Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ramos back where he belongs

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Wilson Ramos had plenty of reason to smile during today's workout.
VIERA, Fla. -- Wilson Ramos arrived for spring training with a new tattoo emblazoned on his left forearm. It includes a flock of doves and a biblical quote in Spanish, which translated reads: "I put everything in Jesus, because he's got my back."

Beneath the quote are the numbers "11-11-11." As in November 11, 2011. The day Ramos was rescued by Venezuelan authorities following 50 hours in captivity.

For anyone who encounters Ramos, it's an instant reminder that this winter was unlike any ever experienced by a major-league ballplayer. As much as people wish they could relate to Ramos, no active player had ever been abducted from his home and whisked away under a dark hood to a remote shack in the mountains.

So teammates and coaches have tried their best to offer Ramos support and good wishes since the moment he walked into Space Coast Stadium this spring. The Nationals' second-year catcher appreciates it all, but he wants everyone -- teammates, fans, media -- to know something.

He's ready to move on. He's ready to focus on baseball.

"I'm excited to be here with my friends and play baseball again," he said today inside the home dugout. "I'm really, really happy to be here."

The feeling is mutual from every corner of the Nationals' clubhouse. Guys give Ramos a quick hug upon seeing him for the first time, then shift the conversation back to baseball.

It's helped that Ramos already played plenty of baseball this winter following his ordeal. He rejoined his Venezuelan club, the Aragua Tigres, only one week after his rescue. He wound up playing in 44 games, going 9-for-20 during the league championship series to help lead his team to the title.

This morning, Ramos took a familiar position behind the plate in the large bullpen at the Nationals' training complex. For 10 minutes, he caught Stephen Strasburg's throwing session, offering words of encouragement throughout and wrapping things up with a quick embrace and an "Atta boy, Stevie."

The uninformed would never have known what transpired three months ago.

"I asked him while he was catching Strasburg: How much of winter ball did you get after that ordeal? And he said he played a month and a half," manager Davey Johnson said. "So to me ... as far as I'm concerned, that thing's over. It's history."

Ramos doesn't like to talk about details of his kidnapping -- he's also been instructed by the Nationals not to answer questions about it, in part because there's still an ongoing investigation into the matter -- but he was overwhelmed with the support he received from fans both at home in Venezuela and back in Washington.

"They give me a lot of support," he said. "They believe in me, so they helped me a lot with everything."

Ramos didn't have to stay in Venezuela following his rescue. He could have returned to the United States and enjoyed the rest of the offseason in peace. But, as is the case for so many Latin American ballplayers, the desire to be home and with family during the winter was too strong.

"I know it happened to him, and it can happen to anybody," said fellow Nationals catcher and fellow Venezuelan Jesus Flores, who also stayed home to play winter ball. "But at the same time, all of our families are over there. And after being in a long season over here, you want to spend time with them and be at home, eating your food, everything you miss when you are here."

For Ramos, it wasn't enough just to stay at home with family. He felt the need to return to the diamond as soon as he was allowed.

"I played there because I was trying to put my mind on baseball," he said. "If I stayed in my house, I was thinking too much. So I played baseball there because I wanted to clear my mind."

As much as Ramos tries to keep his mind clear all spring, there will be the occasional reminder of his ordeal. The crescendo will likely come April 12, when he's introduced before the Nationals' home opener against the Reds and a sellout crowd gives their catcher a rousing welcome home.

"Hopefully the fans maybe stand up and break out their hands and say a couple good words for me," he said. "I want to hear that."

In the stands will be members of Ramos' family. He's already secured visas for them to come to the United States at various times during the season. Ramos was always close with his family. This ordeal brought them all even closer together.

Once the emotions of Opening Day pass, Ramos will try to get his mind back on baseball once again. He'll be more concerned with calling a good game and driving in a key run than rehashing the most harrowing 50 hours of his 24 years on this earth.

Ramos, though, won't have to turn far to remember what he endured and to appreciate what he now has. It will forever be visible on his left arm.

"I feel like I'm living again," he said. "I've got a new life."

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

A better translation is "I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength." The quote on his arm is a direct Bible quote in Spanish, not a paraphrase, like the English "translation" you and Kilgore and others quote. I could not find an English translation of the Bible that talks about Jesus "having someone's back." Just sayin'

baseballswami said...

So great to see him in camp. Having his family here may ease his mind also. I am thinking that he will get a big ovation at the home opener. Familiar routines can be very comforting after a huge ordeal and I hope the baseball lifestyle is just what he needs. Ramooose is looose!!!

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon: I was merely quoting Ramos when we asked him what it meant. Those were his exact words.

Just sayin' said...

Mark,

Pace yourself. It's early in Spring Training. You don't want to develop Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and have to go on the DL before the season even starts. And remember, your first year back from C-T surgery, they limit you to 160 stories, which means you'd have to shut down before the 2013 season ends and miss the playoffs.

sjm308 said...

