Growing up, Wilson helped put food on his family's table long before he got his signing bonus. He found a horse wandering the streets and collected money from neighborhood children for rides. He also caught tropical birds in a homemade trap baited with honey and sold them to a local pet store.
Those who know Wilson best call him "Pipo." Ramos is a nice guy, sensitive and kind. He is quiet by nature.
He loves to sit on the porch of his mother's house with his brothers and play with the neighborhood kids. He's always available for pictures and everyone in the community loves him.
He is the second oldest among the six children. He has four brothers and one sister. Not surprisingly, two of his younger brothers are also catchers.
In 2008, Baseball America rated Wilson as the third-best prospect in the Twins' organization. And that is exactly where they had Ramos a year later, in the spring of 2009: at #3 in the Twins' farm system. They moved Wilson up a notch in 2010, to second-best, behind only OF Aaron Hicks.
After coming to the Nationals' organization, they rated Wilson as the 5th-best prospect in their farm system in the winter before 2011 spring training.
During the offseason before 2009 spring training, Ramos led the Venezuelan League in RBIs with 49 during the regular season. Ramos finished in the top 10 in all three triple-crown categories—10th in average at .332 and third in home runs with 12 while playing for Aragua of the Venezuelan winter League.
Wilson will have to stay on top of his conditioning. His weight tends to get out of control and you have to be in shape or the wear and tear of catching will kill you.
November 9, 2011: Ramos was kidnapped in Venezuela. Four armed men went into his home in Santa Ines, 95 miles west of Caracas, and took Wilson away in an SUV at 6:45 p.m. Ramos was at home with his father and brothers when several men "entered the house and took him away."
The green SUV was found the next day, abandoned in a nearby town near Valencia. And on November 11, Venezuela police rescued Ramos via an air operation in a mountainous zone. Three men were arrested.
Ramos' mother celebrated, exclaiming on television: "Thanks to God!"
In 2013, before the season started, the Nationals said they were going to start Wilson Ramos off slowly because he was coming off a devastating knee injury sustained in May 2012 against the Reds. But to the surprise of many in the organization, Ramos was fully recovered by mid-March 2013.
Hitting coach Rick Eckstein noticed a change in Ramos. For one, Ramos lost about 15 pounds and was more mobile behind the plate. During Spring Training, Ramos said he would have never had the knee injury if he was in better shape. In 2012, Eckstein gave Ramos the nickname Buffalo. Now Ramos calls himself "Bison" because of the weight he lost before the season started.
"He is definitely in tip-top shape," Eckstein said. "Wilson has worked so hard this offseason to get back and be ready to go this spring. He has impressed everyone with his level of conditioning. He was on a strenuous program to be ready for the season. He hasn't skipped a beat. It's great to see. Wilson is a high-quality character guy that has tremendous talent."
August 5, 2014: Wilson's wife, Yeli, gave birth to their first child, a girl.
In 2014, Ramos won the 25th Tony Conigliaro Award, going to the player who demonstrated spirit, determination and courage. Ramos survived a kidnapping in his home country of Venezuela in 2011. Since then, he has come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, a broken hamate bone in his left hand and repeated hamstring strains.
Wilson was confident that 2015 is the year he can stay healthy after suffering a knee injury in 2012, hamstring injuries in 2013 and again in 2014 along with breaking his hamate bone in his left wrist.
He had not played 100 games since 2011, when he appeared in a career high 113. But Ramos stated his goal of catching 120 to 125 games in 2015.
Ramos, thanks to a recommendation by a doctor, did agility workouts during the offseason to strengthen his hamstrings. Instead of always running straight ahead for conditioning, he zig-zagged, ran sideways and backwards.
Ramos is looking to join an exclusive group. Just six catchers caught 120 games in 2014 while only three caught at least 130.
"I feel 100 percent," he said. "I feel like I'm running without problems. When I feel 100 percent when I'm running in the field, that's when I don't have any problems behind the plate." (Collier - mlb.com - 2/19/15)
In 2004, Ramos signed with the Twins out of his native Venezuela. He has played baseball in the United States every year since. His father Abraham, however, had never seen his son play in the Major Leagues. In fact, Ramos’s father had never been to the U.S. He got a visa to in 2014, but he couldn’t come, and Ramos was also injured and on the disabled list twice.
