"I was really nervous," he said, "because I'm replacing a person who is a superstar and has spent all of his life in baseball. For me, it was an honor. I took off my hat as a sign of respect."
He was still nervous, he said, when he stepped to the plate an inning later. His single to left field helped fuel the American League's go-ahead two-run rally.
"I was also a little nervous about my back," Ramirez said. "I wanted to see how it felt. I made sure to stretch well, make sure it felt good by time I went up to the plate."
Ramirez came around to score on a Jose Altuve sacrifice fly.
Ramirez wasn't the only one feeling jittery. For rookie first baseman and fellow Cuban Jose Abreu, the nerves began before the game. He told Comcast Sports Net Chicago that he teared up during the national anthem, joking that he'll sing it someday when he learns English.
"He was nothing but smiles all the time," teammate Chris Sale said. "This is probably the first of probably a whole bunch of All-Star Games [for Abreu]."
Abreu said through a translator that he was hoping to have a moment for his home country, a meeting with fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman. He almost got it, seeing Chapman warming up as he stepped to the plate.
"I saw Chapman warming up, and absolutely I wanted to face him," he said. "Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn't face him. You see what Chapman does, and he's incredible. He's not from this world the way he throws."
He got Pirates lefty Tony Watson instead, flying out in the eighth inning.
For Sale, his third All-Star Game didn't make it routine.
A couple years before Sale became one of the best starters in the American League, he was a hard-throwing young reliever in the White Sox bullpen. His All-Star appearances are giving him a chance to reprise those days.
"Just grip and rip for an inning and see how it goes," Sale said.
He took the mound for the fourth inning Tuesday night, firing fastballs like a closer until Jonathan Lucroy got him for a game-tying double, scoring Dee Gordon, who was pinch-running for Chase Utley, whom Sale hit with a pitch. He shut down a National League rally from there with a couple of nasty sliders for a strikeout of Carlos Gomez.
"Sometimes you get a little too hyped out there," Sale said. "You get going a little too quick. My main thing was to stay back a little bit, get under control. It happens. I still enjoyed it."