As Wilson Ramos walked through the home clubhouse at Nationals Park on Friday, a week after being freed from his abductors in Venezuela, he was greeted by Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who pulled in his teammate by the scruff of the neck for a warm embrace.
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”Good to have him back!” Zimmerman yelled to anyone listening.
Ramos, a 24-year-old catcher who finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, made a quick trip to Washington to be checked by team doctors – who pronounced him to be ”in terrific shape,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said – and appear at a brief news conference before heading back home to Venezuela on Friday night.
”This, we think, puts an exclamation point and a finality to the incident. We’re not going to dwell on that. We’re not going to talk about that anymore from this day forward,” Rizzo said. ”It was a harrowing experience, and we’re glad it’s in our past.”
Ramos got to Washington on Thursday night, was given physical and psychological testing Friday morning, and now plans to play for his winter league team in Venezuela as soon as Tuesday, Rizzo said.
”It’s good to see him face-to-face and see the smile and grab hold of him and see that he’s in good shape – hear that he’s in good shape from the doctors and see physically that he’s in good shape,” Rizzo said. ”He’s in a good mind set: happy, smiling – and relieved, probably.”
Ramos made only brief statements in Spanish and English at Friday’s news conference. He did not take questions.
”I just want to say thanks to our fans, for your prayers and your support,” Ramos said. ”I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be with my family. See you in spring training.”
He was seized at gunpoint outside his family’s home in the city of Valencia on Nov. 9. About 50 hours later, he was rescued in the mountains of Carabobo state. Venezuelan authorities have charged at least eight suspects in connection with the kidnapping.
Ramos spoke in some detail about his ordeal last weekend in Venezuela, telling reporters there that he had wondered whether he would survive. The kidnapping ended when commandos swept into his captors’ remote hideout, exchanging heavy gunfire.
Ramos said last weekend the kidnappers told him they were going to demand a large ransom and he acknowledged that day: ”I didn’t know if I was going to get out of it alive.”
Rizzo said steps have been taken to make sure Ramos and his family are safe but declined to discuss it in any detail.
As for whether he’d had any second thoughts about Ramos’ returning to Venezuela to play winter ball, Rizzo said that wasn’t an issue.
”They play baseball in Venezuela because that’s what they do. It’s their national game. It’s their national pastime. They want to play in front of their home crowd. They feel that they have allegiance to play in that league because that league has done so much for them,” the GM said. ”They’re going to play in it, so we have to figure out a way to allow them to play in it safely and for them to get back to spring training safe.”