Tag Archives: Manny Ramirez

Remembering Manny Ramirez the way I want to Remember Him

Manny Ramirez’s career is over.

It passed us by like a warm summer breeze. Where did all the years go?

The year was 1997. I decided that spring that I was a Manny Ramirez fan. He was hitting in the middle of a fun Indians lineup. He was a right handed power hitter that played a corner outfield spot, just like me. I began to VHS record his games and study the way he swung. I watched the way that he went through the baseball on every swing and how he seemed to enjoy hitting the ball the other way. Up until those days, I thought that hitting was about yanking everything. Beautiful was pulling the ball to me. I thought hitting was about hitting home runs and if it wasn’t something for extra bases it wasn’t worth anything. If you didn’t homer or at least hit one off the wall in a game, it didn’t count as any type of good game.

But Manny hit the right way. He hit line drives. And he loved to go back-side. Pretty soon, I was realizing that a beautiful piece of hitting was a single the other way, and I started hitting behind runners in hit and run situations and doubling the other way. It was a thing of beauty, just like when Manny did it. Like when a young aspiring artist takes a piece of Clapton’s musical genius and incorporates a bit of it into his own instrumental repertoire; I had my artist in which to influence me as a hitter.

Manny was slumping back then to begin 1997. He was actually hitting .214 on April 15th. Scouts were talking about Manny’s bat speed being way down and there were whispers that the organization was worried about him. Then Manny caught fire. He ended up hitting .328 in his ‘down’ year. He was absolutely incredible. The Indians went all the way to the World Series and the Baby Bull homered four times in the postseason.

He was our anti-Yankee. He thrived crushing in the Bronx and he loved hitting with the bases loaded it seemed.

His next three years in Cleveland were absolutely storybook. The numbers that he put up were absolutely incredible and it’s unreal to think in those years that he finished no higher than 3rd in the MVP voting. This in itself should have been a clue that something was in the water all around baseball, because in 1999 the 27-year old Manny Ramirez would drive in 165 runs. People brought up the name Hack Wilson and if Manny hadn’t missed 15 games there are some peers of mine that believe Manny would have found a way to break Hack’s record of 181 RBI.

We didn’t know then what we do know now, but I’ll say this; Manny Ramirez was probably the finest all around right-handed hitter of my lifetime. Just like in the movie Blow, when Ray Liotta tells a young George Jung that ‘he could have been anything he wanted’, Manny Ramirez would have hit no matter what he was or wasn’t taking. His excellence was God-given, and it was clear to anyone that watched him hundreds of hot summer afternoons like I did growing up that the guy could roll out of bed and drop four doubles on you in 9 innings and get his base coach fired all in a day’s work.

I remember when his possible final day as an Indian came. I had started out a freshman in high school watching Manny Ramirez, and I had grown into a better ballplayer for it by then. It was late in the year in 2000, the first day of October to be exact. I had a fall baseball game that day but like I always did, I recorded the Indians game on my parents VCR so I could get one more glimpse of Manny in an Indians uniform; if indeed he was really leaving the state we both grew up in together.

When I finished my game, I wondered how it went down for Manny and the Tribe in Cleveland. I didn’t even have to wait until I got home. As I climbed in the car my mother–who has a very basic knowledge of sports, so if it’s not kind of a big deal she doesn’t even know about it–let me know that Manny Ramirez had homered in his final at-bat as an Indian. I corrected her and told her that it wouldn’t be his final at-bat in Cleveland, but in my heart I knew better. How amazing he really was. The guy walked up to the plate and took a guy named John Frascatore deep to straightaway center field. His final gift, and his final goodbye to the city of Cleveland came by way of one swing of his mighty bat.

Then that night in November came that I’ll never forget. There were some stirrings that the Indians might lure Ramirez back. They were offering him a record deal for Cleveland, doing their best. The announcement came on Baseball Tonight and I was excited as a young guy could be about something in sports. Then quickly my heart broke as they told us the news that Manny Ramirez was going to the Red Sox. That’s when it really ended for me. The guy who I learned how to hit by watching him perform his craft every day was leaving town. All that was left was all the memories.

Think what you want about Manny. Say what you want. He probably won’t get into the Hall of Fame. But you can’t take away the fact that he’s one of the most incredible talents to ever step foot in a Major League park, and the fact that he was just part of a different breed. They’ll never be another.

