Manny Ramirez setting the example for Cubs prospects

Manny Ramirez setting the example for Cubs prospects
July 1, 2014, 12:45 am
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Tony Andracki

DES MOINES, Iowa - Manny Ramirez's message to young players is simple: "Do the right thing, bro. Follow the rules. That's it."

Ramirez set the tone for what the "right thing" is Monday night in his Iowa Cubs home debut, drilling a two-run homer. An inning later, Kris Bryant hit one almost to the same spot in center field, a grand slam to give the I-Cubs a 6-5 lead before an eventual 7-6 victory in 10 innings.

Ramirez has only been with the I-Cubs for a few days, but he's already setting the tone for the team.

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"He led the way," Bryant said after the I-Cubs' walk-off victory Monday night. "He's just been great ever since he joined us, helping us with our approaches up there. He leads the way with his approach. It's so solid up there. He had three hits up the middle and they were all hit hard. It was pretty cool to watch him tonight."

Hours before his three-hit game, Ramirez sat at the table in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, leaning back in his chair, relaxed and at ease as he fielded questions and called reporters "bro."

So far, it's all good on the Manny Show. He's saying all the right things and leading by example, both in the clubhouse and on the field.

Would he be able to get the same message across as just a coach?

Ramirez said it was Theo Epstein's idea for him to be a player and a coach instead of just teaching from the bench. It looked like the right call Monday night.

In addition to his contributions to the Iowa Cubs in the box score, being a player allows Ramirez the opportunity to say something and then back it up in the cages or in the batter's box.

"Him being a player, too, you kind of see how he goes about his business," Bryant said. "He's always in the cage hitting balls and taking [batting practice]. It's good to see him doing that because he preaches it to you and then you see him do it live in person. It's definitely good for him to be a player and a coach."

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Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara - two of the Cubs' top prospects - said the Iowa players feel comfortable around Ramirez already. Epstein said the young players are following Ramirez around like a "pied piper."

"Guys are just trying to learn from him," Iowa pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "He spent 19, 20 years in the big leagues. If you don't follow him around, you're doing something wrong. So it's good to see the young kids are following him and trying to learn as much as they can."

Hendricks says Ramirez has even helped the pitchers, breaking down the psychology of a hitter and standing in during bullpens.

Bryant, who has dominated minor-league pitching throughout his professional career, said he's seen the results of Ramirez's impact on his game already, even before Monday's grand slam.

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"[In one game], he said 'look middle-away this at-bat' and the first pitch, the guy threw a fastball middle-away and I got a single to right field," Bryant said. "Pretty cool to see results like that just from him saying one little line to me.

"He's been through quite a few runs in his career where he's been 0-for-20 or 10-for-20. It's good to learn from a guy like that and someone of his caliber who's had a Hall of Fame career. It's a good resource for all of us."

Ramirez admitted Epstein and the Cubs front office has been honest with him in that he will only play on occasion, maybe once a week. Still, he's been bouncing off the walls in the dugout when he's not in games, wearing batting gloves and swinging the bat around. Baez joked that he actually had to calm Ramirez down so he didn't hit anybody with his bat.

"Before Manny got here, I thought it was going to be hard to talk to him because you know his name," Baez said. "But it's completely different. I thought he was going to be cocky and stuff, but he's not like that. He's just like another player."

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Ramirez said he's trying to help show the Cubs prospects how to develop their own routine and put in the work before and after games. He also has been preaching for the kids to cherish the moment and not take things for granted. But he understands he hasn't even been with the team for a week yet, and said he's not trying to get in players' faces and shove his theories and advice down anybody's throat.

"Everywhere you go, bro, if you can change any life, all the things that you went through and especially those kids coming from the Dominican Republic or anywhere," Ramirez said. "The influence that you have just to go over there and talk to them and see, 'Oh, Manny went through a lot and he's still here. I can make it. I can do it.'

"But the message is, we got rules. We got rules in baseball and we got rules in the street that we got to follow.

"You've got to have a full heart to learn the purpose. The league has rules and we've gotta follow it. That's what I would say to them. I tell my kids, 'If you do everything right, you don't have to look back.' I always tell myself that as testimony."

Right now, Manny's talking and the Cubs prospects are listening. And that might just be a great thing for the organization.