GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Veterans only occasionally are asked to go on road trips in spring training.
Alexei Ramirez requested this one.
The former White Sox and now San Diego Padres shortstop caught up with former teammates and coaches and received a warm welcome from the Camelback Ranch crowd on Sunday after he made the easy 18-minute drive over from Peoria, Ariz.
Ramirez went 1-for-2 with a walk on what he described as an emotional day.
Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier homered and Carlos Rodon spun three scoreless innings in an 8-1 White Sox victory.
“Really emotional,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “There were eight years of defending, 100 percent energy, eight years of being the first to show up and work hard every day. Going out and seeing all my teammates, seeing (bullpen coach Mark Salas), seeing Robin Ventura, seeing everyone. Yeah, it was emotional.”
Ramirez experienced ups and downs throughout a long offseason.
First came the bad news — the White Sox declined their $10 million club option on Ramirez in November. Then they made no attempts to sign him. Ramirez said the Padres’ one-year, $4-million offer was the only one he received this offseason.
Parting with the White Sox after eight seasons wasn’t easy.
“I was at my home when they called and said, ‘Thanks, but they weren't going to pick up my option,’” Ramirez said. “It hurt because I spent so much time in Chicago and formed somewhat of a family. At the same time, that's baseball. I'm in San Diego now and ready for that opportunity and am ready to go.”
But Ramirez had a chance to travel back home to Cuba twice in between his departure from the White Sox and joining the Padres in January. He had the chance to see family he hadn’t for eight years since he left. The second trip was part of Major League Baseball’s goodwill tour in December.
“It was really great,” Ramirez said. “After eight years, you can imagine.”
It’s just as easy to understand why Ramirez wanted to come see his old teammates in Glendale on Sunday. Ramirez headed to shallow center field about 45 minutes before first pitch to talk to Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu. Infielder Carlos Sanchez then raced over from the home dugout to join the conversation. Ramirez also received a nice round of applause from the announced crowd of more than 8,000 when he batted in the first inning. The shortstop briefly paused before he stepped in and waved to the crowd.
“There are too many memories to count, especially when I first got there in (2008) against Cleveland,” Ramirez said. “There are too many memories to mention. If I had to pick one, it wouldn’t do it justice.
“I’m extremely thankful, not just for me, but my family as well. Again, I want to say thanks. But in the end I’m just very thankful.”