Getting back to home base
Keolu Ramos details his recovery from his debilitating baseball accident
By Aloha Lau
April 15, 2021
Dink. Whack. Thud.
A moment that would haunt Keolu Ramos, 22, for the rest of his baseball career.
“My life came flashing before my eyes,” Ramos said.
Ramos was up to bat against the No. 1-seeded Danville Dans when the first pitch of the game struck him directly in the side of the face at 92 mph. Ramos fell to the reddish dirt head-first in agonizing pain.
“I laid there, unconscious, not sure of what happened where I was or who I was,” Ramos said.
His mother, DeAnn Ramos, was enjoying her lunch with a close friend when she received notice of her son's freak accident.
“My phone kept ringing and I didn’t answer,” DeAnn Ramos said. “I thought it was a scam call as I didn’t recognize the phone number or area code. When I finally answered my phone and learned what happened, I felt sick.”
Luckily, Ramos did not break anything. Rather, he suffered the highest category concussion and a torn cheek ligament. His eye was swollen shut for several days after the incident.
“It suddenly made me realize that this was just a game, and that at any time my athletic gifts could be taken away,” Ramos said.
During his recovery, Ramos spent days locked in darkness. He hoped to play again, but knew that he would have to change his approach to the sport. Despite his injury, he is still determined to achieve his dream of becoming the next major league baseball star.
Others like Ramos are resilient and try to adapt and adjust in hopes of another opportunity. Some have difficulty regaining strength to continue playing. There are about 26,000 Hawai’i high school student athletes – few of whom take the opportunity to attend college and continue their sports career.
A close friend of Ramos—Mckenzie Milton, 22, of Mililani, Hawai’i— also endured an injury that severely damaged crucial nerves in his right leg in 2018. His injury was a result of playing in University of Central Florida’s (UCF) regular-season finale at University of San Francisco, California. His injury almost required amputation of his leg. He’s currently recovering.
On June 4, 2019, Keolu Ramos left San Mateo County Community College with hopes of furthering his baseball career. He was on his trek to Lafayette, Indiana to spend a whole three months playing baseball for an amateur-pro summer league, the Lafayette Aviators.
“It was a prospect league for all Division I players across the United States,” Ramos said. “Where the best of the best come to play over the summer to maintain peak performance for their respective colleges.”
Not only was this his first time playing for the Aviators, but it’s also his first time being in the Midwest. He had experienced San Francisco– the city life –but nothing prepared him for Indiana.
“I knew nothing about the area, no one on the team,” Ramos said. “The only thing I knew was how to play baseball.”
As the only West Coast kid from a Power Five conference, Ramos became anr asset to the team.
“In my first five games, I batted 21 for 25, which was the highest average ever in the conference,” Ramos said.
His success came with its perks, drawing a huge fan base for the franchise, but it was getting the attention of the eyes that mattered—professional baseball scouts.
“I never had played in this area before so it was the first time that hundreds of scouts were able to see me,” Ramos said.
As Ramos was wrapping up his summer league season, he was in great condition to work his hardest in the upcoming baseball season at Arizona State University. Although Ramos experienced a tough first season at Arizona redshirting, he still was hungry for the opportunity to showcase his ability.
"Last year he was kinda behind the scenes since he was a redshirt, he wasn’t able to practice with the team,” said Sam Stratovich, Arizona State’s stats and quality control manager. “He made a ton of improvement from last fall to this fall though.”
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well between Ramos and the coaching staff at ASU, which resulted in Ramos’s new transition to the University of Las Vegas in the hope of better playing time.
RJ Dabovich, 20, from Colorado, is a teammate of Ramos’s who mentioned he would miss his spirit on the team.
“I admire who [Ke]Olu is as a person,” Dabovich said. “He’s a great guy and a hard worker. I mean, over the past year and a half that he’s been my roommate, he has become one of my best friends.”
Dabovich also explained the difficulties he has faced being a student athlete and advised me on some tips students could take in order to stay focused.
“It’s definitely a hassle balancing, and a lot of It comes down to time management and making the right choice on what to do with that time,” he said. “You have to prioritize what’s important to you and stick to that or it just kind of snowballs into something you can’t handle.”
Keolu Ramos is making the changes he needs to advance—and it shows.
A lot of the time it’s difficult for young adults to know what they want and how they are going to achieve their goals.
After all, it’s a marathon not a race. Ramos is a prime example of a resilient individual who is willing to work for what he wants.