GLENDALE, Ariz. – Chris Ramirez stood in the hot desert sun, smiling as he surveyed the pitchers tossing in front of him.
The teenager asked for a tryout with the Los Angeles Dodgers a year ago after he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The Make-a-Wish Foundation fulfilled his request, not knowing Ramirez would overcome his cancer and return to spring training.
“It feels great. Things have turned out the best,” Ramirez said Saturday at Camelback Ranch.
The 18-year-old from San Francisco underwent chemotherapy and radiation after being diagnosed with glioblastoma following a seizure. His tumor has been reduced to the size of a pinhead and he is in remission.
“I’m so grateful he’s really healthy,” said his mother, Sara Beltran.
Ramirez still dreams of a career in baseball. He is a redshirt on the Skyline Junior College team in the Bay Area.
“This summer I’ll be playing a lot of baseball and hoping more scouts will come and see me play,” he said.
A year ago, Ramirez worked out with the Dodgers, throwing a bullpen session, fielding grounders, going through defensive drills and taking batting practice. He wore a team uniform and was given a locker in the clubhouse.
On Saturday, he took in the Dodgers’ 2-0 win over Cincinnati with his mother and 12-year-old sister, Erika.
“I still can’t believe the cancer I had. I got real lucky with the type of cancer that I had because it’s rare and you’re supposed to get it when you’re 60 or 70,” Ramirez said. “I feel lucky and the Dodgers gave me something to look forward to. They said I can always come back.”
Last spring, Ramirez got to meet Manny Ramirez, his favorite player at the time who is now with Tampa Bay.
“I forgot about him,” he said. “I hope everything works out for him and hopefully he finds it again.”
James Loney, Matt Kemp, Rafael Furcal and Juan Uribe made Chris Ramirez feel at home this time.
He remembers being more shocked than depressed when he was told he had cancer.
“I never felt sick at all,” he said. “Like I told the doctors, I feel like there’s nothing wrong with me. I thought they got the papers mixed up (at the hospital). When they told me I had cancer, I was like, `Are you sure it’s me?'”
Beltran said that while she was deeply upset by the news, her son remained upbeat.
“He said, `Mom, maybe this is a way to grow up and be a better person,'” she said, “but I said he’s never been a bad kid.”
Ramirez wants to pursue his baseball dreams as far as he can go. If a playing career doesn’t work out, he said he wants to stay in the sport through coaching or working in sports medicine.