And it’s the little things I’ll miss. Hearing about how he grabbed a pitchers bat because he liked the way the grains looked or that he stole a hat out of a coach’s locker and wore it even though it was 2 sizes too small. Or the time he cut off a throw from Johnny Damon. Or the time he rolled 4 times and was laying on top of the baseball in the outfield.

If you watched him enough, you knew exactly when you were watching ‘Manny being Manny’. There was no better way to describe it. And now looking back all these many years later, what a great bunch of times we had together.

Thanks for teaching me what a hitter is supposed to look like Manny. Thanks for making baseball fun, like it’s supposed to be. You did it your way. You did it with ease.

Manny Ramirez Retires

He retires? What the Hell?

Well, it’s Manny. Would you expect it any other way?

Rays statement on Manny: “We are obviously surprised and disappointed by this news. We will have no further comment on this matter.”

We’ll obviously have a lot of further commenting on this matter. This is pretty huge; Manny was one of our all-time favorites for a lot of reasons. If this is really it, and we think it is…. thanks for all the memories Manuel Aristides.

UPDATE: Then there’s this. Oh boy.

Franco’s Spring Training Wrap up post

Diamond Hoggers Nation- Thanks for adopting me last week and allowing me to drop my daily adventures on you. I’ve had an absolute blast and want to thank Mevs for giving me this opportunity. I fully expect to check back in with you guys from time to time when I have good stuff to share. Here is my wrap up from the crazy week:

 

Baseball Trip Stats

9 games in 7 Days. 6 different Stadiums.

Highlight of the Week- Hanging out in the Rays’ locker room for an afternoon.

Lowlight of the Week- Getting Big Leagued by Ryno Sandberg.

Best game I saw: Yankees v Red Sox. The Yanks played their big time starters and the Sox played their top prospects. It was great baseball on the field and great banter in the stands.

Favorite Stadium: Phillies Bright House Field in Clearwater

Rowdiest Fans: Phillies fans in Clearwater

Fans most likely to eat dinner at 4pm: Cardinals fans in Jupiter

Road Trip Stats

Miles Driven: 2,709

Cheapest Gas Fill Up: $3.29

Most Expensive Gas Fill Up: $3.89

Money Spent on Food (not including snacks and PB&J from my home cupboard):  $38 (I did have some very nice dinners picked up by Zobrist and Sutton.  Special thanks to them.)

 

A few extra stories that didn’t make it in the posts this week:

That’s Dedication

Sean Rodriguez of the Rays is known for being one of those guys that works hard, plays the game the right way, and takes care of his body. This reaffirms what I’d heard from other sources. He says that he normally goes to bed at 9pm every night of spring training (they normally play all their games at 1:05pm). It is also well known that he is usually the first to the ballpark, always arriving around 6:30am.

Manny and His Protein Smoothie

So I’m sitting in a Port Charlotte coffee shop doing some work and a guy who works at the Smoothie King next door came in for latte. I was talking to the owner of the coffee shop at the time and the smoothie dude came over and told this story. It went like this:

The other day, Manny Ramirez had come in and asked for a smoothie.

Manny: I’ll take (such and such) smoothie with extra protein.

Smoothie dude: So like one and a half scoops of protein?

Manny: How bout 4 scoops?

Smoothie dude: That’s a ton of protein, how about 2 scoops.

Manny: Nah man, I had a big workout today. I want 4 scoops.

Smoothie dude: You sure? Okay, coming right up.

Now, I don’t know exactly how much 4 scoops of protein is, but it’s a lot. I’ve read about Manny’s off season work outs and I’m sure he has monitors his protein intake to an extent. Anyways the Smoothie King worker is really stoked that Manny is in his store ordering from him.  When he finished making it he noticed that he hadn’t made enough to fill the cup. “Oh, well.” He put a top on it and gave it to Manny who then paid and left.

It wasn’t til a few minutes later the smoothie dude realized that he had totally forgot the 4 scoops of protein and Manny had walked out with a plain smoothie with 0 grams of protein.

Quick rant on the DO’S and DON’TS of scalping tickets

-DON’T take the first offer that a scalper offers you

-If you have a long walk to the stadium from the parking lot DON’T buy from the first guy you see. He’ll almost always be the highest priced.

-DON’T believe scalpers when they say that the game’s sold out. In my experiences they’re only telling the truth 9% of the time.

