<
>

Manny Ramirez to 'grow' as mentor

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Manny Ramirez, the 12-time All-Star who made more than $200 million over 19 years in the big leagues, says he took a job as a player-coach for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in part so he could pass along his experiences to developing players.

"Everybody makes mistakes, you, me, and everybody that's in this room," Ramirez said Monday while speaking to the media for the first time since signing a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. "But that's it, you just have to grow and move on."

Ramirez made his Principal Park debut in Des Moines on Monday night, where as the designated hitter he got his first two hits, including a two-run home run against the Omaha Storm Chasers. Ramirez joined his Triple-A teammates last Thursday in Colorado Springs for a series against the Sky Sox after an extended spring training stint in Mesa, Arizona.

"Theo (Epstein) was really honest," Ramirez said of the Cubs' president. "He said, 'Hey, we don't got a chance for you in the big leagues, but we got some young guys that we want you to help,' and then I took it."

Ramirez said he'd try to help players that include some of the Cubs' top prospects, including Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and "some of the guys when they need some advice on hitting or whatever. I'll be there for them."

One of the greatest statistical hitters of all time, Ramirez's career was also punctuated with no shortage of headline-making blunders, stumbles he didn't gloss over Monday.

"You've got to fall hard to learn the purpose, and you've got to understand it's a league of rules and you have to follow them," Ramirez said. "Every day you need to make decisions and every decision you make has consequences. Some people mature early and some people take a long time, and that's how life is."

Ramirez said he was ready to step into his new role as a mentor and occasional demonstrator for the young Triple-A squad. So far, he is impressed with the talent in Des Moines, but wants to earn their respect before preaching to them.

"Man they got such great talent ... it's unbelievable," Ramirez said.

"I've only been here like a week, I'm going slowly, day by day, I don't want to be in their face so early, I want to get to know them better."

Bryant was able to share an account of Ramirez helping.

"He's come up to me after he watched my at-bats and he told me, he said, 'Just look middle-away this at-bat,' " Bryant said. "And the first pitch the guy threw was a fastball middle-away, and I got a single to right field. It's kind of cool to see results like that just from him saying one little line to me."

Baez, whose hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, is 250 miles from Ramirez's hometown of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, is surprised at how normal the 42-year-old acts.

"Before Manny got here I thought he was going to be hard to talk to, because you know his name or whatever," Baez said. "But it's not like that; I thought he was going to be cocky and stuff, but he's just like another player, he's a great teammate, he talks to everybody on the team and he's just a great person."

Whether it's his recent conversion to Christianity, or a natural maturation that comes with getting older, Ramirez has a calmness about him, and the young prospects like it.

Even his famous personality has inspired them.

"I don't think there's been a time I looked at him without a smile on his face," Bryant said. "That's kind of how I play the game too, I believe you kind of just have to look at it as a game, and go out there and have fun, and I think he's kind of the idol in terms of that aspect, in that he's out there having fun every day.

"He doesn't take it too serious, so I think there's a good balance there with him and it's just been a blast to see him so far."