But finally, and for the first time in his life, Wilson had his father in the stands during Father’s Day weekend. Although Ramos wasn’t in the starting lineup, a day game off after a night game, his father has been in Washington most of the month of June. He watched his son catch a no-hitter on the 20th. He has watched his son play all month. (James Wagner/June 21, 2015)
Around 2013, Wilson's eye troubles first began, and he had been wearing contact lenses to try to help his vision. During his physical exam at the start of the 2016 spring, Dr. Keith Smithson, the Nationals director of Visual Performance, recommended Lasik surgery to Ramos, who admitted some initial apprehension considering Spring Training had just started. But Ramos became convinced after learning it was a quick surgery that would not sideline him for many days.
It is unclear just how much his vision problems affected him at the plate. His OPS+ has declined steadily during the past three years, (110 in 2013, 91 in 2014, and 64 in 2015). Although Ramos played a career-high 128 games during the 2015 season, he had a disappointing year offensively.
Ramos said he never thought he had any issues picking up the ball, and his most notable issues were when he looked out at the scoreboard and the numbers were blurry. The Nationals and Ramos are hoping this surgery will help him improve not only as a hitter but as a catcher as well.
"I'm wishing everything," he said. "I know it's going to help me behind the plate also. Sometimes I lose the ball in the lights, but right now I can see the difference. Probably it will help me behind the plate and in front of the plate also." (Collier - MLB.com - 3/6/16)
Wilson had been away from the club after the death of his grandfather, Jesus Campos. He was 79.
"Right now, I feel a little bit better," Ramos said after the game. "But it's still hard. The last couple days were very bad. Nobody wants to lose family. That's part of the life. You got to keep it going."
Campos had been battling illness for the past six years, and although Ramos had been told by doctors to prepare for the worst, he still said it was impossible to be ready. Ramos was close with his grandfather, working together with him at a fruit store when he was younger. Campos also taught Wilson how to play baseball.
"When I did it, he was very excited because that was his dream, to see his sons or me or my brothers," Ramos said. "But I did it. He was really really happy to see me here. Everybody here [on the Nationals team] gives me good support," Ramos said. "This is my other family. I know it's hard but I'm very happy to be here again because this is the only thing I can do to turn the page and do something different and not think too much. I'm happy to be here again." (Collier - MLB.com - 5/1/16)
The 25,138 fans at Nationals Park seemed to cheer the loudest when the public address announcer revealed that Wilson had made his first career All-Star team in 2016. And members of the Nationals' showered him with praise.
"Can't say enough about him and how he's done this year," Harper said. "I might be a little biased and stuff, but I think he should be starting."
And the honor is well deserved for Ramos after an impressive first half. On July 5, 2016, Wilson was second in the NL in batting average (.335) and led all Major League catchers in on-base percentage (.390), slugging percentage (.554), tied for the lead in homers (13) and RBIs (46). (Collier - MLB.com)
In 2016, Ramos led all MLB catchers in batting average, was second in slugging percentage (.496), and tied for third with 22 home runs. And he was #1 in WRC+ with 124.
"The Buffalo" will be roaming among the myriad names on the backs of Rays jerseys when the inaugural Players Weekend takes place Aug. 25-27, 2017. Wilson will have "The Buffalo" on the back of his jersey.
Ramos has owned the nickname since former Nationals teammate Ian Desmond anointed him with the moniker.
"I was catching one day, and it was one of those rough days," Ramos said. "I'm catching all kinds of heat. Balls were hitting me all over the place, and I'm getting bruises all over my arms. Ian tells me, 'I don't know how you do it. No matter what happens, you're always ready to go. You're a buffalo.'
And the name stuck. "Everybody started calling me Buffalo," said Ramos with a smile. "It's like Buffalo, Buffalo. And I liked it." (Chastain - mlb.com - 8/16/17)
July 2018: Ramos was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game. He decided not to play due to a recent injury.
Dec 18, 2018: For the first time in a long time, Ramos said he is not in rehab mode and is able to perform normal workouts. The last time Ramos went a full season without injury was 2015. But everything is different this 2018 offseason.
