By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Goodbye is never easy to hear from friends and family. In the case of new Padres shortstop Alexei Ramirez, hearing in early November that he wasn’t wanted back on the White Sox after eight years in the uniform was really painful.
“I was at home when they said, ‘Thanks, but we are not picking up my option,'” Ramirez said through a translator. “It really hurt, because I had spent so much time in Chicago. I formed a family feeling there. At the same time, that is baseball. I am in San Diego now and grateful for that opportunity. I am ready for the new challenge.”
The White Sox made Ramirez feel right at home when he showed up at Camelback Ranch on Sunday for a game that Chicago would go on to win 8-1.
“It was really great every time I went up to the plate, they were yelling nice things to me,” Ramirez said of his former teammates and fans in the stands. “It was pretty emotional. I have to say thanks to the Chicago White Sox for that.”
The 34-year-old Ramirez signed a one-year $4-million contract with the Padres after the White Sox declined the one-year option for $10 million that included a $1 million buyout. Ramirez was an All-Star in 2014. His 2015 season didn’t go as smoothly, as he hit .249 with 10 homers and 62 RBIs in 154 games.
“It was really emotional leaving after eight years,” Ramirez said. “Eight years of being the first to show up and work hard every day. Going out and seeing my ex-teammates and Robin Ventura was hard. It was emotional.”
Ramirez asked the Padres to play him against the White Sox on Sunday. It was a measure of closure.
“I asked them to play against Chicago and help get over this,” he said. “They gave me a chance to do that.”
Ramirez had trouble picking out just a few highlights from his eight-year stint in Chicago, as he has many, many fond memories.
“My first day ever in the big leagues in Cleveland is one,” Ramirez said. “There are too many important things. If I picked out one, it wouldn’t do justice to the other great things that happened. I want to say thanks to Mr. (Jerry) Reinsdorf and all of the White Sox family. In the end, I am just extremely thankful for all of it.”
Ramirez was initially signed by the White Sox out of a workout camp for big league teams in 2006. He agreed to a four-year, $4-million contract after leaving Cuba and migrating to Haiti for a short stay. In eight seasons, he hit .273 with 109 home runs and 587 RBIs. Ramirez quietly stole 135 bases in his eight years in Chicago and had two Silver Slugger awards.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.