When Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Ruch went to the Nats game on July 5 with his friend, he expected some decent ball, good half smokes and sunny weather. He did not expect to go home $1 million richer.
Ruch, who returned from a six-month tour in Iraq in March, bought a DC Gold scratch off from a machine at Nats Park after the game, which also happened to be on Military Appreciation Night. He knew that there hadn’t been a grand prize winner yet and he was hoping that lady luck was also a Nats fan.
He scratched off his ticket, saw the “gold symbol” and couldn’t believe it. He had won.
“I actually bent down and I kissed the ground,” he said. “I called my wife and said, ‘Hey, I won $1 million,’ and she didn’t believe me. I had to send her a pic from the camera phone.”
Ruch spent that first night with the ticket on his nightstand, waking up every 20 minutes to make sure it was still there. The next morning, he put the ticket in a lock box and made two phone calls. The first was to the DC Lottery headquarters. The second was to his financial advisor.
“I’ve already set up a retirement nest egg for myself and my wife,” explained a very wise Ruch. “I’m also setting up a college 529 plan for my nieces and for my future children.”
As far as immediate plans, a clearly grounded Ruch and his wife, Emily, had decided to purchase a home prior to his brush with fate. They plan on putting a little more down on it now, as well as cover a few other regular, every day things.
“I’m just a normal guy,” he told us. “I’m not going to go out and buy a Ferrari. I’m just going to pay off the vehicle I have. It’s used, but it’s still good to me.”
It’s really hard not to be happy for the guy.
Despite his responsible tendencies, he did allow himself a moment of extravagance.
“Right after I won, I took my friend into Tiffany’s to look at watches,” he laughed. “The salesman probably thought we were just there to dream. I looked at the price, looked at him and said, ‘I’ll take two.’”
A happy Ruch wore his watch out of the store to the surprised stares of the sales staff.
His one splurge aside, the Nats fan with the Redskins tattoo insists that the money won’t change him.
“I’m still trying to be Sgt. Ruch,” he said. “I’m in the military with another year-and-a-half on my enlistment and my wife has two on hers. I’m not going anywhere, and at the end of the day, I want to be me.”