Wed Mar 18 10:31pm EDT
There are probably stranger ways to pass an afternoon than watching Manny Ramirez try his hand at cricket under a scorching desert sun. I'm having trouble coming up with any, though.
But, yes, the pictures proved this really happened and I was somehow also there to witness the scene. An hour before noon on Wednesday, the Dodgers' left fielder walked down into a Gilbert, Arizona park basin to play a sport he had only seen on television once and only "for a few minutes."
So why was he doing this, exactly?
"Just having fun," explained Manny, though one presumes that he was also paid more than gas money to travel east across the valley to promote DIRECTV's "Cricket Ticket" package with Australian cricket star Shaun Marsh.
When I first arrived, the head PR guy said that this was strictly going to be a photo op. After all, Manny is suffering from a sore hamstring and has been limited to B.P. and pool running this week. The plan was that he'd get into the gear, stand near the wickets and pose as bowlers from the Arizona Cricket Club hurled their soft tosses at him.
But when Ramirez arrived and donned the equipment — including a cup he announced was "too small" — he simply couldn't refrain from taking a couple of hacks. The thought of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt cringing over his $45 million investment never seemed to enter Manny's mind during the demonstration. (Not that it would have mattered if it had.)
Ramirez, the best right-handed hitter of his generation, swung through a couple of the tosses, but connected on a few more. After one long drive to what would have been center field, Ramirez tossed aside the cricket bat and started his trot, only to be sternly reminded that cricket players must run at all times with the bat in their hands.
"But no running today," one of his handlers quickly reminded.
In the end, I'm sure that Manny is going to draw a lot of criticism for coming out to play cricket for cash when he's not yet healthy enough to play left field at Chavez Ravine. It's definitely warranted, though the whole exercise didn't look overly strenuous.
Also, look at it this way: Maybe now a few cricket teams will actually be able to create a real bidding war once Scott Boras has Manny opt out of his contract after this season.
You know, none of that "mystery team" junk. Long live the Royal Bengal Tigers!
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To see more of Manny's cricket exploits, check out the video I put together below. (And don't worry, folks, the video works. No idea what's going on with those goofy bars.)