"I'm very happy to be doing everything. Rehab is bad. It's not fun. Right now, I'm 100 percent. I can do everything that I want," Ramos said. "I'm doing a lot of things -- running, agility stuff, lifting. I couldn't do that before because I was trying to get my knee stronger. Right now, it's totally different."
Ramos and Van Wagenen met during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, where they talked about Ramos' defense and his knee. After conducting extensive research on Ramos' medical files, Van Wagenen is convinced that Ramos can catch at least 120 games.
"Obviously, we did a physical examination on him," Van Wagenen said. "And we were able to get a really good detailed video of some of his workouts that he was doing this offseason. As he said, this is the first offseason in a long time he hasn't had to rehab an injury. … We were very comfortable with that, and he is extremely confident that he will be able to be the primary guy and be on the field for us next year." (B Ladson - MLB.com - Dec 18, 2018)
May 22, 2019: Some years, it’s with champagne, straight out of the bottle. Other years call for cocktails. One way or another, Mets catcher Wilson Ramos makes it a point to celebrate every 11th of November “like a birthday.”
That was the day, in 2011, when Venezuelan police commandos freed Ramos from the kidnappers who had taken him at gunpoint in front of his childhood home in the city of Valencia, allegedly with the intention of seeking ransom. After a two-day manhunt that rattled the baseball world and ended with a gunfight deep in the mountains west of the city, Ramos made it back home, his 6-foot-1 frame no worse for the wear.
Ramos was shaken, no doubt. But he was alive and well.
“I feel like I was born again on that day,” says Ramos, in Spanish, on a spring afternoon at Citi Field. “I try to enjoy it to the max because it was a special day -- a wonderful day when I got to see my family, my mother, my father and my siblings again.”
The conversation soon turns to the tattoo on the inside of his left forearm, which features the date of his liberation in numerical form -- 11-11-11 -- and a verse from the Bible, Philippians 4:13. Ramos was 24 and coming off his rookie season with the Nationals when he was abducted. The tattoo was freshly inked when he showed up at Washington’s camp the following spring.
To say that Ramos is lucky to be alive is more than an understatement; the tattoo is there to make sure he doesn’t forget that.
“I know of many [kidnapping] cases in my country in which those people never make it back home, never see their families again,” says Ramos, now 31. “That’s why I say I was born again, because God allowed me to come out of all that unharmed and it was another chance at life.”
In 2011, Ramos hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games for Washington on his way to finishing fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year Award balloting. But it was another number -- his $415,000 salary -- that presumably caught the attention of the armed men who pulled up in front of his home in the Santa Ines neighborhood of Valencia around 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 9, shoved him into an orange SUV and took off, all while his horrified family looked on.
Kept in a remote mountain hideout, surrounded by what he described as “practically a jungle,” sleep eluded Ramos. He had no appetite for the arepas -- traditional corn cakes -- that his captors offered. He doesn’t recall how many pounds he lost, but he remembers being decidedly slimmer when it was all over, some 51 hours later.
Ramos later told Venezuelan state television that his abductors mocked him and talked about the money they were going to make at his expense. The last moments of his ordeal were among the most harrowing, as the kidnappers and police exchanged gunfire, though, according to the Venezuelan government, no one was killed.
“No one is prepared for an experience like that, to have to think about never going back home, never seeing your family again,” says Ramos. “It was very traumatic for me.”
Ramos is the first known Major Leaguer to fall into the hands of kidnappers in Venezuela. However, the families of big league players have long been targeted in a country where years of economic instability have bred crime and violence. The mothers of former Major Leaguers Ugueth Urbina and Victor Zambrano were kidnapped. For Yorvit Torrealba, it was his son and two other relatives. They were all recovered safely. Henry Blanco’s brother did not survive.
Most recently, in February 2018, Pirates catcher Elias Diaz’s mother was rescued after being held captive for three days.
Kidnappings aren’t the only perils that Venezuela holds for a professional athlete. In December, free agent Luis Valbuena and former Major League infielder Jose Castillo were killed when their vehicle crashed as the driver attempted to avoid an obstacle placed in the road by bandits.
Though he was aware of the dangers, Ramos was blindsided to find himself a target.
