It was kind of a surreal thing seeing the most prolific and entertaining baseball slugger come to Albuquerque on a rehab assignment. The slugger plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers and more than a couple months ago he tested positive for a banned substance on the Major League Baseball performance enhancing drug list. It wasn't exactly steroids but the drug has been used to mask the drug after coming off a cycle. Anyways, it created quite the buzz in the Duke City for his appearance. The Dodgers wanted him to only play 4 innings in his first game and increase it over the three games.
He entered the field with a quiet demeanor not answering any questions from reporters. He took batting practice and went back into the clubhouse.
Soon, Isotopes Park buzzed with excitement for his entrance. Albuquerque has a weird set up having players enter from the side of the dugout making it beneficial for fans and media to get a close look to the players.
Manny came out in rock star style except he was carrying bats and not a guitar. The 15,000 plus went wild. It was much like the Twilight Zone with the biggest name to be caught with PED's in his system to be celebrated. I have seen Barry Bonds become the most hated dude in baseball for not even having a positive test, only allegations but Manny was forgiven by the crowd chanting his name: MANNY, MANNY, MANNY!
He did some outfield stretching and people keep yelling his name and asking for an autograph in Spanish and English. He just ran straight to the fans to sign autographs and it became a mob of autograph seekers and media trying to get a shot of the star.
Alot of the fans had the dreadlocks wig with the LA Dodger bandanna but I liked what this kid did. His dad shaved the number 99 in the side of his head. He was one of the little leaguers that gets to go on the field with the players prior to the start of the game.
"The Manny Show" was here for 3 days and it was nice to see him take batting practice. He sure has a pretty swing. But there wasn't much drama or moon shot HRs during his stay. But he did have security provided by APD and stadium officials. It was weird seeing a slugger have two guys packing heat. I could just see an over aggressive fan getting tazed and yelling the famous lines: "Don't taze me bro!"
It wasn't hard to follow Manny but there was some hurry up and wait moments. You had to be on your toes and the only restriction is he didn't want photogs or reporters at the batting cage when he took BP and he cleared the clubhouse prior to a game.
Manny set one record in Albuquerque. He brought 15,321 fans to the first game and the other two he was there had close to the same results. Albuquerque has seen its big baseball things come to the town, all-star games, future all-star players and major league teams. But this was the creme de la creme of baseball stars.
Manny was going to play one final game for Albuquerque. He was expected to play 7 innings which could lead to exciting at bats with the thin air. There was an hour rain delay and the anticipation built. It was like the famous scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off when Ben Stein says in a monotone voice, "Bueller, Buellar."
You could tell fans were getting restless but they had hope the rock star was going to show up fashionably late.
I staked out a position to show a different entrance to the stadium. During the rain delay I saw the security officials talking. I had a feeling he was not going to play. Then more uniformed police officers showed up to do crowd control. I left the stadium to the side entrance of the locker room to see if he was going to leave. Sure enough team officials were preparing for the star's exit from the clubhouse.
The day he left the stadium news broke the doctor that prescribed the female hormone to Ramirez was being investigated by the feds. He said "No gracias."
It was like a chessy Lifetime movie with press watching him get into a Nissan Altima and drive off with some team officials and a "tio." The sun provided the studio light. ROLL CREDITS.
(ANNOUNCER VOICE) Meanwhile back in Isotopes Park fans had no idea he ducked out during the rain delay. (End voice) I walked back into the stadium with a slough of other media. Fans had the panicked look oh no he left but we neither confirmed nor denied. We weren't going to be the spoiler.
Once the police and security were in place an announcement came over the PA system saying Elvis errr Manny left the building. Boos could be heard all over the stadium. It was the only negative reaction I heard from his 3 day stay in Albuquerque.
The funny thing is Manny Ramirez was a celebrated for being here and what he has done for baseball. I found a couple fans who think he has disgraced the game but the majority seem to forgiven him. Its weird how a players personality determine how the public will accept him or boo him out the building. He didn't get the public outcry like Bonds or some other high profile atheletes who have been caught or allegedly been caught. Ramirez is a very likeable guy and easy going with teammates, fans and sometimes the media. Sometimes it shows you nice guys finish first.