Manny Ramirez grabbed the recorder, walked up to Iowa teammate Carlos Pimentel and started asking questions.
The recorder was not on and the conversation was mostly in Spanish filled with jokes, but Pimentel still wanted no part of an interview even if it came from his new famous teammate.
Ninety minutes later, Ramirez was on the field taking batting practice with four teammates working on hitting the ball to the opposite field. He was quick to offer pointers alongside manager Marty Pevey and quick to offer a laugh.
It’s the new life for the happy-go-lucky Ramirez in his return to baseball as a player/coach for the Iowa Cubs, who opened a three-game set with the Oklahoma City RedHawks on Friday.
“It’s awesome, bro,” Ramirez said. “I’m here and I’m doing something that I love. I’m enjoying myself, because I knew how to enjoy myself in the big leagues and I know how to enjoy myself here.
“I know my role here. I’m going to play once a week. Just come in and help out with anything I see with the guys.”
Ramirez made headlines last week when he joined the club, but this doesn’t appear to just be another case of Manny being Manny.
This appears to be a different Manny.
With little expectation of significant playing time, Ramirez is enjoying the role of mentor for young, talented prospects like third baseman Kris Bryant and shortstop Javier Baez.
“We’re trying to learn a lot from him and he’s been great with us because everybody wants to learn from him,” said Baez, the youngest player in the Pacific Coast League at 21 years old. “When we go to the cage and we try to work on everything, we do his routine. We get on the curveball machine and the fastball machine.”
Ramirez is twice the age of Baez at 42. He hit 555 home runs, won two World Series with Boston and made the All-Star team 12 times.
But he is still remembered as a two-time offender of MLB’s rules against performance-enhancing drugs. He was also arrested in 2011 and charged with domestic battery not too long after being released by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ramirez insists he isn’t doing this to help repair his image.
“I think my image wasn’t ever damaged,” he said. “You can’t go off what people say, you’ve got to get to know the person and then you decide what kind of person he is.
“It’s about helping out and being in the game. Simple.”
Cubs teammates rave about Ramirez just a week into his tenure, too, saying he’s brought lots of energy and leadership.
For some, it’s special to be around a player they watched growing up.
“I grew up watching him on TV,” Bryant said. “He was one of my favorite players, so it is kind of weird, a little bit surreal that I’m playing with him. He doesn’t want to be treated any different. He wants to be treated just like a player and I think that’s pretty cool coming from a guy who’s had a Hall of Fame career.”
Just being around the game he loves is special, Ramirez said.
“I’m doing something that I like,” Ramirez said. “Once you do something that you like, it’s not a big journey. I try to enjoy myself wherever I go.”