There are some mysteries that are better left unsolved.
Last month, Cesár Ramos had a typical call with Phillies farm director Preston Mattingly about an atypical topic. Mattingly’s chat with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley pitching coach wasn’t to check in on a member of the IronPigs’ pitching staff, but gauge
There are some mysteries that are better left unsolved.
Last month, Cesár Ramos had a typical call with Phillies farm director Preston Mattingly about an atypical topic. Mattingly’s chat with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley pitching coach wasn’t to check in on a member of the IronPigs’ pitching staff, but gauge Ramos’ interest in potentially joining the Futures Game coaching staff. The 38-year-old coach was eager to accept the offer and did not look for further explanation.
“I was surprised and didn't ask questions,” Ramos said with a laugh. “I accepted the offer before they changed their minds.”
Ramos will be one of two current Minor League coaches to join the staff for Saturday’s prospect showcase at Dodger Stadium. He’ll work as the bullpen coach while Matt Tuiasosopo, who is presently the Triple-A Gwinnett manager, will coach third base for the National League team.
Tuiasosopo’s invitation was pretty similar to the call Ramos received.
While the Stripers were setting up for batting practice in Nashville last month, Tuiasosopo got a call from Del Matthews, who currently works as MLB’s vice president of baseball development. Tuiasosopo assumed his old friend, who worked in player development for the White Sox while he played in the organization, was just calling to catch up. But the invitation to the Futures Game soon followed.
“I was shocked and very excited. It was definitely an honor to be included in the event, and I was really excited to be a part of it,” Tuiasosopo said.
Both coaches began their professional careers more than 17 years ago and stuck it out in their playing days for more than a decade. But neither had previous experience with the Futures Game, an All-Star break tradition that began in 1999.
Ramos has the closest ties to the rest of the National League coaching staff, which features Mike Scioscia as its manager. A former left-handed reliever, Ramos appeared in a career-high 65 games for Scioscia’s Angels in 2015. Alfredo Griffin, who will serve as Scioscia’s bench coach in the Futures Game, was the first base coach for the Angels in 2015.
“Whatever the reasons are, I'm just lucky to be one of the members,” Ramos said. “It's going to be pretty fun to reunite with those guys and also be there for the young guys.”
It won’t exactly be old home week for Tuiasosopo, who played with six different organizations but spent the bulk of his playing career with Seattle. The 36-year-old only had adversarial connections to the rest of the coaching staff. He faced Dan Haren, the Futures Game pitching coach, when Haren pitched for Scioscia and Griffin with the Angels. Tuiasosopo also recalls run-ins with Eric Davis, who will coach first for the N.L. squad, when he’d play or coach against a Reds affiliate.
There is a southern California connection for both Ramos and Tuiasosopo. Ramos was born and raised in Los Angeles and went to high school about 30 minutes from Dodger Stadium. He grew up going to games at Chavez Ravine with his father and got to pitch in seven games there throughout his career.
“I was actually going to be in L.A. to take my son to the All-Star Game,” Ramos said. “That was going to be a pretty cool opportunity, but now it's pretty cool for my boys and the rest of my family to see me in action before the All-Star Game.”
Tuiasosopo never got to play at Dodger Stadium, but the Bellevue, Washington, native played in eight seasons with his hometown organization. A good portion of his family, including his parents, hail from southern California and Tuiasosopo expects a strong contingent at the game.
“My dad grew up a Dodgers fan,” Tuiasosopo said. “He was telling me how he has memories of his dad taking him to Dodgers Stadium there. So, he was excited to hear that I'd be there for the game.”
There are currently two Phillies and one Braves prospect expected to play for the National League in the Futures Game, none of whom have yet reached Triple-A. Braves No. 7 prospect Jared Shuster will be joined by Phillies No. 3 prospect Logan O’Hoppe and 10th-ranked Erik Miller.
While Tuiasosopo gets the on-field job, it’s also a double-edged sword. He’s probably not going to have to call for any bunts. And he’ll get to be the guy in the cool pictures, high-fiving players as they make their final turn on a home run trot. But he’s also within melting distance of the hot corner when right-handed sluggers like Francisco Álvarez and Jordan Walker step into the box.
In the bullpen, Ramos will work closely with both Phillies representatives, whom he had gotten to know well in the past. Ramos worked with the backstop O’Hoppe in Spring Training and saw video of him in the Arizona Fall League. The former Major Leaguer also served as the rehab pitching coach for the Phillies as Miller worked his way back from a rotator cuff strain last year.
While the players take center stage, the experience and spectacle of the Futures Game can be unique and exciting for the coaches. Tuiasosopo hopes to arrive with what he calls “open ears.”
“I just want to listen to conversations that are happening in the clubhouse and the dugout. Really, just have my ears open to learn anything I can from [Scioscia] and any of the other guys on the staff in game -- off the field or in the clubhouse or in the meeting rooms,” Tuiasosopo said. “The whole point is just to have fun … [and] take in everything and just have a blast with coaches and players.”
Ramos hopes to be a calming presence for many who have not had this type of spotlight before. Many on the roster have not pitched or played in a Major League ballpark. Many others are starters who have never entered a game as a reliever. Ramos has taken on the responsibility of making sure players are ready for the moment. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had as well.
“It’s such a cool event,” Ramos said. “And being a part of All-Star weekend, being at Dodger Stadium as a coach -- grew up going there as a kid … as a player being able to pitch in Dodger Stadium and now being able to coach and see my family -- which is all still in L.A. -- just see me do my job and work the bullpen is something I'm looking forward to.”
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.