PITTSBURGH -- Aramis Ramirez has come a long way since he last played for the Pirates. He was 25 years old when the Bucs traded him to the Cubs -- just entering the prime of a career that lasted 18 seasons.
Twelve years later, Ramirez was traded back to Pittsburgh, where he'll play the final months of his career. And the veteran third baseman was quick to point out that the Pirates have also come a long way since Ramirez last called PNC Park home.
"It's no secret that we weren't very good back then. That's one of the reasons, probably, that I got traded," Ramirez said Sunday. "The culture is totally different now.
"They're winning now. They made the playoffs back-to-back [years]. That automatically changed everything."
Ramirez and Kenny Lofton were shipped out to the Cubs on July 22, 2003, in exchange for Matt Bruback, Jose Hernandez and Bobby Hill. It was a salary dump for a franchise that was halfway through a stretch of 20 consecutive losing seasons.
"I was 25. You never expect to be traded when you're that young," Ramirez said. "That's what I remember. I was surprised by that move."
The Pirates acquired Ramirez, now 37, from the Brewers on Thursday to help stabilize their injury-depleted infield. The move excited Ramirez, and not just because it's bringing his career full circle.
Ramirez plans to retire at the end of the season. He feels that he's accomplished enough. Ramirez made three All-Star teams, reached the playoffs three times with the Cubs, and he's hit 380 home runs with nearly 1,400 RBIs.
But Ramirez has never been to the World Series, and he thinks the Bucs -- currently second in the National League Central and atop the NL Wild Card standings -- might give him that chance.
"That's what I'm playing for. I think from a personal standpoint, I've done everything in this game," Ramirez said. "I never won a World Series. I've been in the playoffs three times, but I've never been in a World Series.
"It's tough to win, but now I have the opportunity to compete."
Kevin Young was the Pirates' first baseman when Ramirez broke into the big leagues. Now a special assistant in the Bucs' front office, Young said he sees some similarities between the 25-year-old kid who Pittsburgh traded and the 37-year-old who hit cleanup in his first two games back in the Steel City.
"He's hungry for RBIs. He loves to drive in runs," Young said. "That's been his passion. That's been his talent."
Ramirez is no longer the player he was when the Pirates traded him, but the Bucs still believe he will help them down the stretch. And both sides have come a long way since 2003, but now they're together again.
"This is where he started. This is where he belongs," Young said. "This is where it'd be a great way to finish [with a World Series title]."
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.