“It was something I wasn’t expecting,” Ramos said. “I’ve always been someone who likes to help others. I’ve always been close to my friends, to my neighbors.”
But Ramos also felt plenty of love and support during the ordeal, in Venezuela and beyond. As the authorities searched for him, fans in Washington organized a candlelight vigil for him outside the center-field gates at Nationals Park. The latter gesture took him by surprise, considering he had played just one full season in the big leagues.
“I was really moved by what the fans in Washington did,” Ramos said. “Their support was enormous. I didn’t expect it. That made me really happy.”
Aside from the tattoo, Ramos bears no physical sign of his ordeal; his scars were of the invisible kind.
After the kidnapping, loud noises startled him. At times, he had trouble sleeping. And even falling asleep wasn’t necessarily a reprieve: In recurring nightmares, the kidnappers came back. With most of his immediate family back in Valencia, where they live to this day, he was also plagued by a constant fear of such a horrific experience befalling someone close to him.
“For several years, that was on my mind, thinking about the harm that had been done to me,” Ramos said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I wouldn’t want it to happen to anyone in my family because it would be the same pain.”
Nationals staff recommended psychotherapy. The man nicknamed “The Buffalo” decided he didn’t need it.
“I tried to be tough,” Ramos said. “I told myself that I was going to get over it, that my job and coming to the United States were going to help me move on, because you don’t see those kinds of things in this country.”
Ramos wasn’t quick to leave Venezuela in the aftermath of his ordeal, however. He traveled to Washington a few days after his rescue but stayed just long enough to undergo a physical evaluation and give a press conference before returning to Valencia. The quick turnaround was motivated largely by his desire to be back on a baseball field.
Just 11 days after clinging to the ground as bullets flew around him, Ramos was crouched behind the plate for his season debut with his winter ball team, the Aragua Tigers, as had been his plan when he went home that fall. He hit just .218 with a home run and five RBIs in 25 games for the Tigers that season, but the healing had begun.
“A lot of people told me to leave the country. [They asked] why I hadn’t left,” Ramos recalled. “I told them that I simply wasn’t ready to leave, despite the psychological harm I endured and what had happened to me. One of the things that was going to help me was continuing to play baseball, and it did.”
Back to baseball
On November 9, 2011, Ramos was living a dream.
He had signed with the Twins seven years earlier, just a few weeks before he turned 17. A trade had sent him to the Nationals in July 2010. When Ramos debuted with Washington later that season, his childhood hero, Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, became his teammate. Ramos had used his first earnings to buy a new house for his family, but they hadn’t yet moved in.
The cruel irony of having his life threatened as a by-product of achieving his childhood ambitions was not lost on Ramos.
“It was really painful because from the time we are young we work for the dream of playing baseball, of playing in the Major Leagues, and then something like this happens to me because I’m a ballplayer,” Ramos said.
Ramos ultimately credits baseball with showing him a path forward.
“Being here, playing the game I know how to play, doing what I know how to do, helps clear my mind a lot,” Ramos said, surveying his surroundings from the Mets’ dugout at Citi Field -- though he’s had his share of lows on the field, too.
In 2012, he tore both the meniscus and the ACL in his right knee in mid-May and needed two surgeries. As a result of those and other injuries, he played in just 191 big league games from 2012-14. Then, with five regular season games left to play in '16, an All-Star year in which he slashed .307/.354/.496 with 22 home runs and 80 RBIs in 131 games for Washington, Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee for a second time. It was a much more devastating injury, as he was poised to cash in on his career year as a free agent.
The Rays still signed Ramos for two years that offseason, giving him an opportunity to rehab and re-establish his value. That he did, earning his second All-Star nod last season before Tampa Bay traded him to the Phillies. In December, Ramos signed with the Mets for two years and $19 million with a team option for 2021.
Ramos' attitude towards the adversity he’s had in his career strikes a familiar chord.
“Even though I went through such an awful moment in my career [in 2016], other doors opened that made me continue to work hard, stay focused and give 100 percent,” Ramos said. “After a lot of bad things, good things come, too.”
A happy ending
Over the years, as the ligaments in his right knee snapped and healed, then snapped and healed again, Ramos found that his mind also recovered.
