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How Guardians star slugger José Ramírez found a home in Cleveland

Cleveland Guardians' Jose Ramirez watches his solo home run off Houston Astros relief pitcher Rafael Montero during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Cleveland.
Ron Schwane
Cleveland Guardians' Jose Ramirez watches his solo home run off Houston Astros relief pitcher Rafael Montero during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Friday, June 9, 2023, in Cleveland.

Cleveland Guardians star third baseman José Ramírez has eclipsed 200 career home runs with a stunning three-homer game last week. Ramírez, in his 10th season in Cleveland, became the face of the franchise last spring when he signed a seven-year, $141 million contract extension, which Ideastream Public Media commentator Terry Pluto says is “way under market value.”

Pluto connected with Andre Knott, the in-game reporter covering the Guardians for Bally Sports Ohio, to get to know Ramírez a bit better. Knott visited Ramírez in his hometown.

“(Ramírez) is from Bani, Dominican Republic. It’s is fairly close to Haiti. It's a town of about 60,000, but he lives on the outside, more of a rural area," Pluto said, noting that he knows this because Knott visited Ramírez at his home.

"Andre said that José has a – it’s a really nice house, but it's not some of these palatial estates that some of the big Dominican stars have," Pluto said. "He's real involved with youth and with baseball in his area, does clinics and buys all kinds of equipment because he remembers how he grew up with basically nothing."

Cleveland was the only team interested in Ramírez, who the team's baseball scouts saw playing on a back diamond in the Dominican. They signed him for $50,000, which is cheap.

“His grandfather pulled him aside and said, ‘José, understand, you not only can make enough money for your mom and dad and us, you can make some for you, for your kids. This is a door that's been thrown open for you.’ And they used to talk about getting off the island, meaning get off the Dominican, so you can come back with some cash. And that drove José, that he was the one that was ignored, none of the teams liked him,” Pluto said.

Ramírez watched his friend and teammate, Francisco Lindor, get traded to the New York Mets in 2020. Lindor then inked a massive 10-year, $341 million deal. Pluto said Ramírez could have made a similar move. But he chose Cleveland, signing an extension at a big discount.

“Because it's subdued, it’s quieter, it’s big-league baseball without all the big-league distractions. And he kept telling people close to him that he felt he could trust people in Cleveland. And he kind of liked it because he could just sort of play ball. And he feels he can win here. I mean, he talks about, he wants to end up the guy that's hit more home runs than anybody else in a Cleveland uniform. Right now, that’s Jim Thome with like 340 homeruns,” Pluto said.

“José's probably got another five, six years. He could do it. He wants to lead them in RBIs. He has told his close friends that he wants to go into the Hall of Fame in a Cleveland uniform. He insisted to have a no-trade clause in his contract.”

Pluto also said Ramírez has developed into a smart leader and student of the game.

Andre Knott said generally when you sit near the end of the bench there with him, he is watching the pitchers, watching this. They're talking baseball. And then sometimes José will just come up to another younger player and say, ‘You know, you got to do better on the bases.’ And he'll just talk to them - off to the side, doesn’t want to embarrass people. But he does that. He, you know, he made this his team,” Pluto said.

Pluto added that Ramírez is a rare player.

“It's one of those clichés: He's content with who he is. But he understands who he is, that he's a ballplayer. He's not interested in having a brand. You don't see him doing commercials or anything like that. So, he was a little guy from the out-of-the-way town that nobody else wanted but Cleveland. And he's beat the odds all the way through. And he decided he'd like to stay here," said Pluto.

"It almost sounds boring or fairytale-ish, but we've had ten years now of José Ramírez. It's not just some guy, one or two years. He's been here for a decade, and we've watched him grow up as a player. And now, you see it as a leader. And I think he likes the idea that Cleveland, they let him just play ball."

He fits Cleveland.

“He’s a working-class player. When you watch as they play, he's working. You could tell he's sweating, his uniform is dirty, he's swinging hard, he's strutting around," Pluto said. "You know, I mean, you know, he's like a blue-collar player, but he is. And I think that's why the fans love it.”

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