Skyline baseball player beats cancer


Chris Ramirez currently doesn’t participate on the field for medical reasons, but enjoys playing outfield. (Robyn Graham)

Statistics said he wasn’t supposed to survive. Doctors said his type of cancer was uncommon for a 17-year-old. Many people lose motivation when diagnosed with cancer, but Chris Ramirez gained it so he could continue to pursue his career in baseball.

It all started with strong headaches behind his left eye during his senior year in high school. Then, when he had a seizure and went to the emergency room, doctors ran tests and soon found a glioblastoma tumor in the back part of his brain.

The cancer was inoperable due to its close proximity to the part of his brain that controls his heart beat and oxygen intake, so Ramirez underwent chemotherapy and radiation. He lost some of his hair from the radiation and felt tired from the chemo, but said otherwise the treatment did not hurt him.

“I was lucky because usually you die from it real fast,” Ramirez said. “I made it through the 12 months that it took to go through chemotherapy.”

Long-time teammate and friendly competitor of Ramirez, Robert “Bobby” Ruggiero, said he was shocked when he heard the news during their senior year at Capuchino high school but was also inspired by his optimistic attitude toward recovery.

“It seemed like from day one he knew he was going to beat cancer,” said Ruggiero. “I cannot recall one moment when he said he was going to die from the cancer. It was a drive I’ve never really seen before.”

Ramirez is a medical redshirt for Skyline’s baseball team under head coach Dino Nomicos, meaning he can’t play in games but can participate in practice without physically exerting himself.

Ramirez said that the year went by fast, but the chemo went by slow. Some of the fast parts included his trip to Glendale, Ariz. for spring training tryouts with the LA Dodgers, made possible by the Make-A-Wish foundation. He has been called back to hang out with the teammates since then, including most recently over spring break.

Ramirez hopes to play baseball professionally, but if that does not pan out, he says a job in sports medicine would be a good alternative. Right now, he is completing his general education requirements under the athletes scholar program.

Ramirez says he is 100 percent better since finishing his treatment in March and is looking forward to playing on the San Bruno Baseball League this summer and for Skyline’s baseball team this fall.

“[Cancer] set me back. I usually play every week, and now I have to worry about my life and getting everything back together; start over,” he said.

Coach Nomicos said he does not know if he will be physically ready by this fall, noting that it will be a slow process to get back to where he was after not playing for two years, but that he will “work with him day in and day out” to see how far he progresses.

Nomicos said he was amazed by Ramirez’s recovery and was happy to see him beat the odds like other athletes with life-threatening illnesses he’s seen get better.

“One thing with athletes is that they are very positive and goal oriented, and with Chris, I think that helped him take his mind off of cancer,” Nomicos said.