Back in the 1960’s, softball was nonexistent in Ralston.
This was true until Bill Ruf migrated over to Ralston from Cater Lake, Iowa, and was determined to give girls a chance to participate in the sport he had been in love with his entire life.
Now hundreds of softball players who have grown up in Ralston owe their athletic adventures to Ruf.
Mayor Don Groesser, at the Nov. 19 Ralston City Council meeting, proclaimed that day as Bill Ruf Day to recognize Ruf for his establishment of softball in Ralston.
Brought to tears by the scores of former players who lined the seats at City Hall, Ruf thanked Groesser for the honor.
“Home is where you make it and Ralston will always be home for me,” Ruf said.
In an interview, Ruf said when he first got to Ralston he was surprised by the lack of sports programs for girls in the city.
“I grew up playing softball and started up a softball program in Carter Lake before moving over to Ralston,” Ruf said.
Ruf taught and coached several sports for Ralston Public Schools, but out of all the activities he coached, softball held a special place in his heart.
“The girls in Ralston were really missing out on a great sport,” he said.
The first league Ruf created was the “Peanuts” softball league where all the teams were named after characters from the comic strip.
Ruf said he keeps in touch with all of his former athletes and he considers them all family.
“I married late in life and my students would always ask me when I was going to have kids,” Ruf said. “I would say that my students and athletes are my family and that I love them just as much as their parents do.”
Ruf said he has been surprised by the outpouring of support he has gotten from former athletes and students who range from a general in the U.S. Air Force to a city mayor.
“Getting these messages about how I made an impact on their lives has made my life worthwhile,” he said.
Ruf retired from coaching and teaching after 31 years in Ralston in 1995.
Even after retirement Ruf was never far away from athletics as his daughter Christa played softball at Creighton University and his son Darin played baseball there as well and went on to play for the Philadelphia Phillies and now plays baseball in South Korea.