"I think that's every high school player's dream," said Ramirez, a standout centerfielder and a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree. "I knew I wanted to go to a Division I school."
After Ramirez performed well at the showcase in Jupiter, Fla., he received a handful of substantial offers. The University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia were just some of the schools that showed interest in Ramirez's talents.
Then Grambling State University, a college with an African-American student population well over 90 percent, presented Ramirez with an intriguing offer.
"The assistant coach [Olen Parker] from Grambling came over and talked to me," Ramirez said. "He began telling me about the Grambling program."
Vittilow didn't mince words the potential recruit.
"He said right away about the student population being mostly African-American," Ramirez said. "But he also said that the baseball team is half Hispanic and half black. I didn't care. It was a good Division I program showing interest in me."
After Parker first approached Ramirez in Florida, the persistent coach kept contacting him.
"He kept in touch with me and I liked that," Ramirez said.
Ramirez wasn't too concerned about standing out because of his skin color. He was encouraged by one of his teammates from his summer league team, Trevor Reckland of St. Benedict's Prep, who also was considering the school.
Grambling was recruiting Reckland as well. In the long run, Reckland decided to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Ramirez was getting sold on Grambling. Then he got good news.
"They gave me a full scholarship offer," said Ramirez, who batted .550 as a sophomore and .400 last year for the Bruins. "I visited the campus and I liked it a lot. The facilities are good and the program is on the rise. When I was down there, I got along with everyone well. I met a lot of people and felt comfortable right away."
The race issue never came up. Ramirez, who was born in the Dominican Republic but moved to North Bergen when he was just 4 years old, has never been affected by race.
"I really felt like it was the best place for me," Ramirez said. "My decision was based on being comfortable with the coaches and the fact that my parents won't have to spend a dime. It takes a lot of the pressure off them, because college is very expensive. Maybe I made this decision more for my parents than myself."
So last week, Ramirez signed a national letter of intent to attend Grambling in the fall, becoming the first North Bergen product to sign with a Division I baseball program in decades. The coaching staff already told him that he has a chance to start right away in centerfield as a freshman.
North Bergen Head Baseball Coach Pat Brady was pleased with Ramirez's decision.
"I'm excited for him," Brady said. "Not many kids from North Bergen get that kind of opportunity. Gabe has worked hard and has developed into an exceptional baseball player. He deserves everything that has come his way."
Ramirez said that he feels proud that he has the distinction of being the first Bruin to go to a Division I school in quite some time.
"I feel very proud about that," Ramirez said. "Now, I can look forward to this season without having to worry about coaches coming to watch me. I don't have to impress other schools. I can just play every game like it's my last and have fun. I'm going to leave it all on the field."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com