I have a lot of great memories from when I played in the Olympic Games. The biggest one was the fact I could participate in it. That was really incredible. On top of that, to win a gold meal for the Cuban team and all the Cuban fans was fantastic. It was a great feeling and a great accomplishment.
However, it is a travesty that out of all the medals I own, my Olympic gold medal was the one that was stolen from me. That one means so much to me, not only because of the experience of the tournament, but also because of the doors that it opened for me. They could have taken any other medallion, but to have chosen that one really hurts me.
I still don't know how it was stolen. It happened when my wife was traveling from the Dominican Republic to Miami to Chicago. As part of that travel it went missing from a bag in her possession. It was with a bunch of medals, but that was the only one that was stolen. The bag had at least 15 other medals.
I have been looking for it over the years. I keep looking on eBay each year. It has been awhile, and I had hoped I would find it by now. I don't think I will ever get it back.
I represented Cuba in other tournaments, including the World Baseball Classic and the Cuban National Team. Still, there is nothing comparable when it comes to the Olympics. The Olympics are the enchilada when it comes to international competition. The Classic in 2006, for me as a baseball player, was great. Still, the Olympics will always be at the top for me. It does not compare to anything.
When it comes to playing for your country, it is all about pride and passion. What people need to understand is that when you are Cuban, when you are born in Cuba, they pretty much hand you a baseball bat there and then. That is where that passion comes from. We are very passionate about the game. We start with the game at such a young age. The pride comes with how we carry ourselves as a country.
When you make it to the Major Leagues, it is a job. You are here to do a job, and you are here to do the things to keep your job, for your contract.
In Cuba, it is more for the love. It is sort of fighting for that little piece of land, your Providence. It is where you live it is where you are from. Your success brings happiness to the people from your area.
Also, I do feel there a few misconceptions about Cuba when it comes to baseball. No, there are not any guards there with guns when we play, watching the game or overseeing the game. I think the misconceptions come from the lack of understanding that different countries play the game differently. That is true for Cubans, for Dominicans. Each country sort of goes about it their own way.
White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez has played all five of his big league seasons in Chicago. A native of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, he was apart of the Cuban Olympic squad that won the gold medal in Athens in 2004.