- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Radiation treatments have made it impossible for Rob Ramsay to grow hair on the front of his scalp, so there’s no hiding the ear-to-ear, zipper-like scar across the top of his head.

People stare, but Ramsay doesn’t mind. His survival from brain surgery is a remarkable story, and the scar proves just how fortunate he is to be able to tell the tale.

“The scar is a blessing. A miracle,” said his wife, Samantha.

Two years after having a cancerous baseball-sized tumor removed from the front of his brain, Ramsay is trying to revive his major league career. His comeback began last season, when he pitched for the San Diego Padres in an exhibition game before being sent to the team’s Class A affiliate.

Now he’s at spring training with the Baltimore Orioles, who last month signed the left-hander to a minor league contract.

Several of Ramsay’s new teammates can’t help but do a double-take when they see him walk through the clubhouse.

“They look at me a little funny and kind of wonder, ‘What happened to that guy?’ It certainly isn’t the type of scar you see every day,” he said. “But it’s a good platform for me to try to get the word out about brain cancer awareness.”

Ramsay, 30, last pitched in the majors for the Seattle Mariners in 2000, when he threw 1⅔ innings of scoreless relief against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

He pitched in Class AAA ball in 2001 before experiencing severe headaches and nausea that fall. After finally heeding Samantha’s advice to see a doctor, Ramsay was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a form of brain cancer.

“At the time I was just like, ‘Let’s get this thing out of there and I’ll be on my way,’” he recalled. “But it was a lot more serious than I thought.”

Samantha, who remembers the night Ramsay was diagnosed as the worst she ever experienced, was ultimately won over by her husband’s determination to survive. The couple has been inseparable since then; Samantha is with Rob in Florida while he works to make the Orioles. She will remain by his side, no matter where his quest to play baseball takes them.

“It’s an adventure, watching the person you love doing what he loves,” she said.

Ramsay underwent brain surgery on Jan.23, 2002, and sat out the 2002 season. But he had no intention of giving up on baseball, and one year after the operation signed a minor league contract with the Padres. The decision stunned his wife, who probably would have preferred to see him take an office job.

“We had just had a crazy year, and I thought, ‘This is kind of strange,’” Samantha said. “But he never once told me that he was done with baseball, so I resigned from my job and went with him.”

Ramsay was undergoing chemotherapy treatments when he tried out for the Padres. He didn’t make the club, although he fashioned an indelible memory for himself during the exhibition season by blanking the San Francisco Giants for an inning in his return to the mound.

He still takes oral chemotherapy to prevent a recurrence, yet Ramsay is convinced that the battle is all but over. He said doctors have been positive about his prognosis and emphasized that his conditioning as an athlete, his age and his religious faith were factors in his favor.

“The scans now for over a year have been clean, so barring a recurrence, I’m clear,” he said.

Ramsay said he feels well, physically and mentally.

“I’m just going at this like everyone else,” Ramsay said.

Not exactly. His doctors and the Orioles’ physicians are monitoring his health, and his limited participation thus far hasn’t helped him improve his long odds of making the team.

“I feel like I’m being held back at times. But it’s something I just have to deal with,” he said. “How many guys in this clubhouse have had the same thing I’ve had? I feel as though I’m just like everybody else, but realistically I’m not.”

The scar is evidence of that.

“Rob has never been the type of person to put up a front, so he’s not going to cover up the scar,” Samantha said. “He lets me rub it. I love it. It’s not something that he’s ever going to hide, and I don’t want him to. It’s cool.”

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