BOSTON — Whatever the Chicago Cubs are hoping to get out of Manny Ramirez in his new role as a minor league player-coach, it won’t be a sage, wizened old man.
“I just see a big kid,” Pedro Martinez said. “Manny remains the same way. Manny is a kid — with a couple of gray hairs.”
With Ramirez, Martinez and the rest of the 2004 Boston Red Sox in attendance at Fenway Park on Wednesday night for a celebration of the team that broke an 86-year World Series title drought, the onetime slugger’s new form of employment was a hot topic. Former teammates such as Trot Nixon and Johnny Damon couldn’t believe “Manny Being Manny” now will include Manny Throwing Batting Practice.
Despite their surprise, though, each one whole-heartedly endorsed his hiring.
“I asked him how his BP was, because I know when you become a minor league coach, you’ve got to be ready to throw BP,” Nixon said. “I think he’s excited for the opportunity. It’ll be different for him, I’m sure, but I’m happy he has the opportunity to get back in the game. I think there’s a few of us that would love to get back in the game at some point in our lives. He’s ready to get back into it, so hopefully he goes and helps those guys with the Cubs out.”
Ramirez expects to be in the lineup for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs about twice a week, although he seems honest with himself about his chances. He wouldn’t say he is ready to hit major league pitching, and he did not express confidence that he would be again anytime soon.
But even if Ramirez never faces another big league pitch, he can have an enormous impact on Major League Baseball through the knowledge he imparts in his new gig.
“I think preparation is the key to anything in life,” Kevin Youkilis said. “Whatever you do in life, you’ve got to be prepared, and his preparation was to a ‘T’ every day. Even when he was going through tough times, he was working. There weren’t many slump slumps for him, but he harnessed going back, looking at video and taking steps to do what he had to do. I think he can teach that to a lot of guys.”
One common compliment paid to Ramirez by his admirers was how he let the ball get “deep.” Not every batter is blessed with Ramirez’s vision and bat speed, but Youkilis said Ramirez should at least be able to pass on the approach.
“His biggest attribute’s going to be staying inside the baseball, showing guys how to keep their hands inside the ball and drive it,” Youkilis said.
Everyone at Wednesday’s ceremony who wielded a bat with the Red Sox, even those who are older both in years and maturity, claimed to have become better hitters thanks to being around Ramirez. Much of those gains were made through sheer osmosis. Imagine what the payoff could be, they said, for young players whom he is actively instructing.
“I learned a lot from Manny hitting-wise,” Nixon said. “He’s one of the best right-handed hitters, if not the best right-handed hitter, I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s got a lot to offer. Hopefully, those guys will listen.”