Manny being Manny, no need to change

Corey Marine

Every now and then, there is an athlete that leaves a mark on you after watching him or her play for the first time. For me, Manny Ramirez was one of the people who stood out in my mind. The first time I remember watching him was the 1997 American League Division Series. I remember that I was nine years old, still learning the game of baseball, sitting in my late aunt’s living room in her little apartment with her and her daughter. I was cheering for the New York Yankees because it is what I was raised to do, and they were cheering for the Cleveland Indians who were playing the Yankees because they claimed there were not enough Dominicans on the Yankees roster.

Then there was Ramirez. He was younger and slimmer then but with a world of potential. Although the Indians did go on to win the series, he did not have the astronomical playoff series that we have become accustomed to seeing from the player with the most postseason homeruns in Major League Baseball history. Yet just by watching him, even as a youngster, I could not help but think “Man, he’s good.” On top of that, he was born in Santo Domingo, the capital city of a small country called the Dominican Republic and a city I had spent countless summers in. He was raised in Washington Heights, which I also often frequented to visit relatives. Suddenly, I had an athlete to whom I could relate.

Then there were his years in Boston. As a Yankees fan, I instinctively learned to hate Ramirez as a member of the Red Sox. The previous sense of awe and admiration I had for him became fear, especially after the Red Sox signed David Ortiz in 2003. Ramirez was put in the third spot in the batting lineup with Ortiz batting clean-up behind him. He crushed the Yankees time after time and was a cornerstone in helping to “reverse the curse” for the Boston Red Sox, ending their World Series champion drought. He then helped them win another title three seasons later before his relationship with the franchise turned sour.

Now that he is playing under Joe Torre, a man for whom all Yankees fans have a soft spot in their hearts, I cannot help but think about Ramirez fondly again. No baseball fan can help but laughing while thinking about his on-field antics. Ramirez has never been known for great defense, but there was one memorable play in Baltimore. He chased down a fly ball all the way to the warning track, needlessly climbed the left field wall, managed to locate a Red Sox fan in the stands and high-fived the fan, threw the ball to the cutoff man, who in turn gunned down a base runner at first base. That was just a play where the average fan tries to analyze what happened, realizes what he did and just bursts out laughing. Then there were the moments where he killed the team defensively. There was the time when he inexplicably laid out into a full-extension diving catch to cutoff Johnny Damon’s throw to the cutoff man. Then there was the time he went for a diving catch and somehow ended up rolling on top of the ball. He also called off his shortstop on a pop fly that he was not near, only to run into the ball full speed, kicking it into right field. You get the point.

Fast-forward to the present, and Ramirez is facing what may be his final year in Mannywood.  Los Angeles seemed to be the perfect fit for his carefree personality, but it makes a ton of baseball sense for Ramirez to go to the American League and be a designated hitter if he does not retire after this season.

Ramirez’s talent is only surpassed by his over-the-top personality, making him one of the most memorable athletes of our time. For better or worse, he simply cannot be ignored because he is just that good and is one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. However, his sense of aloofness did not help his public image after he was suspended for a banned substance and was also named in the report that absolved Alex Rodriguez of any responsibility of having to reclaim the all-time homerun total record as a clean player. There is definitely a question of whether or not he will make it into the Hall of Fame — just look at how the voting committee has treated Mark McGwire’s candidacy for the hall. But anyone who has watched McGwire’s career will always remember his natural swing and larger than life persona.

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Corey Marine is a senior communication major from New York, N.Y. He can be reached at [email protected]