by Andrew Martin
The off-season departure of Prince Fielder created quite a void in the Milwaukee Brewers' lineup and at first base. With Fielder having been a franchise anchor for the past six years, his bat is not the only asset that the team will need to replace. Knowing that losing Fielder was a distinct possibility, the Brewers started looking for a viable replacement in the 2011 draft and now have a contingency plan in place. His name is Nick Ramirez.
Ramirez is a big left-handed first baseman who settled into the position after shuttling between there and the pitching mound during his high school and college career. He was a star at Katella High School in Anaheim, California. He was named his team’s MVP during his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, and won the league MVP and team championship his senior year. The number of accolades he accumulated in high school made him a hot recruiting commodity for colleges, and he ended up choosing powerhouse Cal-State Fullerton.
During his three years in college, Ramirez racked up even more awards and recognitions. In 2010, he played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, hitting .290 with 2 home runs and 14 RBI in 16 games as a hitter, while posting a 1.59 ERA and a save as a pitcher. Team USA ultimately took home the silver medal in the World University Baseball Championships in Tokyo, Japan, thanks in large part to the versatile Ramirez.
|Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.|
Despite his prowess on the mound, the Brewers selected Ramirez because they view him as their first baseman of the future. He got his professional career off to a great start by signing early and playing 59 games between Rookie and A-ball in 2011. He picked up right where he had left off in college, hitting .271 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI.
Even though losing Fielder was a tough pill for the Brewers and their fans to swallow, they should refocus their energies on Ramirez. The 22 year-old has already positioned himself as a prospect to watch in 2012 and could be manning first base in Milwaukee before too long. Recently, Ramirez answered some of my questions about his experiences in baseball. If you want to follow his progress this season, make sure to give him a follow on Twitter.
Nick Ramirez Interview
Who were your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?
I grew up right down the street from the Angels, but never really liked them. I couldn't tell you why if I tried, but I just didn't. But on the other hand, I was a big Yankee fan growing up. Yeah I know it makes no sense, right; kid from California supporting a team on the other side of the country.
Can you talk a little bit about how teams contacted/approached you prior to the draft and what that intensity is like?
Teams would come to school and meet with about six or seven of us; just one after another, to knock us all out at one time because we had a pretty talented group of players at one time. There’s really no intensity to it actually, I just considered them as job interviews. They know what kind of talent you have already because that’s what they see at the games, but now they're trying to get a feel for the kind of person you are.
Can you describe what your draft experience was like?
It was definitely one of my most memorable experiences. I can't explain the feeling I had when I heard my name announced. I was sitting there and I heard my name called, and I had to say to myself, ‘Nick, the Brewers just called your name.’ I couldn't even call my close family members for a while because of the text messages that kept coming in.
Did you ever speak with the Brewers about possibly pitching?
No, I made it clear prior to the draft that I was entering the draft as a first baseman and pitching was out of the picture.
What steps do you take to provide more off-field comfort during the minor league season (food, toys, anything else to keep you sane and not bored, etc...)?
Nothing really except my PlayStation 3. That’s always a nice little getaway and it helps that a lot of my buddies that play professional baseball play all those games online. Call of Duty is an obvious favorite.
What are you anticipating or dreading about your first spring training?
I can honestly tell you I'm not dreading anything. I’m excited to get out there and start playing again. I'm looking forward to seeing my hard work during this off-season pay off.
How closely do you follow the transactions of the Brewers and of the affiliate teams above where you are playing?
You won't find me scanning websites daily for Brewers news, but when we acquire new players that can help the big club, that's exciting, and especially players that I've watched play since I was young, because I could potentially be a teammate of theirs.
Andrew Martin is a freelance writer with a Master's Degree in history from the University of Vermont. He's always searching for interesting stories related to baseball, baseball history, or both. His belief that every baseball player has a unique story fuels his passion for the game. Follow him on Twitter @historianandrew and check out his blog at baseballhistorian.blogspot.com.