Manny Ramirez hit a home run in Taiwan last night, over a 325 foot fence and into nearly empty bleachers. It was beautiful.
See you later, baby! Show me the money!
I was rooting for Manny when he tried to come back with Oakland last year. I believe the game is better with Manny. Yes, Manny has his baggage — Manny will be Manny — but at his core, Manny Ramirez is just a fun baseball player. He might be the most fun player I’ve watched in my (admittedly short) baseball watching life. Manny is sports fun at its essence, from the sheer beauty of his swing to his unpredictable nature to his utter elation when things were going well — which, given his talent, was pretty often.
The thing with these fun players is they never truly give up on baseball. Manny isn’t the only one. Vladimir Guerrero is still around, playing independent baseball on Long Island. Rickey Henderson played anywhere there was dirt on the infield into his 50s. Eric Byrnes’s first act upon his retirement was to dominate the slow-pitch softball diamond. You can take these players out of baseball, but you can’t take the baseball out of their hearts.
For sports fans — especially the large subset of sports fans who were amateur athletes in their personal glory days — there’s something strikingly human about seeing the great ones toiling past their prime on whatever field will take them. It’s an experience so many go through, whether its the high school scrub seeking out any intramural team willing to take him or the weekend warrior who still lives for her rec leagues and pickup games.
Manny’s pickup game just happens to be in Taiwan. The stands aren’t always full. The infields don’t have grass. His opponents wear the same 7-Eleven-sponsored jerseys that grace slow-pitch and recreational leagues across America. But there, on that otherwise anonymous field an ocean away, is Manny Ramirez, and even at 40 years old and an ocean away, he still represents the pure fun and beauty baseball is at its best.
Video courtesy of the excellent Manny Does Taiwan blog.