Monday, June 28, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: R is for…

Ramirez, as in Manny.

I’ve talked a lot about Manny Ramirez on this site. I have to admit, I’m probably going to have trouble finding anything new to say about him. He was one of my favorite players while he was in Cleveland. He was one of my favorite players when he was in Boston. I still curse the day he was traded away for a bag of beans. Manny was Manny, and there won’t be another one quite like him.

The Red Sox have acquired their share of marquee talent the last few years. None of them brought the level of excitement Manny brought when I first saw that Red Sox hat photo shopped onto his picture leading off SportsCenter. He was the missing piece. He was the answer to the Red Sox troubles. He was everything they needed. How could I not dance around the room? Manny favorites? There are many. To pick a couple…

I have the DVD of the Red Sox 100 seasons put out a few years ago. One of the special features is the replay of Manny’s mammoth home run he hit off of Chris Carpenter in Toronto. Manny absolutely crushes the ball to left, and then looks out at Carpenter. He wasn’t taunting, really. It was almost pity. It’s like he was asking, “How could you throw me that pitch? Didn’t you know better?” Even better than that is the close-up view of Carpenter. He just gave up a 500-foot home run. He looks out at the ball, sees it land, and almost smiles. He starts to, but then remembers he was the opposing pitcher. It was a glimpse of even an opponent being simply amazed at what Manny could do.

The closest thing I have to a personal Manny encounter happened in batting practice a few years ago. I was staking out centerfield (in front of Section 35. Shhh) and happened to have a good bit of real estate to myself. I was watching Manny launch ball after ball to all parts of the field, and over the fences. Suddenly, he hits one of the balls right at me. It’s sailing out to center field, and I know I’m going to get it. It’s getting closer and closer, and suddenly I realize something. This is a ball that Manny hit that will travel over 400 feet by the time it gets to me. It has to be going pretty darn fast. If I try to catch that, it’s going to HURT! I can’t possibly try to stick my hands in front of that, can I? So, as the last minute, I step to the side and let it bang into the front row of seats behind me. My immediate plan is to grab it after it bounces off those seats. Naturally, the ball bounces off those seats, off the wall in front of me, and back about ten rows into the stands. There, of course, a couple kids fight over it and I’m out a ball. I do, however, have a hand with all its bones in the correct places. That’s why I always bring a glove now when I get to batting practice. It’s all thanks to Manny.

R is for Ramirez, Manny.

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