The first cheer came when his name was announced as part of the Rays’ starting lineup. The next one came after a video tribute on the scoreboard at Nationals Park, with the crowd ultimately serenading him with the familiar “Wil-son!” chant as he squatted in the visitors’ bullpen warming up Nathan Eovaldi.
By the time Wilson Ramos came up to bat in the top of the second Tuesday night, the crowd of 32,165 rose to give the former Nationals catcher a prolonged ovation, which he acknowledged with a wave of his right hand after stepping out of the box to take a moment for reflection.
The Buffalo had anticipated something like this, even if he didn’t know exactly what to expect when he arrived at the ballpark as a visiting player for the first time.
“Probably it will be loud,” Ramos said earlier in the afternoon. “I was waiting for this moment since last year. When I saw the schedule, I was waiting for this year so bad. I just want to see the fans today, because I love the fans here. Hopefully it will be loud.”
Few former Nationals have received as warm an ovation upon returning as Ramos did. The reception Tuesday night was on par with those given to Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann and Michael Morse upon their respective returns in recent seasons.
Ramos may have been as liked by D.C. fans as anyone else who has worn a curly W cap in the last 14 seasons. Not merely for his performance, but for his ever-positive attitude in the face of countless adversity.
Ramos’ final game appearance as a National ended in yet another bout of adversity, the ACL in his right knee rupturing after he landed awkwardly on a wet field on Sept. 27, 2016, just a week before the start of the postseason. He was unable to play in the five-game National League Division Series loss to the Dodgers, only to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the series, a bittersweet moment if ever there was one.
“It was a little sad for me, because that was my last ball thrown in this stadium as a Nationals player,” he said. “But at the same time, it made me feel so great, because when people said my name it made me feel so excited. All the fans cheering my name, that was a sad moment but a happy moment at the same time.”
These are happier times now for Ramos. He returned from his second career ACL tear to play in 64 games last season, batting .260 with 11 homers. He has returned to peak form this season, entering Tuesday’s game with a .301 batting average, seven homers, 29 RBIs and an .812 OPS in 46 games.
Tuesday’s game wasn’t particularly memorable from Ramos’ standpoint. He went 0-for-4 and struggled like everyone else to put together quality at-bats against Max Scherzer.
The results, though, were less important than the opportunity to receive a proper welcome back.
“I am happy to be here,” he said. “It is exciting to be here. A lot of good memories.”