BOSTON – Manny Ramirez has a new look, a new job and a new view on life.
Ramirez, one of the most eccentric players in Major League Baseball history, returned to Fenway Park on Wednesday night to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 World Series-winning team. The 41-year-old stressed that he has closed the book on his wacky ways — more commonly known as “Manny being Manny” — in favor of an existence based on faith and spirituality.
Ramirez, who said he has been attending church for four years, was apologetic while speaking with reporters. The night called for a raucous celebration of one of the most unique and personality-driven clubs of all time, yet a soft-spoken and tranquil Ramirez also expressed gratitude for being afforded a second chance after an unpleasant exit from the Red Sox in 2008.
“I behaved bad with the organization, with my teammates. But now, I realize that,” said Ramirez, sporting a Mohawk inspired by his children. “I’ve got to move on. I cannot be looking in the past. … I don’t worry about what happened in the past because I know Jesus believes in me.”
Ramirez has landed in hot water over the years for his polarizing behavior, his seemingly lackadaisical playing style and his use of performance-enhancing drugs. But it was a 2011 domestic battery arrest that finally put the former Red Sox outfielder over the edge.
“When I went to jail with a problem with my wife, they didn’t let me see my kids for two or three months,” Ramirez said. “And one day, I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror, and I said, ‘Manny, you’ve got to change.’ “
Ramirez, to his credit, has changed — or so it seems. And perhaps nothing sheds more light on the calmer, gentler Manny than Wednesday’s apology to longtime Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick, whom Ramirez shoved in 2008, much to the chagrin of then-manager Terry Francona, among others.
Now Ramirez is preparing for life in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, where he’ll serve as a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa. There, he expects to play about two games per week and, more importantly, share his life story in the hopes that the next wave of MLB players won’t make the same mistakes he did.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Ramirez said. “That’s a blessing from God, because I can go over there and give those kids my testimony — what to do on the field and what not to do off the field. It’s going to be a blast. We’re going to have fun out there.”
Ramirez’s longtime teammate, Pedro Martinez, sees tremendous value in the slugger imparting his wisdom on baseball’s youth. In fact, according to Martinez, Ramirez is the perfect man for the job.
“I think it’s great,” Martinez said. “You know, Manny’s in a perfect position to be an example of what not to do and also what to do.
“I think if Manny’s able to relate some of his knowledge to some of those kids in the minor leagues and also tell them that people have the right to change, to become a better person, that bad things shouldn’t be done in baseball or any sport, Manny could be the right messenger for all those aspects we’re talking about.”
Ramirez, who admitted Wednesday that he missed baseball, might never find his way into another big league game. But that’s quite all right with Manny, as he finally has found what he’s been looking for.
“I don’t have no regrets,” Ramirez said. “You know why? Because if those things didn’t happen, I wouldn’t get to know God. I don’t regret anything I did.”
Ramirez finally seems at peace. That’s as new as it gets.