Alex Ramirez’s generally jovial, gregarious disposition sometimes makes it easy to forget there’s a more serious side to the Yomiuri Giants star.
At an empty Jingu Stadium on Thursday, as the temperature dropped and the clouds moved overhead, there wasn’t much cheerfulness in his tone as he expressed his regret at the situation in the Tohoku region after last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami.
“I knew it was going to be really bad,” Ramirez said. “Especially watching the news and things like that. All these fans, all these people have supported me during my career in Japan. So for me to see something like that, was very sad, very painful. The only thing I could do in that situation was pray.”
Ramirez recently pledged to donate $1 million to disaster relief efforts, but he isn’t stopping there.
“Right now, what we’re doing as far as charity, you know what I have donated to that,” Ramirez said. “The other thing is, we’re going to get some T-shirts, my T-shirts, about 1,000, and whatever we sell, all that money is going to be donated to the same organization to help those people.”
Ramirez has also been working with doctors in order to get medical supplies sent to the disaster areas.
“The doctors are doctors who I’ve been visiting since I’ve been here in Japan,” Ramirez said. “We have a good relationship. They were very pleased with the idea of getting the medicine and stuff to send up there.”
The role of baseball in aiding the recovery efforts has been in the news a lot over the past few days. On Thursday, Central League leaders met to discuss their plans for Opening Day, and opted to push it back until April 12. The Pacific League has already delayed its start until April 12.
CL officials have been steadfast in their desire to move forward with the season, even as opposition to the idea has arisen from many areas, including from the government and the players’ association.
“All those people, they need a lot of things,” Ramirez said referring to those displaced by the disaster. “They need electricity, transportation is hard and this country right now is not thinking about baseball and things like that.
“For me, my personal opinion, it’s kind of hard to play in this kind of situation. I just go with whatever the team says. If the team says we gotta get ready to play on the 29th, that’s what I’m going to do, get ready to play on the 29th. Of course, I’m always thinking about those people and their needs.”
One thing Ramirez plans to do is to send the region messages of support throughout the season, using his fan-friendly post-home run performances.
“About my performance for this year, everything came down to a point where I decided not to do any performance this year,” Ramirez said. “I had a performance I was going to do this year, an Okinawa performance.
“I came up with an idea to do something more positive. The performance I put together this year is going to be something like, ‘We are one, Ganbaro Nippon.’ That is probably what I’m going to do this year.
“I’m still working on how I’m going to do it, but ‘Ganbaro Nippon.’ The T-shirts I’m going to make, they’re going to have the same design. I think that’s more positive than anything.”