For as much as the Nationals wanted their fans and a handful of Wilson Ramos’ teammates to see him healthy, as much as they needed to put him through a physical examination after his kidnapping in Venezuela last week, the real benefit of Ramos’ trip to Washington came a few hours before that for general manager Mike Rizzo.
When news first broke that the catcher had been abducted in front of his home in Valencia, Venezuela, last Wednesday, it sent the Nationals’ front office reeling. “That’s not in the GM manual,” Rizzo said Friday.
The initial shock of the news quickly turned into a resolve to bring Ramos home, with Rizzo putting baseball - and sleep - aside during the 51 hours Ramos was gone. The general manager talked to Ramos early last Saturday to confirm he was OK, but the real payoff came Friday morning.
“It’s good to see him face to face, grab hold of him, see that he’s in good shape,” Rizzo said. “He’s in a good mindset. He’s happy, smiling and relieved.”
Ramos made a quick appearance in front of local media at Nationals Park early this afternoon, and will return to Venezuela tomorrow. He’ll start playing games for the Tigres de Aragua on Tuesday - Rizzo said again Friday that the Nationals won’t prevent their Venezuelan-born players from playing winter ball in their home country after the abduction - but he got to see the inside of the Nationals’ clubhouse again and say hello to a few of his teammates. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman took a break from a weightlifting session to give Ramos a hug, and infielder Steve Lombardozzi did the same.
Rizzo said Ramos’ physical evaluation was no different than the ones players get at the beginning of spring training, but the Nationals also wanted to make sure that he was in a good emotional state after being kidnapped. “It’s more real now that you see him,” Rizzo said. “It kind of pushes all the stuff that you imagined could have been happening to the back. Whatever did happen, you see the finished product. He’s happy. He’s OK.”
Ramos did not take questions at the appearance, but gave a brief statement thanking the fans for their support.
“I just want to say, ‘Thanks, Nats fans, for your prayers and your support,’ ” Ramos said. “I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be with my family, and see you in spring training.”