Loria surprises Hanley with special gift

Loria surprises Hanley with special gift

JUPITER, Fla. -- Draped around Hanley Ramirez's neck as he left the ballpark on Saturday was a memento the Marlins shortstop will carry with him for a lifetime.

About 20 minutes before the Marlins faced the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium, team owner Jeffrey Loria presented Ramirez with a special gift for winning the 2009 National League batting title.

Loria handed Ramirez a diamond-studded chain with ".342" inscribed on it. The necklace also reads: "Hanley Ramirez 2009 N.L. Batting Champion."

On the back is the wording: "Congratulations -- Jeffrey Loria."

"It was a special accomplishment," Loria said. "I just feel inspired from time to time to do things that players deserve, and players appreciate. Hanley did something magnificent last year. I thought about it at the end of the year, and I wanted to do something for him. We don't wear jewelry on the field, but I know Hanley wears it off the field."

Ramirez proudly walked out of the park with his new piece of jewelry.

"It means a lot. It's something I never expected from him," Ramirez said. "I'm going to keep it forever. I'm really honored.

"It meant a lot to him. From the first day, he showed me that love. Everybody loves him. We have a lot of respect for him. I think my whole family is going to be excited."

Ramirez set a franchise record with his .342 average.

There are 394 diamonds, including a special teal diamond that represents the decimal point before the .342 batting average.

The Marlins are making the chain part of their Opening Night home promotion. On April 9, when the Marlins open against the Dodgers at Sun Life Stadium, the first 5,000 fans will receive a replica of the necklace.

About a week ago, Ramirez caught wind that something may be going on. Loria, who has been working on the gift for three months, played along.

"[Ramirez] came to me last week, and he said, 'Are you doing something for me?' Loria recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, what's your shirt size?'

"I put it in a box the size of a shirt. I said, 'You realize there is no shirt in here.' He was very surprised. I like doing nice things for good people, and we have a lot of good people around here."

On the picnic tables behind the clubhouse, Loria surprised Ramirez with the present.

One of the most talented players in the game, Ramirez finished second to Albert Pujols in the NL MVP voting a year ago.

Early in his career, Ramirez batted leadoff and was a table setter. Now, he is hitting third, and he's become a feared run producer.

"What I really enjoy now is listening to the ball off the bat," Loria said of watching Ramirez hit. "It sounds differently. It moves more quickly. And it gets there in a hurry. He really punishes a baseball.

"He's got this amazing talent. There is really no telling what the limits are for Hanley. The sky is the limit, and he will determine his own future, obviously. But he's a great kid."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.