As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of high school spring sports, local seniors were faced with an abrupt ending to their high school careers. A group of these students were also athletes at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, Presented by Toyota. This Rangers Academy Senior Spotlight series seeks to highlight those athletes who have worked on their craft at the Academy as they move into the next chapter in their lives.
Rolando Ramirez entered his senior year at Duncanville High School anticipating a final high school baseball season, complete with the normal senior year fanfare, before heading to West Virginia Wesleyan to continue his baseball dreams.
But things changed quickly midway through March. COVID-19 ended his high school career abruptly and put his college plans in limbo.
“COVID-19 affected my financial status, which lead me to decommit from West Virginia Wesleyan. The night I decommitted, I got right after it and reached out to schools,” Ramirez said. “Wayland [Baptist] is an amazing school in a tough conference. I reached out to coach Brad [Bass] and sure enough, I got a call back and received an offer.”
By May, Ramirez had inked his National Letter of Intent to play at Wayland Baptist in Plainview, Texas. For someone who has spent years dreaming of playing in the Major Leagues, it was a significant step.
“I did everything 110 percent on the field to help me keep playing the sport I love for as long as I can. College baseball gives me another four years to continue to improve my game, compete with high-quality athletes and gives me a shot to one day hopefully get drafted,” Ramirez said.
Part of Ramirez’s time on the field has been spent at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, Presented by Toyota, where he has played RBI baseball.
Ramirez made an impression on Academy Director Juan Leonel Garciga from the very first day of his RBI journey.
“Rolando’s path onto an RBI team is one of a player who was just hungry to play baseball. He had registered to be placed on the waiting list and just came out to the Academy on a gameday hoping a team would be short and with an open roster spot. That’s exactly what happened, and I asked him if he had his equipment,” Garciga recalled. “He said, ‘Absolutely,’ and took off to the car, then onto the field.”
The time at the Academy has left an impression on Ramirez, too.
“My best memory from playing at the Academy was taking BP under the lights on weekdays to improve my game,” Ramirez said.
This past Saturday, Ramirez’s high school journey came to an official end, as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma at Globe Life Field.
Next, Ramirez plans to study sports administration and fitness at Wayland Baptist. And he has been working out every day, including running and maintaining a healthy diet.
“My main goal is to stay focused on what I want for my future. I’m going to college to learn and to play baseball. Discipline will be a big factor in trying to keep above a 3.0 GPA and to try to get me a starting spot on the Varsity squad at Wayland Baptist,” Ramirez said.
He'll go into college with a perspective on baseball that has been framed partially by his response to the pandemic.
“COVID-19 was something no one expected,” Ramirez said. “Even through a major impact like that though, I learned to get over it, get through it and find ways to still get better.”
His approach to the game is much the same.
“The most important thing I’ve learned from playing baseball is to never give up, regardless of how many times you fail. Baseball is a game of failures; even the best fail. It’s how you bounce back and handle adversity. That shows your true character,” Ramirez said.