EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


March 4, 2007

Manny's a changed man, Marlins minor league catcher works Ramirez into offseason frenzy

FORT MYERS, Fla. - It is no news flash that Manny Ramirez remains somewhat of a mystery. But there is one relatively unknown piece of information regarding the slugger which might be hard for some to fathom.

Throughout his professional life, Ramirez had never practiced his hitting in the offseason, that is until this winter.

The owner of a career .314 batting average and 470 home runs would always use his offseason to better his body, primarily with trainer Juan Carlos Santana in Boca Raton, Fla. But not one time did the 34-year-old consistently pick of a bat and fine-tune his bread-and-butter skill - hitting.

This year, however, the hour ride from Ramirez's home in Westin became too much, leading him to a facility called Perfect Competition in nearby Davie. The idea was to join other professional athletes working out at the facility. But once Ramirez arrived for the first time, he found his offseason took on a whole new life.

"I remember giving him a tour and he was very cordial and outgoing," said Greg Brown, Perfect Competition's director of baseball training. "I was telling him that we had this cage here to help supplement his training and I would always be here if he wanted to work out. I asked him, 'How often do you hit?' He just said, 'No, spring training.' Then I asked him, 'Well, do you throw?' Again, 'No, spring training.' I was like, 'OK ....' It is just unbelievable.

"So he comes in for his first performance-enhancement training, bringing two bats with him. When he came to meet me, he brings these bats and I'm figuring he was donating them to me as a favor. I walk up to him and thank him for the bats. He's like, 'No, no, no. Let's hit.' This is back in November. For me, it was almost like a dream come true to have hands-on experience with the greatest right-handed hitter of our generation."

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