In 2008, the White Sox would make the playoffs for the first time since their 2005 World Series Championship. However, the season likely wouldn’t have been the same without their former CF-turned 2B-turned SS Alexei Ramirez.
Before signing with the White Sox, Ramirez, now 40, spent seven seasons with Pinar del Rio in the Cuban Serie Nacional. He slashed .332/.405/.513 in the CNS before his 4 year, $8M deal with the White Sox.
In total, Ramirez ended up spending eight seasons on the South Side. During that time, the “Cuban Missle” hit .273/.310/.399 while winning two Silver Slugger awards at shortstop and finishing second to Evan Longoria in AL ROY voting back in 2008. He still holds the major league record for most grand slams in a rookie season with four.
After the 2015 season, Ramirez signed with the Padres and was traded to Tampa Bay during what would be his final season in the majors. He went on to play one more professional season for Mexico, slashing .303/.359/.418.
Ramirez was kind enough to answer a few questions about his career with the White Sox, what originally brought him to the South Side, his incredible 2008 season, and much more!
To start, tell the readers about yourself. Where did you grow up, and when did you start playing baseball?
A los 7 años en un barrio llamado taco taco mi tío me empezaba a dar mis primeros pasos en el béisbol.
Translation: At the age of 7, in a neighborhood called Taco Taco [in Cuba], my uncle began to help me take my first steps in baseball.
Who were some of your idols as you were growing up? Are there certain baseball players you tried to model in the way you played?
Mi ídolos en Cuba cuando empecé esta hermosa carrera fue Luis Giraldo Casanova y Fernando Hernández. Los dos tuvieron mucho en mi carrera. Casanova por ser un atleta muy cariñoso todo el pueblo lo quiere. Fernando por su sencillez le decía en hinder de los niños.
Translation: My idols in Cuba when I started my wonderful career were Luis Giraldo Casanova and Fernando Hernandez. The two had a large impact on my career. [I admired] Casanova for being a very loving athlete, which is something that everybody wants. [I admired] Fernando for his humility in his time spent talking with children.
You signed with the White Sox in 2008. Why did you want to play baseball in the United States, and why did you choose to sign with the White Sox?
Firmó en República Dominicana con los white Sox. Primero agradezco eternamente a los white Sox por darme esa oportunidad de pertenecer a esa organización. Contreras me ayudó mucho y los cubanos que pasaron por esa organización Minnie Orlando Hernández y muchos
Translation: I signed in the Dominican Republic with the White Sox. First, I am eternally grateful to the White Sox for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the organization. [José] Contreras helped me a lot [in my decision], as did the other Cuban players who came through the organization before, including Minnie [Miñoso], Orlando Hernandez [“El Duque”], and many others.
A lot happened during your 2008 rookie season. The White Sox made the playoffs thanks, in part, to your Grand Slam against the Detroit Tigers in Game 162, and you finished in second in the AL ROY voting. What was your experience like in 2008 during your rookie season? Was it difficult to transition from baseball in Cuba to baseball in the United States?
Fue una experiencia hermosa y no solo yo todos los jugadores hicieron el trabajo contento de poder ayudar al equipo. Sí quede segundo del novato del año detrás de longoria que tuvo un excelente año. La transición para mi lo más difícil fue el clima y el idioma lo demás jugar béisbol es lo q amo y Ozzie Guillen me dio la oportunidad de jugar y confío en mi
Translation: It was an amazing experience, and it was not only me, but all of the players who did the job – I was happy to be able to help the team. Yes, I came in second for Rookie of the Year behind [Evan] Longoria, but he had an amazing year.
The more difficult parts of the transition [to the United States] were the weather and the language, and the rest was just playing baseball – which is what I love. [During the season], Ozzie Guillen gave me many opportunities to play and had trust and confidence in me.
You played seven seasons for Pinar del Rio in the Serie Nacional Cubana. How were those games different than playing in the major leagues in the United States? Did you learn any lessons in Cuba that helped you?
