Mother's Day has special meaning for Ramirez
Shortstop will celebrate with parents nearby for first time in five years
CHICAGO -- Alexei Ramirez has been blessed with endless good fortune throughout his life.
This 2013 campaign marks year No. 6 as part of the White Sox, with Ramirez playing in the second year of a four-year, $32.5 million extension as one of the American League's most complete shortstops.
The 31-year-old also has a loving wife, Mildred, and three healthy and happy children. But for five years of his life, Ramirez was unable to see his father, Armando, or his mother, Edith. He could talk to them by phone while they remained in Cuba, but it wasn't the same as having them nearby for comfort and support.
With both of them arriving in Chicago at the end of June last year, life changed for Ramirez. He doesn't talk about how they made their way from Cuba to the U.S., but he did talk recently to MLB.com about how special this Mother's Day will be after being reunited with his mom.
Mother's Day actually comes about three weeks after Edith's birthday -- April 25 -- which the family was able to celebrate together. Whether it's a special day or just an average Wednesday or Thursday, there are times, Ramirez admits, when he watches his family interact and tears well up in his eyes.
"I'm extremely happy," said Ramirez through translator and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "Just being able to have her next to me and have the family together on her birthday and for Mother's Day, it's really special. It's a feeling I can't really describe, other than being extremely happy.
"We were able to communicate. I called her every day. But it isn't the same. The touch of a hug, being able to touch her and hug her and be able to sit down and eat a meal and share what I went through on certain days, certain nights.
"She's the only mother I have in this world, and she knows everything good about me and everything bad about me. No matter what, she's always going to be there next to me. I was lucky enough to have my wife and have my kids next to me over those years I wasn't near my mom. That really helped me out. But I can't describe how hard it was not being able to spend those special days with her."
When Ramirez's parents made their way to the U.S. in 2012, Ramirez was on a road trip with the White Sox in New York. He received a phone call stating that his parents would be waiting for him when he got back, but when we arrived at his Chicago home, Ramirez couldn't bring himself to get out of the car to go in and see his mom.
"I sat in the car, and I got out of the car, and I got back in the car, and I got out of the car," Ramirez said. "I spent an hour just going [back and forth]. ... I didn't know how to do it, how it was going to be seeing my mom again. I finally said, 'I need to walk in and to see my mom,' and it was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had in my life.
"I'm never going to get those five years back. I'm never going to get that time away back. Just seeing her every day and being able to have her with my family and have her around my kids and just do everyday things with her, that's something special to me."
Asked for the greatest single influence his mom has had, Ramirez smiled and said, "Educacion."
That easily translates into "education," but Ramirez explained how the word carries a bit of an extended meaning in Spanish.
"Once when I was a kid, I saw a baseball and I really liked the baseball, and I took it home with me. Someone left it behind. So I took it home, because I really wanted it," Ramirez said. "She asked me where [I got] the baseball, and I said, 'I found it. Someone left it on the field.'
"She made me go back and return the baseball. That type of upbringing and manners, it's the most important thing she ever taught me."
Ramirez's mom never really wanted her son to be a baseball player. He had great grades growing up, so she envisioned him going on to higher education and becoming a doctor.
But his love for baseball was overwhelming and something Ramirez's mother eventually understood.
"When I came to her and said, 'Look, I have a special scholarship to go to a baseball academy in Cuba and I'm going to go,' she was like, 'No, no. Your grades are too good. I want you to study. I want you to study,'" Ramirez said. "We convinced her that this is the right thing. Now she sees the hard work paid off."
Edith can see the hard work paying off up close now. She was on the field last year when her husband threw out a first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field, and they live with Ramirez and his family in both Miami and Chicago.
There's also the increased interaction with Ramirez's three children, an interaction that evokes a happy but emotional response from the shortstop.
"Sometimes when she's not looking -- it's always when she's not looking -- I tear up, because I remember being a kid and her giving me a bath and getting me ready for school and giving me breakfast," Ramirez said. "She loves playing with them. They love playing with her. It's really special having her around."