Jerry Reinsdorf replaces Alexei Ramirez’s lost Olympic gold medal
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org June 8, 2012 5:36PM
Chicago White Sox's Alexei Ramirez tosses his bat after striking out during the second inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners in Chicago, Saturday, June 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: July 10, 2012 6:08AM
Being part of the Cuban baseball team that won Olympic gold in 2004 in Athens was a dream come true for Alexei Ramirez.
Losing the medal in 2007 was his tormenting nightmare.
The medal was lost when the White Sox shortstop’s wife was traveling to Chicago from the Dominican Republic, where they first settled after defecting from Cuba.
‘‘He really was devastated over this,’’ Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.
But on Friday, Reinsdorf and the Sox surprised Ramirez with a duplicate medal presentation, the result of three months of work to obtain one from the International Olympic Committee.
It was all the more special for a tearful Ramirez because his mentor and close friend, former Sox pitcher Jose Contreras, was the one handing it to him.
‘‘I wasn’t expecting this,’’ Ramirez said, adding that he was doubly surprised seeing Contreras. ‘‘I spoke to him this morning and he said he was in Los Angeles. So when I saw him with the medal, it left me speechless.’’
Since spring, Sox community relations director Lou Hernandez had led the effort to get the replacement medal. Reinsdorf paid all the costs.
Contreras, now with the Philadelphia Phillies, was to come next Monday on a Phillies day off for the surprise presentation until he suffered an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery next week.
Ramirez’s teammates, manager Robin Ventura, Reinsdorf and media surrounded him on the field hours before the Sox’ game against the Houston Astros as Contreras handed him the box containing the medal.
‘‘I got choked up because I felt I was in Athens getting that medal again,’’ said Ramirez, who later gave Reinsdorf a box of Cuban cigars as a thank you.