-If you have time and only need 1 or two tickets, DO hang out around the front of the stadium looking for regular fans trying to unload a few last minute tickets.  They’ll almost always sell for face value or lower depending on how you negotiate.

-DO check the tickets before you buy them to make sure they are where the scalper says they are. “Right down the first base line” can mean standing room in the back corner of the ballpark.

I think I could keep going on this for a while. Maybe I’ll write a post about it later… Good luck

Stadium Bag Check

All week, I would bring my trusty backpack into the stadiums with me. They were legal to bring in, but there were security guards at all the gates that checked all bags to make sure people weren’t bringing in things like, food, alcohol, weapons, and stuff like that. I noticed that they only checked the main section of my backpack, but never the front pocket. Not like I had any contraband in there… or did I.

When I finally got home from my week in Florida and unpacked my backpack, I found a few surprises in the front pocket.  Namely a miniature bottle of Jager and a butterfly knife. Now, let me quickly explain that the mini Jager was given to me by a friend months ago and had been forgotten about, and the butterfly knife was a groomsman gift from a few years back and I had no idea it was in there. None the less I dragged around a shot and an illegal weapon into every ballpark I visited. Whoops.

Best Pedroia Description Ever

This comes from a convo Drew Sutton and I had about Dustin Pedroia.

Sutton on Pedroia: “I love DP man. I honestly think that he believes he’s 6’4 240. I’ll say, ‘You going to hit?’ and he’ll respond, ‘Naw man, I’m going to FREAKING RAKE!’ If he makes an out, he’ll come back into the dugout and say something  like, ‘If that SOB throws me that inside fastball again I’m going to hit it out of the freaking stadium.’ He doesn’t just say those things, he believes them.”

Conclusion:

It was quite a memorable week with a lot of experiences that I won’t soon forget. Many thanks to all my friends that gave me food, places to sleep, laughter, tickets, and good times. I’ll look forward to catching up with you guys later.  If you miss me that much you can shoot over to NextLevelBallplayer.com.

And we want to give a special thanks to Franco for providing us with all of the great stories from down in Spring Training. He did a great job going above and beyond what we expected, giving us some of the most interesting material that has appeared on Diamond Hoggers in weeks. If it’s any sign of things to come, his main project over at the NLB is going to be a HUGE success! In short, bookmark his site to your favorites (and blogrolls) and stay tuned for more great, wholesome baseball material.

Spring Training Update: Hanging in the Rays Locker Room

Spring Training is under way. Since we’re not lucky enough to be down in the Florida sunshine, we’ve still got a plan to have you covered. David Franco from Next Level Ballplayer is down in Florida for the week providing us with all the sights and sounds of spring baseball that we need. Today’s adventures include, sitting with the player’s wives, getting a foul ball, hanging out in the Rays locker room, a quick chat with Longo and his mullet, and more. Tune in all week as Franco reports on ST exploits, and be sure to follow him on twitter or Facebook.

Franco’s Spring Training Update From FL: Day 2

What’s up Diamond Hogger Nation? Franco here, from NextLevelBallplayer.com, ready to break down day 2-
Woke up at a buddy’s place in Naples. I had talked to the Ray’s Ben Zobrist the day before and he said he’d leave me a ticket at will call. After a solid drive that put me over 1,000 miles on this road trip so far, I pulled into the Port Charlotte Sports Park.

Overall Highlight of the day: Hanging out in the Rays locker room for over an hour with guys like Longoria, Upton, Jeff Niemann, Matt Joyce, Dirk Hayhurst and Zobrist.

Runner Up Highlight: Parking my ’98 Honda Passport in the Rays’ players parking lot next to multiple $100k cars.

Overall Lowlight of the day: Finding out that Zobrist likes pickle flavored sunflower seeds… I used to think he was cool.

Rays vs Pirates 1:05pm
Tickets: Free thanks to Mr. Zobrist
– I was so busy marveling at Manny’s dreads that it took me a little while to realize that I was sitting with all of the player’s wives.
-Manny looked great going 2-2 AND playing the outfield.
-Damon got his first base knock of the spring
-Pirates won but who cares

Hanging with the Wives
The Foul Ball
So I’m chatting with three of the player’s wives and having a good time watching the game when a foul ball gets hit towards us. (I am going to keep the wives’ identities private cause I don’t want to be “that guy” that wrote about them by name without them knowing. Just know that you’d recognize their husbands if I told you.) Anyways, wife #1 and #2 lean to get out of the way and wife #3 sees the ball but doesn’t move. #3 has the ball land a foot next to her, bounce off of her back (she was fine) and land about 2 feet from her.

