As manager of the Lexington Legends, Omar Ramirez will take advantage of his experience. He’s closing in on 25 years in minor league baseball.
Ramirez is in his seventh year in the Kansas City Royals organization. He’s been the manager of the Royals’ Idaho Falls club of the Pioneer League for the past three seasons, and served as a hitting coach in the Royals’ system for three seasons before that. So he’s a familiar face to the young players, including those who are on his roster in Lexington this year. Going to a 140-game schedule from the 70 games played in the short-season Pioneer League will not be a major change.
“I’m not going to do anything differently,” he said. “Developing these guys is the most important thing, and I know all these guys. I know their strengths and weaknesses.”
Ramirez came to the United States at age 18 from the Dominican Republic to play baseball at Hill Junior College in Texas. A Texas Rangers minor league official who had played minor league baseball with Ramirez’ father helped him get a scholarship. He called coming to the U.S. at that time “a great experience,” and one that has helped him through the years as he’s worked with other players in similar situations.
After being drafted in the 31st round by the Cleveland Indians in 1990, Ramirez played 16 seasons of minor league baseball, including six in the Mexican League. In the Cleveland system, he was a teammate of prominent future big leaguers such as Manny Ramirez, David Bell, Brian Giles and others. He reached the triple-A level in both the Cleveland and Houston organizations, and batted .320 in 133 games with the Astros’ triple-A affiliate in New Orleans in 2000. The call to the big leagues never came, but Ramirez continues to make the most of his long minor league career.
“Sixteen years of (playing) minor league baseball,” he said. “So when I talk to these guys, I tell them ‘I know what you’re going through – it’s not new.’ That’s another way I can help the kids to develop, especially with the Latin kids. It’s a new country to them. You had Elier Hernandez here, Raul Mondesi, all these guys who played for me, and that’s something I can do with them – show them how to approach American culture. Whatever I can do for them, I’ll be there for them.”
By the time Ramirez reached the end of his playing days, he had prepared to step into coaching.
“I was getting ready a year before that,” he said. “I was getting hurt easier. Then halfway through the next season, I got hurt again, and I said ‘I think this is it.’ I wish I could have played in the big leagues, but it didn’t happen. I have no regrets. I got to meet a lot of people in the minor leagues, played some good baseball.
“I knew that I wanted to stay in baseball. It’s been my life. And I knew I could help other players.”