Careful Mark, you know how touchy the anons can get

LurkerNowPoster said...

"Hopefully the fans maybe stand up and break out their hands and say a couple good words for me," he said. "I want to hear that."

Hear it he will! There were already plans to give him the loudest standing ovation in the world at the home opener. Frankly, some of us are planning on cheering loudly at the exhibition game too.

Schumatrix said...

I'm so happy to have Wilson back. I think he's primed to have an awesome year.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Welcome back, Moose. I'm doing voice strengthening exercises for my part of the crescendo on April 12. If anybody deserves a full two-minute standing O, it's the Moose.

MicheleS said...

P2P.. Hot Stove is on from 6 to 7, Nats PR said it would air at 6:30. If you miss it, they replay Hot Stove at 8 and then again at 11.

Tom in AR said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I thought it sounded a little strange and hadn't actually seen it, there is a picture on Nats Enquirer.

Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece.

It is Philippians 4:13, if anyone is wondering.

MicheleS said...

WILSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Theophilus said...

I think it was Plesac on Hot Stove who prophesied that "in two years, Ramos will be the best catcher in baseball." Whoever, I don't care . . .. The only thing that concerns me is whether he'll wear out under the workload of a full season. In six pro years he's had one season w/ more than 120 games. I understand that Flores is a competent backup but I'd rather have 130+ games of Ramos.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Theophilus..... If it was Plesac he was echoing what what Jerry Hairston, Jr. said last Thursday or Friday on Hot Stove.

Sunderland said...

dj, thanks for the update on the last thread. Sounds like a great way to kill a couple hours.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Not that I think it's worth busting the poor beat writers' chops over, but it is interesting to get the actual chapter and verse.

In context, it's an interesting choice for him. Paul is thanking the congregation for their support during some difficulties. (numbers are verse numbers; tezt is from the New American Bible)

10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that now at last you revived your concern for me. You were, of course, concerned about me but lacked an opportunity.
11 Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient.
12 I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.
13 I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.
14 Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

*text

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

"Hopefully the fans maybe stand up and break out their hands and say a couple good words for me," he said.

I think you can count on people fairly breaking their hands for that one. Bring hankies. Bring extras.

natsfan1a said...

Whatsanattu called it back in the day. I'm so thankful that the scenario will be possible.

Whatsanattu said...
I am looking forward to an opening day lineup that includes Wilson batting 7th or 8th. I project a couple of hits and a caught stealing. I'm thinking he will get a standing ovation at each park he plays with a particularly touching and enthusiastic ovation at the home opener. I think his whole family will be there - perhaps sitting behind home plate embarrassing the moment.
November 10, 2011 11:52 PM

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

I could not find an English translation of the Bible that talks about Jesus "having someone's back." Just sayin'.

To be fair, there are a lot of different translations.

10 Ai purrd an rund aroun da room wen yuz gave me more cookie. Srsly. Yuz wanted to gives me cookie before but yuz culdnt.
11 Not dat ai wants cookie, cuz ai haz larnd to purr even wifout cookie.
12 Even wif tiny tiny cookie ai purrz. Or wif great monster cookie ai stillz purrs.
13 Ai can be doin any tingzes wif Ceiling Cat dat be givin me dem strengthez.
14 So even tho ai cans purrs wifout cookie, yuz good kittehs to share cookie wif me wen ai gots none.

natsfan1a said...

Heck, I'm cheering loudly right now (okay, so maybe I had a teary moment first). Go get 'em, Wilson!!

Frankly, some of us are planning on cheering loudly at the exhibition game too.

natsfan1a said...

LOL cats! :-)

swang said...

Hmm, Kilgore's post had Morse missing as well. He also mentioned that DeRosa is in town and checked in at the facility Sat night. Xavier Paul seems the only one not in?

Cwj said...

Go Wilson Ramos!!!

Thank heavens the home opener is against the Reds and not the Phillies, or we would hear a chorus of Booooo! from the drunken philth fans!
What a terrible thing that would be.

Go Ramos! Go Nats!

Anonymous said...

Hey, get off Zuckerman's back for not knowing a New Testament Bible verse when he sees it. He is Jewish, after all.

And I'm sure he knows the baseball-related Old Testament verse. Right, Mark?

baseballswami said...

Anyone else see the Harold Reynolds interview with Bryce on Hot Stove? That boy is a man-child for sure. At nineteen he could keep growing for another couple of years. He seems to have a laser-beam focus and a real work ethic. I feel that he could probably handle being here from the start of the season, but it will be company policy for him to hit Syracuse even if it's only for 6 weeks. He came across as confident but not brash or excessively cocky. Reynolds was very impressed with him. I recommend you try to watch it on one of the many repeats. Now Eric Byrnes is drinking our koolaid , too. Expectations are very high - praying it goes well! GYFNG!!!

