidane Rutty's prodigious talents.
“He said, 'You're lucky, you've got Kidane coming back, he's going to be one of the better hitters in the county,'” Hulse recalled. “As we went through winter workouts, you could see the pop off his bat.
“I had sent Charlie a text message two weeks into the season and I said, 'One of the better hitters in the county? Maybe one of the best hitters in the state.' ”
While the Belleville native started his varsity career with a pair of promising seasons, Rutty has since emerged as a threat to win the state's triple-crown: With a .600 batting average, nine home runs and 45 RBI through May 19, he has become a fast-rising Division I prospect who could see himself drafted by a Major League Baseball team next June.
Pro scouts are just becoming acquainted with the center fielder's talents, while college coaches have begun contacting Hulse and Rutty's mother, Tracey Brown. Although he has not received a scholarship offer yet – it is customary for colleges to wait until early in a baseball student-athlete's senior year – potential suitors include No. 2-ranked Virginia, Nebraska, Radford, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall and West Virginia.
“I'm proud of my accomplishments, but I never get cocky about myself,” Rutty said. “Once you get cocky, everything falls apart. I always keep my head up, I always pick my teammates up if they're having a bad day. I'm a team player.”
Rutty arrived at St. Mary a three-sport athlete, and still plays fullback for the football team. However, he quit wrestling this winter to further devote himself to his diamond pursuits. As he explained it, his junior year is pivotal as far as attracting attention from recruiters, and even scouts.
Hulse expects some scouts to start showing up at Tamblyn Field when St. Mary starts its quest for a state Non-Public B title this week. They will see the opposition likely trying to pitch around Rutty, since on previous occasions when they've thrown something into his wheelhouse, the 5'10", 195-lb. slugger has crushed hittable balls, sometimes upwards of 450 feet.
Earlier this season against North Arlington, Rutty earned two intentional walks before slugging the game-winning grand slam in a 13-10 victory. When Queen of Peace chose to attack the strike zone, he went 4-for-4 with a homer, two triples, a double and six RBI in a 23-5 triumph.
“When we see him hit, it's like watching a Major League hitter,” Hulse said with a sense of awe. “When he makes outs, they're loud outs.
“Nothing's a surprise to us right now. We expect him to get a hit every time up. I know he's not going to do that, but he was at a point where he was a little over .650.”
After Rutty finishes his breakthrough season at St. Mary, he will hit the summer circuit. He will flash his skills at SelectFest '11, a combine held jointly this June at both Diamond Nation in Flemington and Rutgers University that draws college coaches from across the country.
In addition, Rutty is shopping for a summer team that will maximize his exposure, listing the New Jersey Cardinals as one of his potential options along with the Lyndhurst American Legion team he has played for the previous two summers.
Hulse is encouraging him to play in a wood-bat league so that recruiters and scouts alike could see how his skills project on the next level.
Rutty is embracing the challenge awaiting him.
“It's important to me because I want to get into a D-1 college. I want to play college baseball and I want to make it to the next level,” Rutty said. “This year, I'm doing pretty good. I'm going to try to keep doing what I'm doing. Hopefully I progress and get a scholarship and play college baseball.”