CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez went to the outfield for stretching Friday and got one of the biggest surprises of his life.
First he saw countryman and former White Sox teammate Jose Contreras make his way into a circle in the outfield where the entire team had gathered. And after a brief comment from manager Robin Ventura, Contreras handed Ramirez a box containing a replacement for the gold medal Ramirez had earned at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The medal had been lost more than four years ago.
"I got really choked up because I felt like I was in Athens getting that medal all over again," said Ramirez, who was momentarily speechless and obviously emotional before embracing Contreras and Ventura. "There are many athletes that have won championships but as far as being able to win a gold medal in the Olympics, it is really rare. So it's really special to me."
Ramirez said the medal got lost as his wife was bringing belongings and luggage from the Dominican Republic to Chicago via Miami. His first season with the White Sox was 2008.
The White Sox explored different channels and then contacted the IOC earlier this year. And after presenting the proper paperwork, team owner Jerry Reinsdorf paid to have a replacement medal made and shipped to Chicago about two weeks ago.
Contreras, the star of the White Sox's World Series champion in 2005, was not on that Cuban team that won in Athens in 2004. But he has known Ramirez since he was a kid. Contreras is currently on the Phillies' disabled list and is scheduled for surgery on his elbow.
"This is really a special moment for Alexei and I can tell from the way he hugged me," Contreras said. "I wanted to be with Alexei during this moment because of our relationship."
Reinsdorf said the White Sox were aware how much losing the medal bothered Ramirez over the years.
"I can hardly imagine what it meant to him. I know this was something that was really on his mind and he was really down over this thing having been stolen or lost or whatever happened to it," Reinsdorf said.
"You could tell by his immediate reaction how much it meant to him."