Wilson Ramos will crouch behind the plate on Sunday afternoon for the 23rd straight game. For a player with major knee surgery a year ago and two hamstring strains this season, that is no small accomplishment. In fact, it is a remarkable feat for any catcher. Playing the most arduous position in baseball, Ramos has been a stalwart over the past month. With Sunday’s start, Ramos’ streak will become the longest in baseball this season, passing Yadier Molina’s stretch of 22.
“I’m not trying to break records or nothing,” Ramos said before the game. “Because when I played 18 in a row I didn’t know about catching 22 in a row. In that moment, I say, ‘Okay, I got 18 already. Why not make more than that?’ For me, that’s a good test for my knee. It’s not easy. It’s not easy catching 22 games in a row. That made me feel good because now I know my knee and hamstring is good.”
So how did Ramos last the past 22 games? Arepas, traditional cornmeal patties from his native Venezuela that are often stuffed with cheese or meat.
After Ramos had two surgeries to repair his torn MCL and damaged ACL during the summer of 2012, he worked diligently to rehab and lose weight, believing a leaner frame would put less strain on his weaker knee. Ramos reported to spring training thinner, having replaced fat with muscle. He is listed at 6 feet, 220 pounds. But then he strained his hamstring for the first time in mid-April and again in mid-May.
“Since last year, I have been doing diet and working out,” Ramos said. “After I pulled my hamstring the second time, Ian [Desmond] tell me, ‘Stop that. Keep eating arepa, pasta, everything. Get your weight, your normal weight. You was 250 pounds and you never pulled your hamstring. Nothing. Now you lost weight and you started pulling your hamstring.’”
During his dieting, Ramos ate salads, vegetables, chicken and fish. Since his return from his second hamstring strain on July 4, he began eating “everything” again, including his beloved arepas. Ramos makes them for himself for breakfast every day, often filling them with cheese or ham.
“I’m playing better and feeling better,” he said. “If eat every day arepa, I can play every day,” he added with a smile.
Ramos has indeed played well during this exhausting stretch of games. The Nationals pitching staff has posted a 3.30 ERA in that span. He is hitting .226, but is slugging .452 thanks to six home runs and 19 RBI. The team is 16-6 in that span.
The streak, however, will end. When told that the longest streak of consecutive games caught belonged to Frankie Hayes, who was behind the plate for 312 straight games from 1943 to 1946, Ramos shook his head in disbelief. “I’m not gonna make that,” he said. “Not for me.”
In fact, despite the assistance of arepas, Ramos wants to rest on Monday. After 23 straight games, he thinks he finally needs a break. “After today, I may rest,” he said.