CARLOS RAMIREZ received the news via social media and, at first, his reaction, understandably, was somewhat low-key.
Though Ramirez was aware of Edwin "Tito" Rohena, the former Frankford High baseball star who lost his life Friday night after crashing his motorcycle on Roosevelt Boulevard, he was not a friend or former teammate and it was tough to completely identify.
Then came the rest of the weekend, and the early part of Monday, and the 6-foot, 145-pound Ramirez, a senior righthander who plays third base or the outfield when not on the mound, found himself feeling levels of agony to approach all others'.
"I found out by an Instagram picture posted by Ricky Alvarez, my teammate from last year," Ramirez said. "It showed Tito hugging a teammate, in celebration, and it had RIP. I was looking hard at the picture and it was, 'Ah, that's the guy I've seen at our games.'
"Later I found out about how he died. It makes you so sad, especially when you see how everyone who knew him is responding. They really loved the guy. If it's someone you really know, or a guy who was your teammate, that makes it extra rough."
Monday, the schedule called for coach Juan Namnun and his Pioneers to forge ahead and play a Public League semifinal vs. Prep Charter at Ashburn Field, in South Philly's FDR Park.
Aside from sunglasses, which concealed his occasional bouts with tears, Namnun wore Rohena's old No. 19 jersey (home version) and hung a dark blue No. 19 in the third-base dugout.
After Frankford claimed a 3-2 victory, in which Ramirez pitched a five-hitter and forced the Huskies to strand two guys apiece in the sixth and seventh innings, Namnun gathered his team near third base and spoke from the heart while cradling Rohena's jersey against his chest.
Looking ahead to Thursday's final - Frankford will meet the Game 2 winner, Franklin Towne Charter, at Ashburn at 3:15 - Namnun told his players, "I want you to win it for you . . . I want to win it for Tito."
As an outfielder, Rohena earned first-team Daily News All-City honors in 2008 and '09 and was respected as much for his demeanor and leadership skills as for his talent. Namnun still tells current Pioneers he wants them "to be like Tito" and he was thrilled Xavier Sanchez-Brown, a promising freshman, had been attending workout sessions headed by Rohena.
Wednesday night, 6 o'clock at the Juniata Park Boys & Girls Club, Namnun is expecting a large group to attend an event meant to celebrate Rohena's life and raise funds for proper funeral services. There will be food and beverages.
Ramirez is happy the Pioneers will head there off a victory.
"This was gonna happen. It had to," he said. "There wasn't going to be that other result. You see we're all wearing back wristbands. We had to honor Tito."
Uncommonly, this has been quite the mix-and-match season for Frankford in terms of pitching. Ramirez, off an effective start vs. Olney in a Class AAAA semifinal, was pumped to get the call for this one.
Please, just don't assume pumped meant he opted for nothing but fireballs. Truth is, he's quite the mix-it-upper and his No. 1 hardly trails sparks.
"I wanted to put my pitches in all parts of the zone," he said. "And I wanted to get them with my breaking stuff. Really make their knees buckle."
Ramirez posted just three strikeouts, but mostly received great support from his infielders, especially shortstop Kidanny Cumba. In effortless fashion, Cumba logged five assists and started a doubleplay to end the game.
That inning could have been messy after sub centerfielder Kyon Anderson led off with a double to right-center and Justin Bocelli's popped-up bunt was misplayed. After having to remain at second on that play, Anderson was barely tagged out by a lunging Chafil Alvarez while trying to get to third on a fielder's choice. Peter Piccoli then scorched a grounder into the twin killing.
Frankford scored in the visiting first against Frank Suppa (five innings; Michael Lyons pitched two) as Cumba singled, moved up on Tim DiGiorgio's sac, and came around on Kevin Montero's single up the middle. It added unearned runs in the third and fourth, though Eduardo "Cheese" Sanchez and Chagito Almodovar did provide important hits.
PC managed a two-spot in the second. Christian Coppola singled, Anderson (then a courtesy runner) stole second and Steven Miraglia scalded an RBI single to center. A throw trying to prevent Miraglia from advancing to second sailed into center and he came all the way around.
Ramirez, who lives on Orleans Street, east of Frankford Avenue, has not yet picked a college. He would like to major in criminal justice.
First, he wants a W come Thursday. More than he could have imagined.