When Chicago White Sox star shortstop Alexei Ramirez defected from Cuba in 2007, he knew he would be unable to visit his parents due to US travel restrictions and the probability that he would be unable to leave once he stepped foot on Cuban soil again.
But just in time for the 4th of July, Ramirez celebrated Independence Day by welcoming his mother and father to Chicago who left Cuba 10 days ago for the states:
Alexei Ramirez returned from the White Sox seven-game road trip Sunday night and sat in the driveway leading up to his house for close to 30 minutes.
The White Sox shortstop had to be tired after playing in New York’s sweltering weekend heat, but this particular pause had nothing to do with exhaustion. Ramirez was about to be reunited with his parents, Armando and Edith, who came from Cuba to Chicago while Ramirez was out of town, and he simply was trying to compose himself.
“I was so nervous, and there were so many emotions running through me,” Ramirez told MLB.com Wednesday, through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda. “It took me a while to calm myself until I saw them.
“When I saw them, there was just a lot of crying and a lot of hugging. It was a lot of love. It was great.”
Upon being asked how his parents made their way from Cuba, Ramirez chose not to go into specific details.
“I’m excited to have them here,” said Ramirez, whose parents will live in Chicago with his family during the season and then in Florida with them during the offseason. “I just thank God. It’s a great dream to have come true.”
That dream moved to another level on Tuesday, when Ramirez’s parents saw him play live for the first time with the White Sox. On Wednesday, Armando threw a ceremonial first pitch to his son before the start of the contest against the Rangers.
Ramirez said that his parents already have taken to Chicago. After not seeing them since 2007, when he came to the United States to start his Major League career in the ’08 season, Ramirez can’t wait to make up for their lost time together starting with this special Independence Day.
“You can’t make back five years, not being there,” Ramirez said. “But I treasure that every day from now on I’ll be able to be with them.”
Circumstances surrounding the elder Ramirez’s arrival in the US are unclear, but it is not unusual for the State Department to work through channels to reunite families of Cuban nationals in the United States.
A star for the Cuban national team prior to his defection, Ramirez put on a show for his mom and dad who attended the White Sox game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night. It was the first time they had seen their son play since his defection 5 years ago. In a 19-2 blow-out win for the Sox, Ramirez had 3 hits in 5 at bats and batted in 2 runs. Since his parents arrived in the US, Ramirez is hitting .387.
Then, on Wednesday, Alexei got another thrill; his father Armando threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game with the Rangers with his son behind the plate. After catching the throw, Alexie trotted out to the mound and embraced his father.
Ramirez’s defection was not as dramatic as some Cubans who have risked much to play in the states. Escaping the watchful eyes of the Cuban secret police who accompany the national team when they play in international tournaments is not easy. But as more and more players find ways off Castro’s island prison, the Cuban government may be softening its position on their players signing with Major League teams and might eventually give in to the inevitable.
For now, though, Ramirez is one of the lucky ones. And reuniting with his parents probably makes his dream complete.