Diana Ayon Garcia
Michael “Big Mike” Ramirez giving a client a new look. photo credit: Diana Ayon Garcia
Michael Ramirez is not just a regular barber but he has been cutting hair for the Quakes, 66ers and Lake Elsinore Storm etc. for over 13 years. When you see him in public you would think he’s just a regular person with a big smile on his face, big beard and a hat. For most people he is known as Michael but for the players he is known as their favorite Dominican. He has been in Rancho Cucamonga for over 20 years.
I had a chance to sit down and get to know the man known to all the players as “Big Mike” and get to ask questions about what separates him from other people. Once you approach him he’s with a client smiling and laughing talking about life and what wisdom he has when coming to the table. I was able to see the pictures on the wall from: Albert Pujol, Corey Seager, Will Smith, Walker Buehler etc.
Diana: How did you start cutting hair?
Michael: To tell you the truth I always cut hair even when I was a little kid. When I was 16 years old when I played baseball and always had contacts with baseball players.
Diana: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Michael: I was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic and I grew up in Bronx New York. I then moved and grew up in Manhattan.
Diana: How did you get started working with the minor league baseball players in California?
Michael: When Pujol arrived one of his friends put me in contact with him and I began having a relationship with players such as Eddy Aybar and others. Eddy Aybar played for the Quakes and I got close to him. They knew that my barber shop was very close to the stadium so little by little the players started coming to my shop. After some time more minor league players started coming such as: Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Luis Meza etc. I think that when they asked around on who cuts hair they heard about me snd they started coming.
Diana: Why do you think it’s important for most players to have a haircut?
Michael: For them when they have a Good haircut you feel more comfortable and you feel fresh and clean. They feel more secure to take off their hat in public. It’s also about their culture and they always want to look nice. They also start to feel more comfortable when it’s someone from their home country. They know that it’s someone who knows their culture as well.
Diana: Being a Dominican barber is something rare for players to find from their home country why do you think they’re more drawn to you than a barber who is from the USA?
Michael: I think that Dominican barber make good haircut and they have good communication with their players.
Diana: If a player doesn’t make a lot of money in their contract or doesn’t have a lot money. Do you help them? I know some feel bad or don’t want the help due to pride.
Michael: I do not charge the players if I know they do not have a big contract or have a lot of money I will talk to the player in private if I see they need a haircut and tell them to come to the shop and I will take care of them. Many of them I know they have not had a big contract so I will not allow them to pay me.
I do this out of my heart and I build that rapport to help the players. I’m professional and do everything out of my heart.
Diana: Why do you think players are willing to wait hours sometimes to be in your chair or shop?
Michael: I think for the confidence that I give the players within the Hispanic culture as a human being. The players feel comfortable being in here and they do not feel rushed or pressure. Many of them have confidence and feel like a party being here.
Diana: What is the nicest thing a player has done for you after you build a relationship?
Michael: I have had many players come in and give me many things. The players will give me a special inscription such as superstar barber or a inscription and that gives me such pride and happiness. To be given a gift is something I never expect and to personalize it. I think that it is really nice for them to think of me when they write the inscription. I think that it is special for the players to tell me Hey please wait after the game I have to give you something whether it’s a ball or baseball hat. I often say wow they thought of me that is really special.
Diana: I see that you have cut hair for players such as: Bellinger, Smith, Buehler, Seager how do you feel about them making it in the big leagues?
Michael: I feel so proud when I see them from Low A now to make it to big leagues such as Bellinger and Seager who now have 300 million contract. They be in a different team such as: Rangers but. They didn’t just come from the Quakes but I know that they came from this barber shop.
Diana: A lot of people are on social media displaying their work have you considered going on social media?
Michael: Maybe in the future but not right now especially going live. You want to respect their privacy and allow them to feel comfortable being here in the shop as well. You have to ask players if they can go live with them. I saw that Wilman Diaz has gone live with you. Big Mike chuckled and said that is true but I want to make sure I always respect their privacy more than anything.
Diana: What is something you wish people would understand more about being a barber?
Michael: Anyone can cut hair but someone and that is true but in this profession you have to put everything including your heart such as: talking to their client. This is where baseball players begin to open up to you about their life and how they started playing baseball. Many people would call this good customer service.
Diana: Who would you say is your favorite client either past or present?
Michael: Everyone is my favorite players because every player has their own characteristics that you think wow what beautiful manners you have. Many baseball players have such good discipline and that is what excites me the most.
Diana: Who would you say is your funniest player or has such a unique character?
Michael: The funniest player that I have had from the Quakes I would say is Sauryn Lao if he has something to say he will say. From the 66ers I would say Starlin Brito due to his character. From the Storm I don’t really have one because I know they’re more private and they just stay to themselves a little more due to distance.
Diana: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Michael: In 10 years Maybe Miami maybe. I think maybe near another minor league team. For now I’m going to stay here for now but in the future maybe else will be in charge of this barber shop because this is for the baseball players becaue to be honest this shop belongs to the baseball players not to me. I like Miami because I love the beach and their beaches are beautiful. This reminds me of the beaches back in Dominican Republic.
In conclusion, Michael “Big Mike” 13 years as a barber for the Quakes is not based on baseball bats pictures displayed on the walls of his shop. It is rooted from a bigger picture. This is shown with the relationships that he has built over the years and the rapport that players have with him. Many still come by his shop looking for the jolly man with beard and happy laugh. Michael has established himself as a essential member of the community.