09/20/12 2:30 PM ET
Ramirez hopes to be just as good as El Presidente
By Josh Liebeskind / MLB.com
Martinez threw his perfect game in 1991 when Ramirez was only 1. He went to his final All-Star Game when Ramirez was 5, which was just a year after Ramirez started playing baseball.
With the first and most famous Nicaraguan player in the Majors so far ahead of Ramirez's time, the 22-year-old Mariners right-hander didn't have many idols to look up to when he first touched a baseball.
"My grandma is a big fan of baseball," Ramirez said. "So she started to teach us -- to my sister and me -- how to grab the ball, play baseball against the neighbors. When I was like 4 years old, we were playing in like neighbor leagues, and I started playing with the big guys."
That doesn't mean a name like Martinez or Vicente Padilla easily escapes a baseball fan growing up in Nicaragua. Ramirez had heard about Martinez and knew the sustained success El Presidente had in the Majors. He knew Martinez was one of the best, and he wanted to be one of the best.
"Dennis and Vicente Padilla got to the Major League and got a long career. I want to get a long career, too," Ramirez said. "That's not easy. They make it look easy, but it's not that easy. They got a lot of stuff to do. Nothing is easy in this life."
Ramirez, who was able to chat with Padilla prior to a Mariners-Red Sox game earlier this season, was able to have a more lengthy conversation with Martinez at an event in Nicaragua. The always smiling youngster picked his idol's brain.
Ramirez broke camp with the Mariners as a long reliever this year, spent time with Triple-A Tacoma converting to a starter and returned to the Majors. After a few starts, Ramirez had to go on the disabled list and stayed with Tacoma when he returned from injury. Now that he's back with the Mariners, the righty doesn't care what his role is, as long as he's in the Majors.
Most of what he discussed with Padilla this season was advice that would keep Ramirez at the highest level of baseball.
"Right now, not too many Nicaraguans [are] in the big leagues," Ramirez said. "It's nice to find another one get to the Majors and have the chance to talk with him."
Of course, sticking in the Majors has a bit of national pride attached to it.
"You want to not only represent yourself, you got your country, too," Ramirez said. "You always do your best in the games [if] you got the chance to get to the Majors. Continue doing our work. When you do your work, the other teams have more incentive [to look] in your country. Just say like, 'All right, we got one guy from Nicaragua and he's doing good, why not look for another one?' More chance for the other young guys in Nicaragua."
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.