A Thinking-Man’s Player
Unlike the other 160 people attending the 25th Annual Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum this week, Mario Ramos had the privilege of playing big league baseball. Though his time at the game’s highest level consisted of only three games, the former southpaw hurler left the field with no regrets.
“Honestly, I’m very grateful that the answer to that question is no. I worked hard and I lived clean and I gave myself the best opportunity that I could,” Ramos said. “It wasn’t like I left baseball because I was hurt. I just lost a couple miles an hour, and I was on that fine line to begin with.”
Ramos was part of a Thursday morning panel entitled, Baseball and Cultural Expectations. His presentation, Mario’s Choice: To Cheat or Not to Cheat, held before a capacity crowd at the Hall of Fame’s Learning Center, involved Texas State University Professor Oren Renick interviewing the former Rice University pitcher about playing professional baseball during a period now known for the use of performance enhancing drugs.
“I really enjoyed the questions. I enjoyed the interest that people had in something that was normal to me,” said the 35-year-old Ramos afterward. “One interesting thing is we have these conversations and we talk about character and I wonder how I would feel had I not made it. I do wonder what my responses to the questions would be, and would I be bitter. I probably would be a little bit bitter had I not made it but thank goodness that I did.”
After leaving Rice after being selected by the Oakland A’s in the sixth round of the 1999 amateur draft, Ramos became a hot prospect after combining for a 30-9 in his first two minor league seasons.
“I didn’t even know how it worked as far as moving up,” Ramos said, “so I was just playing the game and that was when I did the best.
“I was a fastball pitcher who threw only in the mid-80s. But I think if you have confidence in a pitch that makes a difference. I was just confidant in the inside fastball. I threw it to anybody.”
Traded to the Rangers prior to the 2002 campaign (“For me it was great because I’m from Texas”), he would eventually make his big league debut with Texas on June 19, 2003. In three starts that season, Ramos would go 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA. Though he would continue in the minors through 2007, he would never make it back to “The Show.”
“There are lots of things you put so much into and you may get there and it may or may not be what you expected. I think the best way to describe getting to the major leagues was it was everything that I expected,” Ramos said. “Even with the highest of high expectations you could have for an experience, it was everything that I expected. And I think that says a lot.”
Ramos attended the Symposium five years ago, talking about the transition of being a player to not being a player. Today, the next chapter of his life involves working with math and science teachers at a local high school near Austin, Texas, and coaching his two sons, ages 8 and 11, in the game of baseball.
“I got into teaching because I had the same holidays as my kids,” Ramos said, “and I thought I’d be pretty good at it.”
As one of 18,000-plus men who have ever played in the majors, Ramos appreciates what it took for the chosen few who have been enshrined for eternity in the Hall of Fame.
“I think in a way it’s affirming of how much I put in to the game. It affirms that I’m not the only one would be willing to do that,” he said. “Most of these faces that you see on the plaques (in the Hall of Fame), they gave it all they had. I know the road that leads there and the sacrifices that you make.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum