“I feel like I’m living again,” Ramos said. “I’ve got a new life.”
Ramos came to spring training to start his second major league season and to further separate his ordeal from his career, to separate his recent past from his bright future. Ramos, 24, is one of the most promising pieces of the Nationals’ foundation, and he wants to be defined by that and not by his kidnapping. Tuesday, he expressed gratitude that he had survived the abduction and confidence that it would not affect his baseball career.
“I’m really, really happy to be here,” Ramos said.
Ramos wants to make baseball his sole focus, and he received his first spring assignment after the pitchers and catchers stretched: catching Stephen Strasburg’s first side session of the camp.
After 10 minutes, Strasburg had thrown his allotment of fastballs and change-ups. He walked to meet Ramos halfway between the plate and the mound, where they shook hands and half-hugged.
Upon his arrival at spring training, the Nationals did not formally address the kidnapping with Ramos. They already received him in Washington in November, shortly after his rescue, and administered a full medical check-up. Tuesday, they wanted to let him move on.
Manager Davey Johnson barely referenced Ramos’s offseason to him. As Ramos caught pitches from Strasburg, Johnson sidled up to him and asked how much Ramos had played in the Venezuelan winter league following the kidnapping. A month and a half, Ramos responded.
“That’s indicative of, he’s more comfortable getting on the field rather than talking to you guys about the kidnapping,” Johnson said. “He wanted to get back in there and go play. It’s over with. And I’m sure it’s over with him.
“He’s dealt with that good. He’s in a good frame of mind. We were all scared to death, but I’m not one that deals too much in the past. I deal in the present. As far as I’m concerned, it’s history.”
Ramos did not hit well at first in Venezuela, but by the end he helped the Aragua Tigres win their playoff series. It was an important step in recovering. For Ramos, playing in Venezuela after the kidnapping — which he did under the protection of armed guards — allowed him a degree of mental stability.