MIAMI -- Throwing a baseball always came naturally for Marlins closer A.J. Ramos.What was difficult for the now 29-year-old as he was growing up in Lubbock, Texas, was finding someone who could actually catch his tosses without getting hurt. Although not blessed with tremendous size, Ramos always possessed a powerful
MIAMI -- Throwing a baseball always came naturally for Marlins closer A.J. Ramos.
What was difficult for the now 29-year-old as he was growing up in Lubbock, Texas, was finding someone who could actually catch his tosses without getting hurt. Although not blessed with tremendous size, Ramos always possessed a powerful arm.
His father, Alex, has stories of friends and former teammates playing catch with his son at their own risk.
"A.J. had talent from an early age," Alex said. "His arm was really just so strong, even when he was little."
:: Father's Day 2016 ::
Alex played on softball teams, and sometimes his teammates would throw the ball around with a young A.J.
"We were out there in softball tournaments, and some of the guys would say, 'Hey, let's play catch,'" Alex said. "I'd tell them, 'Hey, be careful. Make sure to scoot back.' [A.J. would] hit guys right in the head with the softball. He threw so hard.
"Even though he was so small, he just threw extremely hard. All the guys who played with us, they still remember. We talk about that all the time."
Father's Day is a time to celebrate dads everywhere. A.J. is thankful for all the support he received from his father.
"He's the main reason I played baseball," A.J. said. "Whether he worked until 6 or 7, whenever he got off work, he was helping me refine my skills. As somebody who never played baseball himself, he studied a lot. He watched baseball all the time. He read books. He watched the Tom Emanski videos. Whatever it was, he pushed me to be a better player."
Through every step of A.J.'s path to the big leagues, Alex was right there.
"My earliest memory was when A.J. started to exhibit his arm," Alex recalled. "I was working quite a bit, so I wasn't able to go to some of his games when he was in coach pitch."
A.J. was playing on a T-ball team in an introductory league. No one was keeping score, and Ramos was playing shortstop.
"I'm watching him take ground balls," Alex said. "He was doing them exactly like I'd shown him. They hit him a pretty good shot, he backhands one, and then he rolls it to first base.
"I'm like, 'Hey, boy, throw the ball!' I was a pretty fiery guy back then."
Next ball hit, same thing. This time, a confused A.J. basically one-hopped a throw to first.
Again, his father was wondering why his son wasn't throwing the ball with authority. So between innings, he headed to the dugout.
"His coach, she says, 'Are you Mr. Ramos?'" Alex said. "I say, 'Yes, ma'am, I am.' She says, 'We can't let him throw.' I say, 'Why?' She says, 'Come here.' She brought a boy who had a black eye."
Another child had a bloody nose.
"There is nobody who can catch with him," the coach told Alex. "Every time he throws the ball, people are afraid of him. He's dangerous."
"I was like, 'Then stick him out in the outfield,'" Alex said.
A.J. was moved to the outfield. A ball was hit that rolled to the wall. Ramos gathered it from the fence and launched a throw all the way to home plate.
"You're talking little guys, pants are like two feet tall," Alex said. "He throws it [from] the fence, and he throws it all the way home. I'm kind of like, 'Good job! Good job!' Everybody else was like, 'Did you see that?'"
Ramos has built plenty of memories since.
After a standout career at Texas Tech, the Marlins selected Ramos in the 21st round of the MLB Draft in 2009. He worked his way through the organization, and in May 2015, after Steve Cishek struggled, Ramos became the closer and collected the first save of his career at Dodger Stadium.
Ramos' father and mother, Cynthia, made the trip from Texas to California as part of a vacation, and they were at the game.
"They weren't there for my [big league] debut, but for them being there at a special moment was important," Ramos said. "I wanted to be either the starter or the closer. Once they put me in the 'pen, I was like, 'OK, I want to be the closer.' That being one of my main goals, and my father and mother both knowing that, for them being there for my first opportunity was really special. It's still a really cool moment."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.