BOSTON — Hanley Ramirez is back where he belongs.
Ramirez, who began his career with the Red Sox, officially returned to Boston on Tuesday after agreeing to a four-year contract that includes a vesting option for a fifth season. It’s a reunion that’s been nine years in the making.
“This is home for me,” Ramirez said Tuesday during an (re)introductory press conference at Fenway Park. “When my agent told me that he was talking to the Red Sox, I said, ‘Oh yeah.’ … I said, ‘Yeah, let’s see and let’s make it happen.’ ”
Ramirez originally signed with the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 2000. He quickly developed into one of the organization’s top prospects, but the Sox sent the talented infielder to the Florida Marlins on Nov. 25, 2005, as part of a deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.
The move worked out well for everyone involved. The Red Sox have since won two World Series titles (2007, 2013), while Ramirez has evolved into one of Major League Baseball’s most dynamic players, first with the Marlins and then with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This offseason presented an opportunity for Ramirez to return to where it all started, though, and the 30-year-old’s agent actually reached out to the Red Sox — rather than the other way around — to express interest in a potential reunion.
“After I got traded, I always talked with my family about that it would have been great to grow up in the same organization that signed you,” Ramirez said. “Coming to the United States from the Dominican from the first time, it’s where you learn to speak English and pretty much to get to know the United States.
“This is baseball. Anything can happen. They say, just go out there until you can’t and anything can happen. (Monday) was the ninth anniversary of the day I got traded (to Florida), and I wanted to post something so bad, but I couldn’t do it. I’m really happy to be back in Boston, and hopefully I can finish my career here.”
Ramirez has played primarily shortstop throughout his 10-year career. He also has some third base experience. The Red Sox plan to use Ramirez in left field, though, as the veteran expressed a willingness at the beginning of free agency to change positions, in turn paving the way for Boston to sign both him and third baseman Pablo Sandoval to long-term contracts.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to look in the mirror and say to yourself, ‘What can I do to help any team to win?’ ” Ramirez said. “I spoke with my people, and they told me, ‘You can play anywhere. God gave you that talent that you can play anywhere.’ At the beginning, I was like, ‘OK.’ But after they left, I sat down and thought about it. I just want to win.”
Ramirez was only 21 when the Red Sox shipped him to the Marlins. There were questions about his character, leading many to believe he might never develop into a true leader. The three-time All-Star said Tuesday that being traded to the Dodgers at the 2012 MLB non-waiver trade deadline served as a wake-up call. He’s now focused on grooming younger players in addition to striving toward his first World Series title.
“There’s a time for growing up,” Ramirez said. “When you’re a father and you have kids and you see kids running around and you do everything to make them happy. You can do that outside of your house. I’m just going to try to put a smile on the faces of kids and fans and everybody. After I was traded to the Dodgers, I realized that it’s about winning every day. You just go out and you turn it on 100 percent. It’s what you’re here for, it’s what you work for. Just win and win and win, and nothing else.”
Ramirez will turn 31 next month. He’s had a few injury plagued seasons, and there definitely are defensive concerns, especially with him adapting to a new position. The Red Sox couldn’t pass up a chance to add a player with his offensive upside, however, and Ramirez couldn’t pass up a chance to finally return home after nearly a decade.
“After my second or third year in Miami, people were telling me, ‘You’re going back to Boston. You’re going back to Boston,’ ” Ramirez said when asked if he ever envisioned returning to his first organization. “And I was just laughing. And then when I got to free agency this year and I heard that the Red Sox want you, I was really happy for me and my family.
“Why not go back where you belong to?”
Thumbnail photo via Stephan Savoia/USA TODAY Sports Images