Manny Ramirez’s place in baseball history as one of the most feared right-handed hitters of all time is complicated. Regardless of what you have to say about a living legend of baseball, his passion for the sport is undeniable as he still has aspirations to play the game of baseball at a professional level at 48 years old and well past his prime.
Manny’s last appearance as a professional baseball player came in Taiwan in 2013 when he briefly joined the EDA Rhinos of the CPBL (the Rhinos are now the Fubon Guardians). He showed that he could still rake, but decided to return home to be with his family and retired from the road.
Ramirez, however, apparently still wants to play.
In this interview in the Taiwan Times, he expresses deep respect for the baseball culture in Taiwan. And then he said:
My goal for 2020, is to find a roster spot in the (5-team) CPBL. I have been itching to get back in the batter’s box and be able to compete again. I also miss being around teammates and team dinners post-game.
I know if I was given the opportunity to come in an organization as a player-coach, it would do great things for the organization and the league.
Facing Manny Ramirez In High School
I saw Manny’s magnificence first hand, playing high school baseball against Manny back in the 90s when he was at George Washington High School putting on a show for students and local baseball lovers, who would assemble outside of the school’s baseball field, just socializing and checking out the diamond show.
It was not the typical public school baseball game crowd. It seemed like the entire school was out there. Usually, you only see that amount of kids for basketball and football games.
Baseball was different at the Washington Heights school and the varsity baseball team consisting of 25 Dominican players. The upper Manhattan neighborhood was bursting with immigrants, baseball culture was exploding in DR, and Ramirez was the prized import, an 18-year-old from Santo Domingo who had unprecedented bat speed according to his HS coach, Steve Mandl.
I saw the talent and superiority up close as a junior playing outfield for a Queens high school. We traveled to The Heights to play an exhibition against the legendary George Washington, where every kid had blinding speed, looked 20 years old, and had ridiculous athletic ability.
I only got to see him hit once. Manny came up in the first inning and hit the first pitch he saw into left centerfield. It was a grown man laser that rocketed into the outfield and bounced off the artificial turf and rolled to the fence faster than I could turn my head.
Manny hit the ball so hard that he couldn’t advance to second base (or maybe it was the beginning of “Manny being Manny”). I was too busy darting to get the ball that had already bounced off the outfield gate, to see how fast he was running.
Either way, he proved with one swing that he was on another level. It was clear we were witnessing something special. The massive crowd at the game and the girls just gawking over him in the stands told you that much.
As soon as he hit the rocket, they yanked Manny from the game for a pinch-runner and he chilled for the next six innings, while his team of Dominican All-Stars easily handled us like 11-4 or something like that
George Washington Trojans TO HOF (maybe)
Manny played sparingly at George Washington as it became clear that he would be a high MLB Draft pick and staying healthy was top priority. A guy named Mel Zitter ran Manny’s elite travel baseball program called Youth Service — as well as the young star’s baseball life at the time.
Manny batted .650, walloped 14 home runs in 22 games that season before getting drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the 1991 MLB draft, 13th overall. He made his MLB debut on September 2, 1993.
The rest is history. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion on some legendary curse-breaker Red Sox teams, a nine-time Silver Slugger, and was one of 27 players to hit 500 career home runs.
He was as clutch as they came. His 21 grand slams are third all-time, and his 29 postseason home runs are the most in MLB history
The fact that he got caught taking PED’s several times towards the end of his career does mar his legacy a bit, but it also shows how badly Ramirez loves to play baseball and wanted to stay in the game.
Dude is thinking about coming back at 50! That respect and love for the game alone, along with everything he has contributed to the sport on a global scale and for the city fo Boston should compel us all to forgive him for his moments of weakness late in his career, We all know that Manny was the No. 1 killer on those Cleveland and Red Sox teams, not Roberto Alomar and not Papi Ortiz.
Hall of Fame or no Hall of Fame, Ramirez is the posterchild for a baseball addict and more importantly, a living example of the American Dream; something that seems like an unattainable myth to many struggling families these days. Even those born here.
We shouldn’t exclude or demonize success stories like Manny’s. They inspire too many people.