Teen's Dodgers dream comes true
Make-A-Wish helps set up tryout for talented 17-year-old
PHOENIX -- The fight for jobs at the Dodgers' Spring Training camp didn't seem so important Friday compared to the visiting teenager whose job has become the fight for his life.
Chris Ramirez, a 17-year-old from San Bruno, Calif., had a Spring Training tryout with the Dodgers, not because he intends to make the club but because he made a wish. Ramirez, who has an inoperable brain tumor, asked to try out with the Dodgers and the Make-a-Wish Foundation made it happen.
"This is a dream come true," he said.
A locker in the Dodgers' Major League clubhouse was waiting for him with a crisp, white Dodgers uniform in it, No. 24. Normally, that number is off-limits, having been retired in honor of the late Hall of Fame manager Walt Alston. But this was a day when exceptions were made.
Ramirez chose No. 24 because his favorite player, Manny Ramirez, wore it in Cleveland and Boston when the younger Ramirez started following the outfielder.
"I look up to him," Chris said. "He's a cool guy. I got to play catch with him. That came out of nowhere."
Chris was introduced to the club during its morning meeting and he posed for photos with Manny, Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal, Eric Gagne and Andre Ethier.
"When he met Joe Torre, he started shaking," said Shaina Smith, a coordinator from Make-a-Wish.
Then it was time for the workout. He first reported to the bullpen mounds, where bullpen coach Ken Howell quickly determined that Ramirez had the skills for a full bullpen session.
"Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?" Howell said afterward. "And we get upset when we give up a run."
Ramirez then met first-base coach Mariano Duncan, fielding grounders hit by Duncan and throwing the ball back to 77-year-old instructor Maury Wills.
"He has good actions," said Duncan.
Ramirez then joined the Dodgers outfielders for defensive drills. Alternating with Manny Ramirez and Reed Johnson, Chris Ramirez chased balls down the left-field line and threw to second, then third, then home.
"Get him away from Manny," said one Dodgers coach. "He's got a better arm."
Chris Ramirez then joined the regulars to take batting practice at the stadium before the Dodgers' exhibition opener against the White Sox, after which he served as bat boy.
The best part of the day?
"Hanging out with everybody," he said. "Talking to the guys like I was one of the teammates."
Chris Ramirez was diagnosed with glioblastoma after suffering a seizure in October. He had his chemotherapy and radiation schedule adjusted so he would have the strength for this workout.
"I'm doing better than I thought," he said. "I go back for radiation on Monday."
He attends Capuchino High School in San Bruno, but said he hadn't participated in baseball activities in eight months.
Ramirez was accompanied by his mother, Sara Beltran, and his younger sister Erika.
"I'm happy with the way he's handling all of this," Beltran said. "He says that, in his heart, it's not his time to go. He wants to play baseball."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.