- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - The pressure of performing between the white lines is nothing compared to the real life battles Ariel Ramos endured in the military while fighting to survive outside the wire of his base camp.

After serving an eight-month tour of duty as a Marine in Afghanistan, even the roughest of outings on the mound by Daniel Webster College’s senior pitcher from Lowell should be viewed as an enjoyable day at the ballpark.

Ramos, 25, was stationed in Afghanistan from March to October in 2011. He was a gunner on an all-terrain vehicle assigned to guard convoys that were the target of attacks.

Typically, Ramos was in the last vehicle of a convoy, providing security for the commander and fuel trucks. During one mission a truck exploded in front of his vehicle. He saw his share of combat and sustained a pair of very bad concussions.

Ramos, who played his high school ball at Greater Lowell Tech, was stripped of his innocence at far too young an age while serving his country on the front lines in a nation located far from home. But he never lost his love for our national pastime.

After three-and-a-half years of full-time service in the Marines and a stint in the reserves, Ramos made the transition from combat veteran to Division 3 college baseball newcomer in the spring of 2013.

He was 4-1 with a 4.57 ERA in 10 appearances (9 starts) last season. This spring, Ramos, a 6-foot, 210-pound right-hander, is 0-3 in seven appearances (2 starts).

“To make it home safe and get this chance to play at Daniel Webster is unbelievable,” said Ramos. “I didn’t have playing baseball on my mind when I got home. I had other things and family issues I was attending to. Baseball just came out of nowhere.

“After what I went through in Afghanistan, maybe it was my destiny to play again. I can tell you I cherish every single moment I’m on the field. I look forward to every game, every practice and every bus ride. I love being around my teammates, even if some of them are seven years younger than me and look at me like a grandfather. This experience is something I’ll never forget.”

His baseball experience helps Ramos smile through the pain of all that he experienced in Afghanistan.

“The baseball field has become my sanctuary,” said Ramos. “To me there’s nothing better than being on the mound pitching.

“Once I’m handed the ball, I never want to give it up until the game is over. It will always bother me to get lifted for another pitcher because I’m a competitor, but after Afghanistan I know this is just a game.”

Ramos graduated from Greater Lowell Tech in 2006. He worked construction for a year before enrolling at Northern Essex Community College. He pitched on the Northern Essex baseball team in 2008 and threw a no-hitter. Ramos also spent time on Bunker Hill Community College’s baseball team before being deployed.

After Bunker Hill his ties to baseball consisted of pickup softball games on base in Afghanistan and playing catch at Devens upon his return to the U.S.

It was during his time at Devens that Ramos got in touch with a former coach about possibly helping out with the Chelmsford Merchants. One thing led to another and he ended up pitching for the Merchants in the summer of 2012.

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