It was a somewhat surprising scene at Phoenix Municipal Stadium when Manny Ramirez reported to A’s camp Friday morning. He slipped into the clubhouse quietly, sitting down at his locker and beginning to change his clothes before many of his teammates likely knew he was there.
Then Ramirez hit the field with the A’s other position players, drilled seven homers deep to left and center and talked about being a changed man during an 11-minute media address. “Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you’re about to lose it, and that’s what happened to me,” said Ramirez, who signed a minor league deal with Oakland on Monday with hopes of being their designated hitter. While Ramirez could have been talking about his baseball career, he spent most of his media session talking about having changed his personal life.
His Hall of Fame-worthy career has been tarnished by two positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs, a domestic violence charge and other off-field issues. He won’t be allowed to play a regular season game until serving a 50-game suspension that ends May 30. Ramirez repeatedly referenced a new-found relationship with God in his 11-minute address and said he feared he would lose his family along with his career because of his mistakes. His wife Juliana stood close by as he spoke and occasionally wrapped her arms around him.
Ramirez will wear jersey No. 1 with the A’s, not the No. 99 he wore with the Dodgers and White Sox that more reflected his eccentric personality. “He didn’t want 99,” A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich said. “He wanted to start fresh and ‘1’ starts everything.” Ramirez can work out with the A’s and play in extended spring training games during his suspension. Why did he wind up signing with Oakland?
“I think I’m here because God brought me here,” Ramirez said.
There was definitely a bigger media turnout than the usual A’s spring practice would attract, but it wasn’t overwhelming by any means. Part of the reason: Many of the national media set course for the Milwaukee Brewers’ camp to interview Ryan Braun about getting his suspension overturned.