By Mike Scarr / MLB.comCarlos Ruiz imprinted his name in the baseball history books with his walk-off hit in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series.
The Phillies catcher also homered that night, but his game-winning single -- the first infield hit to end a World Series contest -- is what will forever forge his identity in Phillies lore.
While the moment was huge on a personal level for Ruiz, his heroics also buoyed the spirits of his home country of Panama, a nation more famous for its canal and former dictator Manuel Noriega than baseball.
When it comes to Latin America countries, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba all are better known for producing quality ballplayers.
Yet, Panama can point to a few All-Stars of its own, including Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and Astros outfielder Carlos Lee. Braves pitcher Manny Acosta and Rockies pitcher Manny Corpas also represented Panama in the Majors this season, while Hall of Famer Rod Carew is the most famous big league alumnus from the country.
The 29-year-old from David, Chiriqui, signed with the Phillies in 1998. He made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League the following year, converting to catcher after team personnel determined he wasn't a good fit for his original position of second base.
Ruiz made it to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in 2005, and the following spring, he played for Panama in the World Baseball Classic.
Ruiz also got his first break with Phillies that season, making his Major League debut May 6 against the Giants as the starting catcher. He slugged his first big league homer on July 4.
Following the departure of Mike Lieberthal, Ruiz became the starting catcher in 2007, and he further developed his rapport with the Phillies pitching staff in '08.
"I think  has definitely been the year for him," Phillies ace Cole Hamels told MLB.com. "Last year was more of a break-in year for him to really get to know the big leagues and to know all of us as pitchers. And I think this year, he's definitely stepped up. I think the last half of the season is really when we've been able to connect."
Prior to his Game 3 heroics in the World Series, Ruiz told teammate Chris Coste that he would be the Carta Vieja player of the game, making reference to a well-known rum back home.
An entire nation will raise a glass to that.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.