5/28 Manny being Manny
MLB.com’s Ian Browne was one of the reporters covering Manny Ramirez’s return to Boston as part of a celebration of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox. Here’s part of his report from Boston:
Manny Ramirez returned to Fenway Park on Wednesday with a big smile and a full crowd of Boston fans cheering his every step. Hired on Sunday to be a coach/player with the Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa team, Ramirez seemed genuinely excited about his opportunity to get back in the game.
“Yes, I’m looking forward to that,” said Ramirez, who was at Fenway Park for the 10-year anniversary celebration of the 2004 Red Sox. “That’s a blessing from God because I could go over there and give those kids my testimony on what to do in the field and what not to do off the field. It’s going to be a blast. We’re going to go and have fun out there.”
At his best, Ramirez has always been fun, cracking people up with his quirks and his fun-loving nature.
At his worst, Ramirez brooded and asked out of the lineup and even pushed Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the floor in an ugly incident about a month before the club traded him in ’08. And for those type of moments, Ramirez expressed plenty of remorse on Wednesday -– first to McCormick and later to the media.
“Yes, yes, yes, I went and spoke to Jack,” said Ramirez. “I apologized to Jack. I told him, ‘Jack, I want you to forgive me because it was my fault. I behaved bad here with everybody. I want you to forgive me.’ He said, ‘Manny, thank you, I was waiting for that.’”
Ramirez’s exile from baseball was not pretty. In 2009 with the Dodgers and then again in ’11 while with the Rays, he was suspended for failing tests for performance-enhancing drugs. He tried to make it back, first with the Athletics and later with the Rangers, but couldn’t make it past the Minor Leagues.
Now, Ramirez has a new opportunity, one which was given to him by Theo Epstein, his former GM.
“It felt great, the way everything turned out, just for him to think about me, so that I could go out and help those young guys is a blessing,” Ramirez said. “I was in my house. I was just there with my kids. My agent called me and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a job for you’. So we prayed for it first and then I accepted the job.”
Religion has become a central point in Ramirez’s life. What were the circumstances that led to that?
“When I went to jail with that problem with my wife [in 2011], they didn’t let me see my kids for maybe two or three months,” Ramirez said. “One day, I wake up and I look myself in the mirror and I said, ‘I needed a change.’ So I started going to bible studies and I saw that it was good so I kept going and God helped me to change my life.”
And now, Ramirez will see if he can make a difference in the lives of Cubs’ prospects while also getting to play a couple of times a week.
“It’s the game that I love,” he said. “I belong in the game and when you can help out young people and give advice, advice that you have for free, it’s good to give it up to young players.”
The process of molding young hitting minds will start at some point next week, Ramirez said. He will first go to the Cubs’ player development facilities in Mesa, Ariz., to get his legs under him, and then join the Iowa team.
“Well, I’ve got it very clear that I was only going to play maybe two times a week,” Ramirez said. “They’re not going to take any at-bats from the prospects. I know my role over there.”