Carmen “Suly” Ruiz PFA Paddleball Player Profile #43 by Dave Siegel & Mike Melendez
It takes a special person to be a hero… and an even more special one to earn it every day. In the paddleball community, we have people who have put their lives on the line for their country by serving in the armed forces; we have police and fire fighters whose job is to protect us from harm while placing themselves at high risk. There are individuals that have stepped up for people in crisis and saved lives by performing emergency CPR and we even have a hero that performed rescues during the last destructive hurricane. There is one person amongst us who is heroic virtually every day, does it for a living, earning and re-earning the exalted status of life-saving hero: Carmen “Suly” Ruiz, who has been an EMT with the New York Fire Department for the past 14 years, is that “shero.” She tells us: “Saving someone’s life is a very positive thing… It feels amazing… especially when you see a person you saved a few months later and they come up to you to thank you and they’re crying, saying if it wasn’t for me they wouldn’t be alive.” Originally a handball player, Suly has twice been named the Wallball Player of the Week (2013 and 2017), not as much for her amazing handball prowess, but for her “sheroism.” You can read about her life as an EMT and standout handball player at: https://wallballworld.com/player-of-the-week-suly-and-christine/ and https://wallballworld.com/player-of-the-week-25/.
Suly was born and raised in the north side of the Bronx. Her sports career started at the age of nine when her handball-playing brothers introduced her to their game. She quickly gravitated to handball, learning from her brothers, while spending long hours practicing and perfecting her skills at the local schoolyard. She loved handball and her hard work paid off as she emerged as a top female player, earning her “A” card in 2013. However, handball is physically a very demanding game and, due to a few injuries she had incurred, it became difficult for her to maintain this high level.
Then along came paddleball! It all started in February, 2017 when Kathy Guinan asked her to play in an open mixed-doubles tournament. Being a top rated handball player and intrigued by the paddleball game, she accepted the challenge. With virtually no experience in paddleball, Suly did pretty well and she liked the way the game felt. She also appreciated that it was easier on her body. From that moment on, Suly was hooked on the sport of paddleball! That Paddleball Mixed Doubles Tournament at Zerega Indoor changed everything. She stopped playing handball to focus on improving her paddleball game. Like in her early days of handball, she spent long hours on the paddleball courts toiling away to improve her game. In less than two years, her hard work plus handball experience and incredible athleticism helped her rise to the top echelon of the women’s game. She became a force to be reckoned with! “I love this sport!”
Suly presently plays 2-3 times per week at Zerega during the winter season and at Colucci/Castle Hill parks in the summer. She is one of the best right-side righty players in the women’s game today. We asked her to describe her game, “I like to shoot, but I consider myself to be a smart player. I know where the ball should go, now if I can just get it there all the time… lol.” Yes, Suly rarely makes an unforced error, is a supreme defensive player and almost always hits the ball to the right spot. She makes incredible gets, has a good left hand and has deadly put-aways, especially killers in the left corner, which is her favorite shot. Suly thrives on the competition and plays with that never-give-up attitude, while always playing fair and almost never arguing. Suly’s favorite paddleball tournament division is Mixed Doubles and she loves to compete against the male players and indeed she certainly holds her own. She is well liked in the paddleball community and thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie of the players.
She told us that the PFA is doing a great job (thanks!) and her advice to grow the sport is to strive for more unity plus holding more tournaments would help as well. Her advice to her paddleball peers? “Let’s play to win but remember to have fun.” You can’t beat that!
What about the non-paddleball, non-EMT life of Suly? She is the mother of three kids, including the beautiful Jazzy who has attended the PFA’s paddleball clinics and has become one of the game’s future stars. Her sports hero? After some very careful thought, “I would have to say my boo Allan Sanchez.” Something most paddleball players may not know about Suly is that she is terrified of water bugs and easily cries at sad movies. Her favorite foods are pork chops and steak.
Suly would like to say thank-you to the paddleball family for accepting her and being so kind… “You guys rock!!!” Thank-you Suly for being one of the outstanding people of paddleball, and for your dedicated service to saving lives!
Suly, #YouGotNext !