The normally cheery Ramos, 25, was crushed. He was, in his own words, depressed. But he composed himself and called his mother in Venezuela, uttering words that now sound prophetic. “ ‘Mama, don’t worry,’ ” she recalls he said. “ ‘I’m strong. I’ll get past this. We’ve gotten past worst things and I’ll overcome this and we’ll get ahead.’ ”
If anyone deserves good luck this season, it’s Ramos. Over the past 16 months, he endured a kidnapping at gunpoint at his family’s home in the north-central Venezuelan city of Valencia on Nov. 9, 2011. Six months after that harrowing episode, he damaged the anterior cruciate ligament and tore the meniscus in his right knee when it buckled as he chased a passed ball in the seventh inning of a May 12 game in Cincinnati.
Ramos finds happiness and comfort crouched behind home plate, but for nine months he was deprived that opportunity as the Nationals enjoyed a historic season and a division title. He endured a long, arduous and lonely road to recovery. There are no more important joints for a catcher than his knees, and the Nationals feared his return might come more slowly than expected.
This spring, however, the Nationals have had to restrain Ramos. He dives after balls in the dirt behind the plate. He legs out infield hits. He slides on his surgically repaired knee with no pain. He is thinner than past seasons. He is already starting at his position and wants more. He wants to play opening day and in the playoffs. He will catch his first nine-inning game this week. He is past the physical and mental hurdles. Beaten down by a trying year and a half, Ramos has come back stronger than before.
“I’ve always said things in this life happen for a reason,” he said. “I’ve always seen them as tests that God gives us each on our path. And I’ve been strong and I’ve done my best to overcome all those bad things. Good things will come and I’m getting ready to receive them.”
The happiest moment of spring training for Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo was when Ramos strode to the plate at Space Coast Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 3, his first game taking at-bats since his injury, and crushed a double to deep right field that the wind kept in the stadium but helped win a game.
“I’m so proud of him,” Rizzo said.
Serious approach to rehab
Last June, Steadman repaired Ramos’s meniscus but needed to perform another surgery a month later because the knee damage was so severe. Marcano, his agent at SFX Baseball Group, accompanied Ramos. Unlike previously explained, the second surgery didn’t replace his ACL but cleaned it up. The Nationals were unsure, then, how Ramos’s knee would hold up without a ligament reconstruction.