Thu, Feb 25th 2010, 10:20
Sitting at his locker, Hanley Ramirez sorts through photos on his cell phone, finds the one he wants and holds it up with pride.
The picture shows the ranch he’s building in the Dominican Republic.
“It has everything — chickens, goats, cows,” Ramirez said. There will also be a pool, gazebos and five bedrooms.
The NL batting champion owns a cowboy hat, but no cowboy boots. He designed the ranch as a vacation home, but spent little time there this winter because he was in Santo Domingo working out five days a week.
“Like I told my teammates,” he said, “it’s not easy to be one of the best playing the game. It’s a commitment, like to get married. You’ve got to focus.”
A year ago, Ramirez arrived at the Florida Marlins’ camp 25 pounds heavier, most of it muscle thanks to a rigorous offseason regimen. Then he hit .342 with 106 RBIs, both career highs, and won his first batting title.
This winter he concentrated on honing his lower body, and he reported for spring training Tuesday eager to make the playoffs for the first time.
“I feel better right now,” Ramirez said. “I’ve got more energy.”
That’s a scary prospect for NL pitchers. In his first four major league seasons, Ramirez has 771 hits, 470 runs, 103 homers and 164 stolen bases. Only three shortstops reached 100 homers faster. He’s a career .316 hitter with a .531 slugging percentage.
“Unbelievable,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Well, not unbelievable, because we know how talented he is. Now the only thing he has to do is sustain it, and in 10 years we’ll be talking about him like Albert Pujols and those guys.”
Ramirez was runner-up to Pujols for NL MVP last season, and he has made the All-Star team as a starter the past two years. Despite the Marlins’ aversion to long-term contracts, he landed a $70 million, six-year contract that began last season.
He’s sharing the wealth. When he earned a $10,000 season-ending bonus for the Marlins’ second-place finish in the NL East, he gave it to teammate and fellow Dominican Leo Nunez.