The Washington Times - November 9, 2012, 05:56PM

The words came across Twitter in the early afternoon on Friday, a rare tweet from Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos. It was written in Spanish, but even then, it wasn’t difficult to figure out what it said. Certain key words jumped out. Words like “secuestro.” Kidnapping. 

Friday was the one-year anniversary of the night that anyone who knows Ramos will not soon forget. It was the one-year anniversary of the night armed men kidnapped him at gunpoint from outside his home in Valencia, Venezuela and began a terrifying 51-hour stretch in which the Venezuelan authorities worked to get the Nationals catcher back while most simply hoped and prayed for his safe return.


“Today, Nov. 9, 2011, (the date) last year of my kidnapping,” Ramos said in Spanish. “Thank God I’m alive and healthy today. I am writing to thank you all for the great support and for all your prayers and heart. Thanks. God bless you all.”

The year was an extremely difficult one for Ramos. He was rescued in a firefight late in the evening on Nov. 11, and a joyous reunion with his family and friends followed. Ramos moved his family to a house he’d bought just weeks before the kidnapping in a more affluent area of the city and they were provided with a significant security detail.

Ramos arrived at spring training in February with a new tattoo on his left forearm, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me, 4:13, 11-11-11”  and a resolve that baseball would help him to move on. The Nationals’ ‘Catcher of the Future’ looked poised to build on his impressive rookie season. 

But a cleat that caught in the grass behind home plate at Great American Ball Park in mid-May became the latest sordid turn for Ramos. One instant, one freak incident, and the catcher’s season — his welcome distraction — was over.

One slip and the anterior cruciate ligament as well as the meniscus were both torn, requiring two separate surgeries this summer on his right knee. 

“It hasn’t been a very good year for him,” manager Davey Johnson said that night in Cincinnati. “I told him, ‘Man, if you didn’t have bad luck you’d have no luck at all.’”

So instead of being the main man behind the plate in the Nationals’ march to the division title, Ramos was reduced to merely a spectator. His appearances around the park during gametime were few at first, preferring to come in early in the day and get his therapy and rehab work done before most of his teammates arrived to prepare and play in a game he knew he couldn’t participate in.

But toward the end of the season he was around more. His smile more prevalent, his sprits higher.

And now, his rehab is progressing extremely well.

“Getting better and better,” Ramos said in a text message on Friday afternoon.

Ramos is already able to do a full body workout and he remains on target to be ready for the start of spring training. He’s staying in D.C. throughout his rehab process to be close to the Nationals’ doctors and physical therapists.

His family, who just returned to Venezuela after visiting with him, is doing well. Their minds far more at rest now than they were a year ago.

“I’m planning on him being ready the first day of spring training,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said this week. “We think he’s going to be 100 percent ready to go, but we’re going to be obviously take it easy on him in the beginning and ease him into it.

“The doctors say with his rehab schedule and where he’s at, he should be ready to go for spring training.”

The Nationals are fortunate, though, in that they do not have to rush Ramos back into action. The trade for Kurt Suzuki in early August gave them two strong starting catching candidates and it’s likely that the Nationals treat them both as such. 

Ramos’ thoughts now are focused on that idea. On the prospect of playing again. The prospect of feeling like he has two fully healthy knees again.

It’s been a rough year. But with the anniversary of that dark day comes light. Spring training is just three months away.