In one scene, he choked back tears. In another, he frolicked with some elderly ladies in a swimming pool during an exercise class. For those reasons alone, this ESPN video of slugger Manny Ramirez being interviewed by Pedro Gomez is must-see TV.
Ramirez, who promptly quit baseball this past April after being suspended for 100 games following another failed drug test, told Gomez he is a "changed" person, and that he still has something left in the baseball tank:
"I want to show people that Manny can change, that he can do the right thing," Ramirez told ESPN's Pedro Gomez in an interview. "And to show people that I still can play. I don't want to leave the game like I did. I also want to show my kids that if you make a mistake, don't quit. Just go back and fix it. And if you're going to leave, leave the right way."
Oh, and he wants to be a "role model." Ramirez, 39, appeared to have more problems than retiring gracefully when, in September, he was arrested and charged with battery following a domestic dispute with his wife.
"It was bad. I almost lost my family," Ramirez said, his voice trembling.
It was a powerful moment, as long as you believe Manny was being earnest (and not just being Manny, for once.) But the moment was fleeting. Manny couldn't help but revert to being the goofball that he is.
In addition to conventional baseball training (like taking swings in a batting cage), Ramirez says he has improved his flexibility by exercising in a swimming pool at a local spa. As you'll see in the video, most of the other participants in the class are female retirees who appear to be twice Ramirez's age. No less than 75, anyway. Manny, his dreadlocks tucked inside a shower cap, sort of stands out.
"I'm gonna get in trouble with her husband," Ramirez joked after flirting with one Bea Arthur-type.
So he's still got that old Manny sense of humor. But what about that old Manny swing? Sample size be darned, Ramirez sure seemed to be out of gas in late 2010 and during his brief stint with the Tampa Bay Rays to start 2011. Considering that, along with his age, perhaps Ramirez can be motivated enough to turn this mid-life crisis into one last shot at the majors. It probably won't save his Hall of Fame chances, which he damaged by getting caught twice with performance-enhancing drugs. And Manny might make the worst role model in history no matter how contrite he acts, but a comeback also might allow him to leave the game on a happier note.
There's also the matter of his suspension, which reportedly was negotiated down to 50 games. So he wouldn't have to make a team out of spring training (it won't be the Los Angeles Dodgers, by the way) and then wait until August to start playing. The odds are against him, but there haven't been too many hitters like Manny in history. If he can behave himself, and use the pool to his advantage in non-flirtatious ways, maybe we'll see him again in a major-league game.
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