Sí jugué 7 años en mi pinar del Río que aprovecho para darle las gracias por su apoyo. La diferencia que es un béisbol caribeño mucha música mucha pasión amor por el béisbol. En mi casa quise traer ese sazón caribeño a la organización jugador agresivo pero tuve que hacer un ajuste como todo para adoptar a este béisbol.
Yes, I played for 7 years for Pinar del Rio, and I want to take advantage of this opportunity to thank them for their support. The difference is that in Caribbean Baseball, there is a lot of music, a lot of passion, and a lot of love for baseball. As an aggressive player, I wanted to bring that Caribbean flavor to the [White Sox] organization, but I had to make adjustments, like everyone, and adopt the way baseball is played here [in the United States].
You played eight seasons with the White Sox. What was your favorite part about playing baseball in Chicago? Do you have any favorite memories from your time with the White Sox?
Juegue 8 hermosos años con las medias blanca mi abogado me había dicho que existía una rivalidad con los cubs y disfruté mucho esa serie
Translation: I played 8 beautiful years with the White Sox. [When I came to the team], my agent had told me that there was a rivalry with the Cubs, and I really enjoyed that series [when we played].
Who were some of your favorite teammates in Major League Baseball? Who were influential players for you, and players that helped you when you first came to the United States? Who were the players who were really funny in the locker room?
Yo me llevaba con todos los jugadores a pesar del idioma pero trataba con ellos. Pero sin duda Contreras me ayudó mucho los entrenadores todo me ayudaron. Octavio Dotel era un gran compañero de equipo muy divertido.
Translation: I got along with all of my teammates despite the language barrier. But, without a doubt, José Contreras definitely helped me a lot, and so did all of the coaches. Octavio Dotel was a great teammate who was very funny!
In 2020, you said you still wanted to play in the major leagues because of how your career ended. Why did you feel that way? Do you still feel that way today?
2020 si y todavía me queda mucho para jugar. Uno como jugador debe saber cuando debe de retirarse a dios gracias fui y soy un jugador q apenas se lesionó en su carrera, pero es el béisbol a cambiado mucho si podría aún ayudar a muchos equipo todavía.
Translation: In 2020, yes [I did say that], and I still have a lot left to give to the game. As a player, you have to know when the right time to retire is, and thanks be to God [for my career]. I was a player who was injured often in my career, and although baseball has changed a lot, I believe I could still help many teams.
Do you have any advice for young athletes who dream of being able to have the same experiences you had one day?
A los muchachos jóvenes que luchen por sus sueños que se enfoque en este deporte tan bello y sacrifique todo por esta carrera que puede ser tan larga, pero a la vez corta que cuando se entrega obtendrán resultados positivo. Dios bendiga a los white Sox por dando tanta oportunidad a nosotros los cubanos.
Translation: To young men who fight for their dreams, focus on this beautiful sport, and sacrifice everything: this career can be so long, yet at the same time, so short. However, when you are dedicated [to the game], positive results will come.
God bless the White Sox for giving so many opportunities to us Cubans.
As I went through each of Ramirez’s answers, one of the most obvious things I noticed was how grateful he was to the White Sox organization. He kept thanking the White Sox and talking about his “beautiful” and “amazing” seasons here. It’s clear how much he loved his time on the South Side playing in front of such great fans.
Another thing we don’t talk about enough, but has now come up in two straight interviews with Norge Vera and Ramirez: the role José Contreras has played in this organization in helping to create a welcoming environment for Cuban players.
On behalf of the entire Sox On 35th team, I want to thank Alexei for taking the time to answer some of our questions so the fan base could catch up with their former franchise shortstop! I’d also once again like to thank the “unofficial official” translator of Sox On 35th, Fernando Rendon, for his guidance in the background to ensure our translations captured Ramirez’s message – and passion.
You can follow Alexei on Instagram @alexei_ramirez – go show him some love and support! Hopefully, this was a fun trip down memory lane for all of you.
Featured Photo: Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) / Twitter