Jean Ramirez, a bullpen catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, died suddenly at 28 years old, the team announced this week. His cause of death is not yet known, though Rays officials said it was an “unexpected” tragedy. 

“We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to Jean’s family,” said Rays president of baseball operations Eric Neander in a statement on Tuesday. 

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

Rays Mourn Jean Ramirez

Rays players and members of the team’s front office took to Twitter on Tuesday to express their grief at the 28-year-old’s sudden death. 

Kevin Cash, the team’s manager, called Ramirez an “incredible teammate and friend.” 

“He brought so much passion and energy each day to our bullpen,” the manager said. “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 express our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the statement read. “Jean will be missed.”

Neander added that the Rays were “grateful for the times we shared with Jean.” 

“Man, this one hurts,” former Rays pitcher Blake Snell, who would have worked with Ramirez in the bullpen at Tropicana Field, wrote on Instagram

Chris Mazza, a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay nine, said the loss “still doesn’t feel real.”

“RIP brother,” he wrote. “It won’t be the same without you my friend.”

World Series champion and one-time Rays outfielder Johnny Damon also paid his respects to the fallen catcher. 

World Series champ and former Ray Johnny Damon mourned the sudden death of bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez.
World Series champ and former Ray Johnny Damon mourned the sudden death of bullpen catcher Jean Ramirez. His cause of death is not yet known. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Cause of Death Still Unknown

It’s still not clear how Ramirez — a young man and seemingly in good health — died so suddenly. None of the official statements from the Tampa Bay Rays organization indicate a cause of death, and Tampa area officials do not appear to have commented on the matter. 

Ramirez was born in Puerto Rico and attended Boswell High School in Fort Worth, Texas, according to reports. 

He was a member of the baseball teams at University of Arkansas, Grayson County College and Illinois State University, and graduated from the latter with a bachelor’s degree in science in 2016. 

After completing his education, Ramirez began his baseball career as a 28th round draft pick for the Tampa Bay club, where he would spend his entire professional athletic career. 

He spent a few years with the Rays’ farm system, playing at the rooke and low-A levels but never finding major success as a hitter. The Rays released him in 2018.

Still, Ramirez impressed the organization with his skills behind the plate as a catcher. When there was an opening in the team’s bullpen in 2019, he was asked to return to the club in what was technically an assistant coaching position. 

Ramirez was with the team in 2020 when it won the American League Championship Series and made its second-ever World Series appearance, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in game six. 

Jean Ramirez, who died suddenly at 28 this week, said being with the Rays for their 2020 World Series bid was the 'best moment' of his life.
Jean Ramirez, who died suddenly at 28 this week, said being with the Rays for their 2020 World Series bid was the ‘best moment’ of his life. No cause of death is known. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Due to Covid-19 restrictions in California in Florida at the time, the series was played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas — just down the road from his hometown of Fort Worth.

At the time, Ramirez said that traveling with the team to the World Series was the achievement of a lifetime. 

“It’s awesome. I don’t really know how many words I can put together to explain what this feeling is like,” he said

“Me being from around the area, people have been reaching out, saying how proud they are and how exciting of a moment this is, and I completely agree. This is the best moment of my life.”