West baseball’s dynamic leader Steve Ramos
His eyes are cool and his body language says I have been here before. He has, after all, and that is paying dividends this season for the West High School baseball team.
Entering Monday's doubleheader against North, Ramos had a 0.78 ERA and a 4-0 record. He'd recorded 24 strikeouts in just 18 innings and had the Pioneers at 5-1, one of the best marks in Class 6A.
Ramos has a special connection with baseball. He grew up watching it, going to games whenever possible. That hasn’t changed. When he doesn’t have a game of his own to play, he is likely at the best game in the area that night, or at a restaurant watching Major League Baseball or a college game.
"I’ll ask guys all the time to go out and catch a game," Ramos said. “My family grew up in it, and baseball is so important to all of us.”
West coach Jeff Hoover said the game comes more slowly for Ramos. When Ramos was 13, he was playing against 18-year-olds. He didn't play much, and when he did, he often got shelled.
But Ramos' success as a child wasn't the ultimate goal. Hoover said he knew playing against stiffer competition would help him down the line, and it has. When the Pioneers have a bad defensive inning, like they did Monday against North, balls don't get past Ramos.
"The game isn’t too fast for him," Hoover said. “Some of these other kids, the game can get too fast for them, but Steve, Steve doesn’t get shook up.”
Hoover came into Ramos' life when he was about 5. Hoover, who had spent almost his entire life around a baseball diamond, became Ramos' stepfather.
They admitted they don't always get along, but Ramos said he knows Hoover is there to support him and push him to achieve his goals.
One of those goals was to play collegiate baseball.
Hoover knew that from a young age and exposed him to a variety of positions. On Monday, Ramos started on the mound, throwing six one-run innings. He was in the heart of the Pioneers' lineup.
After he was relieved in the seventh inning, he moved to shortstop. And after game 1 wrapped up, he threw on catcher's gear and warmed up the starter for the second game.
Ramos said playing the gamut of positions on the field is important to him.
"It’s a little hard, but I will play wherever they need me," he said. “I will be there if they need me in the outfield. Wherever I need to be to help the team, I’ll be there.”
Despite Ramos' eye-popping ERA, third base is his best spot in the field. That is where he is most fluid and instinctive. His fielding is solid, and he has a quick strike to first.
But Hoover said his swing is his best attribute.
“He can really hit,” Hoover said. “That’s gonna be his fortune in this game as far as he goes, and he’s just a winner, too. He can roll out of bed and hit line drives.”
That bat has earned Ramos a National Letter of Intent to Garden City Community College after graduation.
The West roster has a few players who are in their first or second year of baseball, Hoover said. Those players need someone to look up to, to see what is possible. Hoover said though Ramos doesn’t lead with his voice, his bat and glove are huge for the Pioneers’ team dynamic.
Ramos said that is special to him.
West had started to receive a negative reputation in team sports after last-place finishes in boys basketball, girls soccer and softball. Baseball has become one of the Pioneers’ top sports under Hoover ... and thanks in part to Ramos.
They finished third in the City League at 9-7 last season, the highest of any West sport in the 2016-17 school year. The Pioneers played Carroll (22-2) to a one-run game and swept South, Southeast, North and Northwest.
This season, West is 6-2 and in the middle of the City League hunt, in a three-way tie with Carroll and Heights — two teams that split a doubleheader on Friday.
West is in prime position to improve upon its third-place finish from a year ago. The Pioneers don’t play Carroll and get Heights on Friday.
Ramos said competing, not just playing, at West hits home for him. And he will be important to the Pioneers’ City League chances, no matter where he plays.
“I just want West to be up there,” he said. “I’m invested in West. I love West. We weren’t pretty my freshman year, but sophomore year, that’s when West got its name, and we’ll see where it goes.”