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Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez dies at age 28

The native of Puerto Rico played three years in Tampa Bay’s minor-league system before joining the big-league staff.
Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez, center, talks with pitchers Brendan McKay, left, and Tyler Glasnow, right, during spring training. Ramirez died Monday at age 28.
Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez, center, talks with pitchers Brendan McKay, left, and Tyler Glasnow, right, during spring training. Ramirez died Monday at age 28. [ WILL VRAGOVIC | Tampa Bay Rays ]
Published Jan. 11|Updated Jan. 12

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez died unexpectedly Monday at age 28, the team announced.

Baseball operations president Erik Neander said in a statement posted on the team’s Twitter account late Tuesday afternoon that it was an “unexpected and difficult loss.” The Rays provided no other details.

Jean Ramirez, right, talks with pitcher Blake Snell during practice in July 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Jean Ramirez, right, talks with pitcher Blake Snell during practice in July 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MIKE CARLSON | Associated Press ]

Ramirez, a native of Puerto Rico, died in Fort Worth, Texas, where he attended high school and still lived.

Fort Worth police said they “worked a call” Monday afternoon but could release no further information, as the case was still open. The medical examiner’s office will release the cause of death when available, police said.

Ramirez played three years in the Rays’ minor-league system after being a 28th-round draft pick from Illinois State in 2016. He previously played at the University of Arkansas and Grayson County College. Ramirez was released by the Rays after the 2018 season, then made the somewhat unusual move of joining the major-league staff in 2019, serving as one of their two bullpen catchers for the last three seasons.

“Jean was an incredible teammate and friend,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said in a statement shared in the same post. “He brought so much passion and energy each day to our clubhouse and bullpen, and his love for the Rays and baseball was evident to all who interacted with him. He had the biggest heart and most infectious smile. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. Jean will be deeply missed.”

Jean Ramirez played three years in the Rays’ minor-league system after being a 28th-round draft pick from Illinois State in 2016.
Jean Ramirez played three years in the Rays’ minor-league system after being a 28th-round draft pick from Illinois State in 2016. [ MARY DECICCO | Associated Press ]

“He was a caring teammate and friend,” Neander said. “He exuded so much joy in all he did, and his kind heart was truly a gift to all. As we process this unexpected and difficult loss, we are grateful for the times we shared with Jean.”

Rays reliever Colin Poche, a former college teammate, shared his feelings on Twitter.

“RIP to Jean and prayers with his family,” Poche wrote. “From being teammates at Arkansas and again with the Rays, I can’t say enough good words about Jean and the kindness he showed to other people. He was such a great friend and his presence will truly be missed #RIP.”

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Several other current and former Rays pitchers posted on Instagram, among them:

Shane McClanahan: “Just awful. Jean was an incredible person/friend. We are all going to miss him deeply.”

Ryan Yarbrough: “Can’t believe your gone. You will truly be missed. Love you man!! RIP”

Ryan Thompson: “Devastating. ... Our loss is heavens gain. Love you Jean-O.”

Josh Fleming: “This one hurts. Gonna miss our daily shoe talks. Love you Geno.”

Pete Fairbanks: “Rest easy my friend.”

Diego Castillo, now with Seattle: “R.I.P. my broth”

Ryne Stanek, now with Houston: “Can’t believe the news gonna miss you brother”

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