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David Ortiz on Manny Ramirez: ‘He’s a totally different dude’

05.26.14 at 8:03 pm ET
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ATLANTA — David Ortiz hadn’t heard about Manny Ramirez‘ new post as a player-manager for the Cubs’€™ Triple-A affiliate in Iowa, but, somewhat surprisingly, it didn’t come as a shock.

Ortiz, you see, recently discovered what he considers the whole new Manny during their latest phone conversations.

“I talked to Manny, we’ve been talking a lot for the past couple of weeks. And I’€™ll tell you what, he’€™s a whole totally different guy,” Ortiz said. “He [goes to] church, he’€™s spending time with family, he’€™s doing a lot of really good things. When we see Manny [Wednesday] in Boston, you’€™re going to notice that. His personality has changed a lot, and that tells a lot. So when it comes down to teaching, Manny can be the best fit for the Cubs, especially in this situation that they’ve been going through down there.

“I’€™ll tell you what, the smarter that Manny is, and as much as he knows about the game, I would put Manny right in the big leagues a couple of weeks later. Player-coach, whatever you want to have it. That organization needs a guy like that right now more than ever and it’€™s because the experience that he has, the personality that he’€™s carrying with himself right now. I think the smart player on the ball club would like to be right next to him 24/7 just so they can get to learn what he knows about the game.”

When Ramirez first rang Ortiz a few weeks ago, the Red Sox designated hitter could immediately tell a difference. Gone was the flighty, arrogance that Ortiz felt led Ramirez down the path to the former Red Sox outfielder being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.

According to Ortiz, after a few pleasantries, the conversation morphed into Ramirez saying, “David, I’ve changed a lot.” From then on, the Sox DH was thrown for a loop, one that offered encouragement regarding the road Ramirez was finally committed to.

“He is a totally different dude,” Ortiz said. “I’m very happy the way his life has changed for good, because sometimes it’s hard for people to understand the things that we deal with every day. And hear me out, I’m not trying to make any excuses for the things that he did before — because it doesn’t matter, they’re bad things — but I believe that people always deserve a second chance, especially when you want to do things right.”

Ortiz added, “I guess he thought the baseball game was going to end up when he ends up. But now he’s seeing that he’s not playing and the game continues. So you have to know that this is in a small period of time that you play, and what you’ve got to do is thank God given you the opportunity of being part of this thing. I don’t think he really appreciated back then when he was going through the momentum of the time. But now he does. Now he’s like, ‘Man, I recognize that I made such a big mistake, so I want to show the whole world that I was wrong.’ That’s the message that I’m getting from him every time I talk to him, every time I see him. I’m really happy about the way things are going for him.”

Now that Ramirez has altered his life approach, Ortiz actually believes this whole thing with the Cubs could work.

Not only did the left fielder have a reputation as a hitting savant when he was with the Red Sox, but the mistakes Ramirez is now apparently finally owning up to can offer encouragement for the youngsters he’€™s about to mentor.

“He told me something that I 100 percent agree with,” Ortiz explained. “When we talked he told me, ‘€˜You know what, I don’€™t regret the things that I did before, and it’€™s because I learned from it.’€™ He said that to me, man, and I had goosebumps all over my body. And it’s because that’€™s so true. You learn from your mistakes, so when you learn from your mistakes, that means that you’€™re giving yourself a second chance to begin to be better at what you do.

“Sometimes when I heard him talk and then when I see the way he is, and me going back to the Manny that I used to deal with, I can’€™t even believe sometimes that I’€™m talking to him. That’€™s how much this guy has been making of his life for himself.”

Ortiz is well aware of plenty of examples of how Ramirez got in his own way, despite an unquestioned talent and ability to perform. It was the DH who often had to answer for Manny’€™s missteps throughout his time in Boston.

But the good parts of the package — which Ortiz believes has increased significantly — allowed for the Cubs to take a chance that the good parts of Manny will help their young hitters.

“He was a genius. A genius, man. This guy, I’m telling you, man, he got caught into things that at some point I was like, ‘Why?’ You know, ‘Why?’ But at the same time I don’t think it was thinking the right way,” Ortiz said. “He was not good organized with things. He would do things, I would be like, ‘Why …?’ He would call me and tell me, ‘Let’s meet up in the lobby by noon and let’s go for lunch before we go to the field.’ He would call me. I’m like, ‘OK.’ I would show up. Next thing you know, he was at the field already. Things like that. You’d be like, ‘Wait a minute, you were the one who called me. I didn’t call you.’ So, those things, they packed up, and they began to be a lot. At one point I was like, ‘You know what, all right, I need to stay away from Manny because he ain’t right.’

“So now, seeing the way he is and the way he’s handling things and the man — he manned up. He’s been manning up the past couple of years. The mistakes that he did before and the person that he’s trying to be now for the past couple of years, that tells you that people can really figure it out at some point in their life. You do things, you continue to crash against the wall, and that’s how you learn. Some people learn the hard way, some people learn the easy way. He learned it the hard way.”

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