After the jubilation from seeing his name up on the board as the 23rd-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft settled, former Christian Brothers Academy and Seton Hall University standout Ryan Ramiz started thinking about his new place of employment.

“Seattle is as far away from New Jersey as you can get within the country,” Ramiz said. “I didn’t really care. I was just excited to get picked.”

At the time, Seattle’s minor league affiliates closest to Ramiz’s home state were the Double-A Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League and the Single-A Clinton (Iowa) Lumberkings of the Midwest League and playing for either squad meant riding buses and sleeping in hotels in parts of the country unknown to newly-drafted Mariner farmhand.

This year, however, thanks to a change in minor league affiliation by the Mariners ahead of the 2019 season, Ramiz has a few in-season trips back home in the works.

When the Mariners switched affiliations from the Lumberkings to the West Virginia Power of the Southern Atlantic League, that meant one of the teams Ramiz could be playing for would be guaranteed three visits to Lakewood to play the BlueClaws, the next of which is a four-game, weekend series that opens Thursday night at FirstEnergy Park.

Former CBA standout and current West Virginia Power outfielder Ryan Ramiz. (Photo courtesy of the Lakewood BlueClaws)

Once Ramiz got assigned to West Virginia to open the season, he immediately looked forward to the trip back to the Jersey Shore.

“The family is here every night, there is usually a group of friends,” Ramiz said during his first trip to Lakewood. “I had some CBA buddies come to see me and some Seton Hall guys as well. It’s been fun, definitely a memorable experience. You get so used to going from hotel to hotel and it’s kind of weird waking up at home and then driving myself to the stadium for a game.”

The Power made their first trip to Lakewood on the final day of April and took two out of three from the BlueClaws. Ramiz went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and a run scored in a 2-0 Power win in game one before going 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in the final two games.

Since the visit to Lakewood, Ramiz is hitting only .197, but his 16 percent walk-rate, 23 percent strikeout rate, and .139 isolated slugging percentage are all improvements over his numbers through May 2.

“Our manager, Dave Berg, has played in the Big Leagues and one of the things he always says is that a lot of guys who get to this level have the tools to play in the big leagues and the most important tool is in your head,” Ramiz said. “I know I have the talent, so for me, it’s more about focusing on the mental side.”

The highs and lows of this season have reflected Ramiz’s overall performance since joining the Seattle organization and adjusting to the rigors of the schedule that comes with it. He hit .298 in rookie ball with a .431 on-base percentage and posted a .363 on-base average with a pair of homers short-season Class A to close out the 2018 season.

“Playing every day is the biggest adjustment,” Ramiz said. “Last year I got a little taste of it but even then, it almost feels like another college season. Now, the reality is you are coming to play every day and you have to be mentally ready. I didn’t have a good game tonight – you have to move on to the next game. I had a decent game last night – same thing. You have to move on.”

Ramiz enters the second half of the 2019 season with a .200 batting average but with reason for optimism nevertheless. During his last 19 games, he is only hitting .193 but is sporting a solid .356 on-base percentage, a well-above-average walk-rate of 19 percent and a respectable 20 percent strikeout rate.

Former CBA standout and current West Virginia Power outfielder Ryan Ramiz. (Photo courtesy of the Lakewood BlueClaws)

The numbers reflect a player who is making progress on the mental side, as Ramiz hoped he could do this season, but he also admitted the amount of information players encounter in professional baseball can get overwhelming.

“We have a bunch of video we can watch before games, every time there is a pitching change, we can pull out the iPad and see exactly what he is throwing,” Ramiz said. “But pitchers have the same information on us.

“It’s a lot to take in, especially coming out of college, so there are times I don’t even want to see that because it just gets in my head. I just want to go out and compete and react. That’s what I have been doing my whole life and it has gotten me this far. It’s good to have the information but sometimes, it’s better to just go out and play.”

Even though he is in just his first full season as a pro ballplayer, Ramiz already has some lasting memories playing at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood from his days at CBA. The Colts won the Monmouth County Tournament championship on that very field during Ramiz’s junior and senior seasons and as a senior in 2014, he and his CBA teammates celebrated a Shore Conference Tournament championship in Lakewood as well.

“Some great memories in this ballpark,” Ramiz said. “I still have the picture after winning the Shore Conference Tournament down on the field. Being out there definitely took me back so it was fun to be out there again.”

Ramiz turned in a second-team All-Shore season as a junior outfielder at CBA in which he hit .483 with five doubles and 26 runs scored and parlayed that performance into a scholarship offer from Seton Hall. With the Pirates, Ramiz blossomed into one of the Big East’s top players, earning unanimous First-Team All-Conference honors as a senior after drawing Second-Team recognition as a junior.

The Mariners, whose general manager, Jerry DiPoto, is a Toms River North graduate, identified Ramiz and selected him following his senior season at Seton Hall.

Of course, while part of Ramiz looks forward to his visits back home during the season, another part of him hopes he will play his way out of the last one and get a shot to move up to Modesto and the Class-A-Advanced California League. One way or the other, it’s a win-win for a local kid who is taking the pro-ball experience in stride.

“You know you’re coming back (to Lakewood) so it’s kind of nice knowing I have that to look forward to,” Ramiz said. “As far as getting called up, you can’t let that enter your mind. There is a lot that goes into those decisions – performance, injuries, other rules – and you can’t let yourself start playing GM. You take it day-by-day and you just control what you can control today.”

 

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