Venezuela never far from Ramos' thoughts
Nationals catcher credits popular dish from back home for renewed health, durability
WASHINGTON -- To say that Wilson Ramos is fueled by his Venezuelan heritage is not an exaggeration. He has a simple reminder of home every morning for breakfast.
Ramos was in the starting lineup for the 24th consecutive game in the opener of Monday's doubleheader -- the longest streak by any catcher in the Major Leagues this season. After missing nearly all of 2012 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and twice landing on the disabled list with hamstring strains this season, the streak helped to reestablish his durability.
Ramos' secret? A dish popular in Venezuela called arepas: maize flatbread patties filled with meat or cheese.
"If [I] eat [an arepa] every day, I can play every day," Ramos said.
Ramos makes the arepas himself ("It's not difficult," he said) and believes they have helped him stay energized down the stretc. At the beginning of the 2012 season, he did not eat the dish, because it was not part of his diet at the time, which included mostly salads, chicken and fish.
During the diet, Ramos had injury problems. So shortstop Ian Desmond recommended that the 26-year-old catcher let go of his diet and return to a more natural weight.
"I eat everything right now," Ramos said. "I'm playing better and feeling better."
Yet Ramos' relationship to Venezuela goes far beyond the breakfast table. At its core, Ramos said that his love of the country revolves around pride and family.
When the season ends, Ramos will rest for a few days and fly home to Valencia, Venezuela. He has four uncles, four aunts and more than 30 cousins -- and that's just on his mother's side of the family. He said that they all frequently gather in one place to barbeque and share laughs.
"When I stay here, I miss a lot of family moments," Ramos said. "I miss those moments. I want to make those moments with them when I'm there."
Spending the majority of the year 2,000 miles away from family is challenging, but Ramos said that he also takes pride in representing his country on the diamond. When he was growing up, Ramos played baseball in streets and fields, often with his younger brother, David, who is now a pitcher with the Gulf Coast League Nationals.
Ramos also watched the Major League Baseball games that were frequently televised in Venezuela. He remembers one day telling his mother, Maria Campos, that he wanted to be on TV.
"Now they watch me on TV," Ramos said, smiling. "It's very exciting for me to be here in the United States, playing baseball, representing my country."
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.