The dorm room was dim. The light of hope had whipped out the window the day before.

Frank Ruvoli sat in a hollow vacuum. Alone. Staring at the wall.

"It was awful. It sucked," Ruvoli said at Goodfella's Bar & Grill in Cedar Lake on Friday. "My arm was falling off. I called my mom crying. Fate was taking my whole life away.

"I was sitting there thinking, 'What do I do now?'"

Ruvoli grew up playing baseball in St. John. His family was filled with diamond dreams.

His grandfather, Henry Meyer, was offered a contract by the Cubs after being a star catcher in Chicago prep ball. He spent one year as the Cubs bullpen catcher with opportunity awaiting the following summer.

But World War II broke out and he was off to fight in Europe.

A combat injury brought him home early and his recovery took time. But he ended up playing in the minors of the White Sox and Indians organizations.

Frank's father, Garry, also played and loved the game. When his son Garry Jr. played Babe Ruth ball, dad coached the team and little Frank was the bat boy.

"Those days were the greatest," Frank said. "Everything was about baseball. That's all we did."

So when Garry Jr. ended up playing at Lake Central, Frank had a conversation with his dad.

"My dad told me I wasn't as athletic as my older brother," Frank remembered. "He told me I had to work hard to realize my dream. So I started taking catching lessons at the age of 10. Immediately I saw what hard work did.

"The umpires loved me because I blocked every ball. They didn't like to get hit."

From his sophomore through senior seasons, Ruvoli was behind the plate for the Indians. L.C. won three straight sectional championships.

But it lost to Crown Point in the regional every June.

In the only win against the Bulldogs in Ruvoli's career, it was his mind that gave his team the win. A potential game-tying double had the Crown Point fans going crazy, but Ruvoli noticed the runner missed the plate.

So he ran to get the ball from his first baseman then returned home to step on the dish.

"The ump called him out and we won," he said. "That was my biggest highlight of my career. The place erupted."

After graduating from Lake Central in 2009, he was given an opportunity to play at Wabash College. All his coaches told him it didn't matter where he went, but that he went to a place where he could play.

Chasing the lights of his big-league dream beat strongly in Ruvoli's chest.

But in his first season of college ball in Crawfordsville, he hurt his shoulder. But the same determination he had when he was 12 kept him rehabbing and believing things would turn around his sophomore year.

At the start of the season the pain was worse. Not in his shoulder. But in his soul.

"The coaches talked to me," Ruvoli said. "I knew my playing days were over."

That took him to his darkened dorm room.

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His teared eyes looked around the room and he saw his roommates' dusty guitar, that was never played. Ruvoli always loved music but beyond singing in the fifth-grade choir at Kolling Elementary School in St. John, there was nothing more.

Still, he bought the Fender for $120.

He used YouTube to learn chords for songs. In six months he sang his first song, "Home" by Chris Daughtry.

About a year after that he wrote a song entitled, "Chase the Lights." It could be an anthem for any athlete who fought through the critics and naysayers and never stopped believing.

The first verse says it all.

"Build me up to beat me down I can't take it no more.

You tell me that I'm everything then kick me to the floor.

It's time I turn my back on you and go my separate way

You say it won't happen but I can't wait to see your face

When I chase the lights."

"That song was about baseball," Ruvoli said. "But now I'm chasing new lights."

In a little less than five years he has two CDs and has written about 50 complete sings, one of which is called "Shoe Corner" about the rural roads in St. John that meet and greet people's unwanted old shoes.

He does about 180 shows a year. During the winter months he stays local. But in the summer he travels wherever he can sing his new song.

In December he did that halftime of the UIC-DePaul men's basketball game at The Pavilion in Chicago. There were 5,000 people in the stands.

"Playing baseball and music is pretty comparable," Ruvoli said. "There's an athletic high you get when you make a big play. Music is a little different. You can have a bad game in baseball and if your team wins nobody thinks about your bad game.

"But I can't have a bad game on a stage by myself. I have to give it everything I have every time I'm up there and I do."

And he has a growing audience in the Region and in other places.

"One of the coolest things is watching people lip the words to my songs when I'm up there," he said. "I love music like I used to love baseball. Music is humanity in its simplest form."

Not wanting to be a starving artist, Ruvoli graduated from Wabash and has had several jobs since moving home. He got his realtor's license and now works at Century 21 in Crown Point.

He is also giving catching lessons at Indiana Elite in Cedar Lake.

And what he learned playing baseball is with him with every chord he strums and note that he sings.

"Hard work made me a good baseball player and I'm working harder at my music now," Ruvoli said. "I learned that any day could be my last day playing baseball. It happened to me.

"But each song could be my last song. I could blow out my vocal cord. So I have to give it all I have every time I'm up there."


Sports Reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.