ST. PETERSBURG — Ramon Ramos still has the black catcher’s mitt outlined in day-glow orange that he used to catch son Cesar all those evenings on the front lawn.
Ramon, after a full day of work, finding the energy to squat, set a target and let his only son fire away while dreaming of doing that one day on a big-league mound.
Cesar can’t wait until it’s his turn behind the imaginary plate.
That day is rapidly approaching since his wife, Melanie, is due with their first child on June 26.
“I guess I’m ready for the sleepless nights and all the love you give,” Ramos said. “I’m looking forward to a little me.”
Today’s is Father’s Day, a time to celebrate our dads, thank them for their sacrifices, maybe catch a ballgame, toss around a baseball. Buy them an ice cream cone and splurge for sprinkles.
For three members of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen — Ramos, Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger — it’s also time to look ahead.
Morgan McGee is due July 17 with the couple’s first child, a girl they will name Rowen.
Same for Anna Boxberger, who is due Sept. 23 with a daughter they will name Ava Marie.
“It’s always something that I wanted to be, a father, and me and my wife have wanted for a little while now,” Boxberger said. “To actually be able to start our family and take the next step, everything off the field is going to be pretty exciting.”
The topic comes up on occasion during the early innings of a Rays game while the three sit in the bullpen waiting for the phone to ring. What will it be like to be a dad?
“You can’t possibly know until you become one,” Sean Rodriguez said.
Giselle Rodriguez gave birth to the couple’s fourth child — Zekiel Cruz — during the first week of the season. Rodriguez celebrated with a four-RBI game that included a three-run homer.
You want advice on becoming a first-time dad? Rodriguez is the go-to guy in the Rays clubhouse. He’ll tell you about the 2 a.m. feedings and how to change a diaper and how it’s impossible not to get weak in the knees when your little girl yells, “Daddy,” when you walk through the door.
“You want to know the best thing about being a father? The best thing about being a father is the genuine love you get from your kids,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of day you had or they had, at the end of the day there is that attachment that God allowed us to create. I’m Dad, I’m going to be there every day for them. That genuine love, you can’t buy that, you can’t fake that. It’s perfect.”
Cesar and Melanie won’t know the sex of their child until he/she arrives. They have plenty of girl names but none if the baby is a boy.
“This is something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life,” Ramos said. “It’s finally getting to the point in life where I guess I can say I’m ready. I don’t think anyone is really ready until the baby is here. But I’m at a stable point in life where I feel like I’m responsible enough and at the right age to be a father figure to someone.”
This came as a surprise to the couple since Melanie, who won the fight against Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year, was told by her doctor a baby was a possibility but wouldn’t happen until at least a year after she finished treatment. Last October, on the year anniversary of the day she learned she had Hodgkin’s, a home pregnancy test said Melanie was pregnant.
“It just worked out,” Ramos said. “Everything’s been good. Just happy the way things have unfolded so far for us. We’re going to start a family together. We’re super excited. We want it to be here.”
Boy or girl, Baby Ramos will count a baseball among her/his first toys. That’s a given when your dad pitches for a big-league team and your mom played third base for the Long Beach State softball team for four years.
Ramos said he’s looking forward to playing catch with his son.
“And if the baby is a girl,” he said, “I’ll play ball with her, too.”