Time and baseball helped. So did becoming a husband and father.
These days, painful memories of his ordeal no longer haunt Ramos in his sleep. Flashbacks don’t intrude when he’s at the beach or the pool with his kids, Antonella, 4, and Wilson Jr., 1, who enjoy being around water as much as he does. Ramos and his wife Yely celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in January. The family lives in Miami during the offseason.
Ramos' life is full, and he’s got the tattoos to show it: Antonella’s name is emblazoned on the inside of his right forearm, Wilson Jr.’s on the outside. Both are larger and more conspicuous than the 11-11-11 on his left arm.
“Day to day all I think about is their well-being and working hard to give them a good future,” Ramos says of his family. “Those are the kinds of things that have helped me not to dwell on that awful moment anymore.”
That doesn’t mean Ramos is detached from the turmoil back home. Like his fellow countrymen, he monitors developments in Venezuela, where the collapse of a once-prosperous economy has led to civil unrest and a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of food, medicine and other necessities. During Spring Training, the worry for his loved ones became such that he asked manager Mickey Callaway for a day off to clear his head. He used it to take his kids to a water park.
But more often than not, the abduction is something Ramos only thinks about when someone else brings it up.
“For me, that’s like a closed book,” Ramos says.
November 11 is the exception.
“I learned that day to value life more, the day to day,” says Ramos. “I had a chance to build a life with my wife, to get married, to have my kids. That’s really a beautiful way to look at life from another point of view.” (N Alonso - MLB.com - May 22, 2019)
July 2004: Ramos signed with the Twins, via scout Jose Leon, out of Venezuela. He was just 16 years old, and his bonus was $27,000.
July 29, 2010: The Nationals sent RHP Matt Capps to the Twins, acquiring Ramos and LHP Joe Testa.
January 15, 2015: The Nats and Ramos avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $3.5 million for 2015.
January 15, 2016: The Nats and Ramos avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year contract for $5.3 million.
Nov 3, 2016: Ramos elected free agency.
Dec 12, 2016: The Ray signed free agent Ramos to a two-year $12.5 million contract.
July 31, 2018: The Phillies sent a player to be named, or cash, to the Rays, acquiring Wilson.
Oct 29, 2018: Ramos chose free agency.
- Dec. 16, 2018: The New York Mets agreed to a $19.5 million, two-year contract with free agent catcher Wilson Ramos
|Birth City:||Valencia, Venezuela|
|Draft:||2004 - Twins - Free agent|
Ramos is very strong. He has above average bat speed that enables him to hit with power to all fields. But his level swing plane provides more line drives than homers, with gap-to-gap power. He gets the barrel of the bat to the ball real well.
A free swinger, Wilson needs to improve his selectivity at the plate. Lack of plate discipline is a weakness. Being more selective would enable him to hit with more power. And he already is improving his ability to hit a curveball. Yes, he is aggressive, but he covers the plate well.
Ramos can get pull-oriented, but when he is "on" he can hit the ball as far as anybody. He has an uppercut stroke with good loft and leverage in his swing.
2016 Improvements: Wilson entered the All-Star break as the best-hitting catcher and the most improved hitter. Those are lofty claims, but they're both true, and we'll back them up with numbers shortly. For the moment, accept those truths so we can get right to the point: How in the world does a veteran catcher improve so drastically?
If you ask Ramos, it all came down to one choice, one the Washington backstop termed "the best decision I've made." In March, he underwent laser eye surgery, aimed at resolving vision issues that arose during his annual team physical.
"It helped me a lot to better recognize the pitches that are coming, helped me to not swing at pitches out of the zone," Ramos said. (Mike Petriello - MLB.com - July 2016)
July 10, 2018 : A homer put Ramos into a tie for the Rays' franchise record for homers by a catcher in one season. John Flaherty hit 14 in 1999.
- As of the start of the 2019 season, Ramos's career Major League stats were: .273 batting average, 1,197 hits, 109 home runs with 426 RBI in 2,726 at-bats.
Ramos has excellent catch-and-throw skills. He is agile for his size and has soft hands to receive the ball well.
He needs to improve his communication skills. He needs to be a better on-field leader, better at running the pitching staff and improve his game-management skills and handle his pitchers better.
