Ramsay's life not measured by stats

Former pitcher's love of family, game left shining impression

August 8th, 2016
Rob Ramsay with his wife, Samantha.

Rob Ramsay's Baseball Reference page lists the 43 appearances he made over two seasons with the Mariners in 1999 and 2000, the handful of starts and the middling ERA. It can tell you he was a Vancouver, Wash., native who matriculated at Washington State University before being taken as a seventh-round Draft pick by the Red Sox and later dealt to Seattle for Butch Huskey.
Really, if all you knew about Rob came from a perusal of this page, you would assume he was one of the thousands of players who get their cup of coffee in the big leagues, and either because of injury or inconsistency or inability to make adjustments, don't pan out.
But those who know Rob know there was so much more to his story -- a story that came to a sudden and heartbreaking end last Thursday, when the doting husband and father of two young boys suffered the seizure that would claim him at age 42.
"He was a special guy," said Steve Canter, Ramsay's former agent. "There was a light around him."
That light shone for his wife Samantha and his sons Ryan, 11, and Reid, 8. But the baseball community barely got to know Ramsay, a pitcher who might have had a long and lucrative career as a result of his hard-working nature and, yes, his left-handedness.
Ramsay was just beginning to find his way at the big league level when the headaches and the uncharacteristic lethargy set in and his performance went backward. It was during the 2001-02 offseason when an MRI revealed the racquetball-sized mass that had taken root in his head, an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme.
"Let's get that thing out," Rob told his doctor. "I want to pin it up in my locker."
Maybe the end result wasn't quite so literally triumphant, but Rob did, indeed, beat the disease, and he would always credit the strict diet prescribed for him by Samantha, a registered dietician who is now a professor at the University of Idaho, as his secret weapon.
In 2011, I tried in vain to put into words the very special bond between this husband and wife. Their love story was an inspiration.
But even though Rob remained cancer-free and made it back to baseball to pitch in Class A in 2003 (a perfect inning for the Padres' big league club in Spring Training that year was one of his favorite baseball memories, given all he had been through to get to that point), he never truly escaped the effects of two craniotomies, chemotherapy and radiation. Ramsay retired to a quiet existence as a high school teacher and coach in Idaho and, eventually, as a stay-at-home dad.
All the while, Ramsay battled consistent seizures that he struggled to ward off with medication.
"Usually, he could feel them coming on and could abate it and recognize it and do things to pull out of it," Samantha said. "In this case, he couldn't."
Again, the Baseball Reference page is scant, but Ramsay's legacy as a husband, father and friend is secure in the eyes of those who knew him.
It is certainly secure with me. Mere months after I wrote about the Ramsays, my brother, Bill, was diagnosed with glioblastoma. In the fog of those first few days following that crushing diagnosis, I remember reaching out to the Ramsays, and Rob and Samantha eagerly arranged a video chat with my brother to talk him through the treatments and their diet tips. Though strangers up until that Skype session, Rob was so helpful to my brother, who is now cancer-free and recently became a father himself, in a time of need, and I'll never forget him for it.
Ramsay's most meaningful legacy, though, rests with his family, and Samantha reflected Sunday that Rob gave her the greatest gift of all in the form of two healthy children.
"I think he was a model of humility in a world, in a profession that people don't necessarily know what humility is traditionally about and a society where we glorify and don't always keep what is important in perspective," Samantha said. "With Rob, it didn't matter who you were, what you did, where you were, what you were doing, he would treat you the same. He never wanted fame or recognition or anything, but just to do the things he loved to do, to play the game he loved, to have a family, a wife and healthy kids and go enjoy it. I hope he got what he wanted."
Success is not always measured in statistics. Rest in peace, Rob.