Sunderland said...

" I feel that he could probably handle being here from the start of the season, but it will be company policy for him to hit Syracuse even if it's only for 6 weeks. "

Not trying to be disagreeable, but this isn't a Nationals issue. In almost every instance, this is league-wide policy.

Steady Eddie said...

Sec 3 @ 3:14:

Literally had me LOLz in the Metro. Some funny looks but it was worth it.

sm13 said...

Welcome back, again, Wilson. Gee, I was hoping that standing-O on opening day would be a surprise for him!

NatinBeantown said...

Genesis 1:1... In the Big Inning, God created the heavens and the earth.

We're in midseason form here on NI.

JaneB said...

I will absolutely be breaking out my hands for him on April 12. Absolutely.

Section 222 said...

Harold Reynolds' interview with Harper was great. I'm glad he asked about PEDs too. "I'm as natural as it gets. You can test me today, tomorrow, the next day, in 10 years, there's nothing." One really cool thing was they showed his Dad tossing "batting practice" to him, sitting in a chair about four feet away. Said he'd been doing that since Bryce was 5.

He might be 19, but he's a really mature 19, with a great attitude. This is going to be fun.

Gonat said...

NatsJack in Florida said...
Theophilus..... If it was Plesac he was echoing what what Jerry Hairston, Jr. said last Thursday or Friday on Hot Stove.

February 21, 2012 5:27 PM
______________________________

You are correct. Maybe Plesac said it also. Hairston spoke very highly of the Nats and in particular Wilson Ramos. He will be the top catcher in all of baseball in 2 years.

Gonat said...

Section 222 said...
Harold Reynolds' interview with Harper was great. I'm glad he asked about PEDs too. "I'm as natural as it gets. You can test me today, tomorrow, the next day, in 10 years, there's nothing." One really cool thing was they showed his Dad tossing "batting practice" to him, sitting in a chair about four feet away. Said he'd been doing that since Bryce was 5.

He might be 19, but he's a really mature 19, with a great attitude. This is going to be fun.

February 21, 2012 9:41 PM
__________________________________

I TiVo'd it. Interesting after the piece the comments the guys said. They all felt that he shouldn't be rushed to the Majors. Al Leiter didn't want his head to be messed up with being rushed and failed.

Oldguy said...

Concur on the Harper interview. He seems to have grown up considerably since early last year, most likely in part because of the phone calls he got from various Nats players at the request of management. They are handling him well, and he knows he's being handled and doesn't seem to resent it.

Anonymous said...

Sec 3

Please Spend more time in your church and less time here

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

You presume a great deal, sir or ma'am.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan.

I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me.

I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex.

Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle.

It's a long season and you gotta trust it. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.

Gonat said...

Here's the Bryce Harper video:

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20103067&topic_id=7417714&c_id=mlb

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Here's the Bryce Harper video LINK

Thanks, Gonat!

Sunderland said...

Anonymous said...
Sec 3

Please Spend more time in your church and less time here

February 21, 2012 10:02 PM
****************
You need to up your clever quotient, or relax your annoyance threshold. Either will do the trick.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

The really odd part is, I honestly can't be sure it wasn't the NAB link he was reacting to. I have gotten that before, but not the LOLCats. Go figure.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

and we're about a year early with this for Bryce, but there's no harm getting started early with the walkon music.

Cwj said...

The Church of Baseball... I like that Sec 3 :-)

Seriously, when I'm down, depressed, anxious, rock bottom, nothing lifts my spirit like baseball.
Even in the dark months of winter I can pick up one of my baseball books, tune into MLB network, read Insider and feel much better.
Spring and Baseball are around the corner...can't wait!

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

baseball, or Bo Diddley ...

If they let me have run-in closer music--maybe the George Thorogood version.

Whatsanattau said...

Wilson impresses with his humility, work ethic, faith, and endurance. Baseball is a good sport for such a man.

(1a, I'm flattered you remembered my note, thanks)

Dryw said...

Sec 3, That's one of the best baseball monologues of all time. I try to live my life according to the tenets of the Church of Baseball as set forth by Annie Savoy. Thanks for posting it!

Big Cat said...

Yes Swami, I saw the Reynolds-Harper interview. I'm tellin ya. Put the kid in right and pencil in .275-25-85.

baseballswami said...

Ah - clicked on this morning to find a great monologue from my favorite movie combined with optimism for the season. It's going to be a great day!!!

natsfan1a said...

Ahhh...baseball. It's a beautiful morning.

natsfan1a said...

(Whatsanattau, I remembered because I was so touched when you posted it.)

Dawn said...

Love the tattoo, know Wilson meant the one and only JESUS, but couldn't help chuckling and thinking about his "back" up Jesus, who also (I assume) has his back.

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

"Back-up Jesus" should be an old Kris Kristofferson song.

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