- Wilson has a very strong, accurate arm.
In 2008, Florida State League managers voted Ramos as the best defensive catcher in the league.
THROWING OUT BASE-STEALERS
In 2007, Ramos threw out 41 percent of Midwest League base-runners who tried to steal a base.
In 2008, Wilson nailed 43 percent of Florida State League base-thieves, tops in the league.
In 2009, Ramos caught 42 percent of opposing Eastern League base-stealers.
In 2010, Wilson led the International League by throwing out 50 percent of runners trying to steal.
In 2011, Ramos's rookie year in the Majors, he showed his arm strength in nailing 28 percent of base-stealers (19 of 67 runners), third-best in the National League; and solid blocking skills by allowing just three passed balls in 952 innings.
Combining the years 2013 and 2014, Wilson had the 5th-best success rate of throwing out runners, nailing 33.3 percent.
In 2015, Wilson threw out 44% of guys trying to steal.
In 2016, he had a caught stealing rate of 37%.
In 2017, Ramos caught only 17% of attempting to steal -- nabbing only 6 of 35 runners.
Wilson maintains good intensity behind the plate. That allows him to bring his abilities/tools into games more consistently.
- Ramos caught Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter in 2014, then accomplished a feat most catchers never will. In June 2015 he did it again. This time for Max Scherzer.
- Wilson has below average speed. But Ramos is even slower than most catchers. He is close to being a base-clogger.
- He is prone to hitting into double plays.
- August 2007: Ramos had his season end when he hurt his right thumb on an errant slide.
- May 8-early June 2009: Wilson was on the D.L. after he broke the tip of the middle finger on his (left) catching hand on a play where a pitch hit the righthanded batter’s forearm and caught him on the carom.
- June 19-August 12, 2009: Ramos was out of action for almost two months with a strained oblique.
- November 5, 2009: Wilson left a game in the Venezuelan Winter League with a knee injury. He had originally suffered the injury earlier in the week in a collision at home plate.
May 12, 2012: Ramos had to leave the game after his right knee buckled while he chased a passed ball. He was in a lot of pain when he was helped off the field and taken for an MRI to discover the extent of the damage.
It was a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He missed most of the season after undergoing surgery on his right knee in May. He was really down, often crying after he realized that he would miss the rest of season.
But his family and friends were there to boost his spirits. Ramos said he is mentally strong because of them. For example, his mother, Maria Campos, came to Washington, D.C., from Venezuela and told Ramos, "You have to talk to God. You are a big man, you are strong. You need to come back. Go and do everything the doctor said."
Ramos received even bigger boosts from his younger siblings, Davey and Natanael, who revealed to their older brother that he was their hero for what he accomplished in the big leagues.
"I'm very proud of my family. They talked a lot with me," Ramos said. "They gave me a reason to work hard and come back strong. That was the best moment, when you feel you need more of your family. They were here when I needed them."
April 14-29, 2013: The Nationals placed Ramos on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Ramos injured himself running out a ground ball.
May 16-July 4, 2013: Ramos was back on the D.L. with another left hamstring strain. Wilson was mystified as to why he is having hamstring problems this season. He thinks it's because of his right knee, which was surgically repaired last year, resulting in him putting more pressure on the left leg.
April 2-May 7, 2014: Wilson required surgery to repair a broken hamate bone in his left hand and was expected to miss four to eight weeks. He suffered the injury during the Nats' Opening Day win over the Mets.
June 11-26, 2014: Ramos was on the D.L. with a right hamstring injury.
March 3, 2016: Ramos will miss at least a week of action because of Lasik surgery in Washington DC, according to manager Dusty Baker. Ramos found out he needed the surgery during his spring physical exam.
"We decided it was better [to have it] now than later," Baker said. He then jokingly added, "He will be able to hit now." (B Ladson - MLB.com - March 3, 2016)
September 27, 2016: Ramos tore his ACL and is out for the remainder of the season. Right on time to miss the playoffs.
October 14, 2016: Ramos had surgery on his right knee.
March 31-June 24, 2017: Wilson will begin the season on the 60-day disabled list with continued ACL rehab.
- July 15-Aug 15, 2018: Ramos was on the DL with left hammy strain.