Now the dilemma: I’m one row in front of her and 4 seats over with nobody between me and the ball that has come to rest kinda by her foot. I really want the ball, but I also wanna play it cool… The lady in the row over started to take a few steps towards it and instincts kicked in. As I was about to reach for it wife #3 picks up the ball. Awkward. I go to sit back down and she then proceeds to give me the ball as if I’m a little kid. Had to swallow my pride a bit on this one, but next time I play catch with a buddy, we’re using a big league pearl.

Dip can do what?!?!
This second story from the wives section blew my mind. There were a few bees flying near us that prompted this story.

Wife #1: “One time I was hanging out with a group of friends and I got stung by a bee. It hurt like crazy, but right away a guy took his dip out of his mouth and put it on the bee sting. It worked great and I was back to normal in no time.”
Franco: “Wow. This guy sounds like he’d be the one to suggest peeing on a mosquito bite.”
Wife #2: “GROSS! If any guy tried to but his nasty dip on me, I’d give him a swift karate chop to the neck.”

Moral of the story fellas- If you have a hammer in and your girl gets stung by a bee, make sure you know where she stands on having dip placed on her body (personally my wife would be in the karate chop group)… But if you are only concerned about results, evidently dip works wonders on bee stings.

In the 6th inning or so, just as the convo with the wives turned to Oprah and pedicures, I got the greatest text ever:
“Meet me outside the stadium by the batting cages.” Zoby saves the day.

Inside the Rays Locker Room
I had no idea Zoby was going to take me into the locker room. He had lined up a few unofficial interviews for me and there I was, just shooting the breeze with the Rays in their locker room.
Right when I walked in, Upton and Longoria were there joking around. They over heard Zoby saying to me that he had stayed up until 11:30 the night before.
Longoria: “Oh dang Ben. You stayed up until 11:30?!?! That is so crazy! You need to calm down. I’m afraid you’re going off the deep end.” Maybe you had to be there, but it was funny.

Other locker room happenings
-Matt Joyce was really cool. We talked for a solid 20 minutes and I will be rooting for him this season.
-Talked with Longo briefly, but was able to ask him a few questions, including the toughest pitcher he’s faced (Saving this for a later post).
-Having Dirk Hayhurst give me a copy of his book, The Bullpen Gospels. I had played against Dirk in college and he came over and we talked for a good half hour. He is an absolute character!
-On the way out of the complex (I was by myself) I walked by Joe Madden and told him to have a good night and he told me the same. I’m pretty sure he thought I was a minor league guy who’s name he couldn’t remember.

Conclusion
What a great day. After the locker room I went and grabbed some food with Zoby and then headed back to his house to chill with his wifey and 2 year old boy for the rest of the night. It was good catching up with him and relaxing… Tomorrow I’m headed to Fort Myers to check out the Twins and Red Sox round 2.

Extra Innings
Zobrist still had to shower, so I went and got my car and told him I’d come back and pick him up. I drove into the players parking lot by making a friend with the security guy and then parked my ’98 Honda passport. A few minutes later I realized that I had parked next to Tim Beckham, the Rays 2008 #1 overall pick. His Land Rover car doors opened up towards the sky when he got in… Mine just opened normal.

The Baseball Show: Hot Stove Moves, Top 50 Prospects List, Bryce Harpers collectability, etc.

Pardon my creativity. We talk about Frank Francisco for about 30 seconds on today’s edition of The Baseball Show joined by co-host Mike Rosenbaum of The Golden Sombrero; but I guess a picture really does say a thousand words in certain situations. Like certain situations when you’re a Major League bullpen pitcher and a fight (with fans) breaks out, calms down, and you decide to start tossing chairs into the spectators area. I had to get this onto the blog somehow and this was my lucky chance.

More relevant topics discussed on today’s show:

-Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to the Rays

-The Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells trade

-Thoughts on the Kansas City Royals system; Micah Owings back to the DBacks as a hitter/pitcher

-Thoughts on the recently released Top 50 Prospects list.

-Why do baseball fans love prospects?

– A look into the collector corner; Mike talks about the value of Stephen Strasburg & Bryce Harper rookies cards as well as other top prospect rookie cards.