Chase Lambin turned 34 years old a week ago Sunday, and to celebrate, he sat on the bench during a minor league game in Round Rock, Tex. Lambin plays third base for the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Class AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, and he’s the oldest active minor leaguer never to reach the major leagues. Eleven years as a professional, and the view hasn’t changed much. This night was different, though, and a sort of birthday treat was that Manny Ramirez, the 41-year-old former big league star, was resuming his career with the Round Rock Express, the Texas Rangers’ Class AAA affiliate. Lambin spoke to Ramirez before taking batting practice, and he watched later as Ramirez looped a single into right field.
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Lambin kept signing contracts for between $40,000 and $60,000, he said, enough to live on but barely enough to do much else.
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He said he’ll keep playing until there are no more contracts, whether it’s in the United States or overseas. Baseball has given him a career, a family and more than a decade of experiences. He might not reach the majors, but in unexpected ways, the game had returned the love.
“I might as well enjoy it and play it as well as I can,” he said.
But teammates talk about Manny more as a guru than a goof, and view him as an expert on the game’s psychological side. “He shows young kids how to be patient hitters,” says team captain Hu Chin-Lung. “These guys used to swing at the first pitch, but he’s teaching them how to wait for the pitch they want to hit, how to watch pitchers and anticipate what they’ll throw in the next at bat.” Right fielder Koa Kuo-Hui says Manny helps him with “mental stuff.” When Kuo-Hui was in a slump, he says, Manny told him to “be happy when you’re playing,” and recommended a Bible verse.
The Rangers have signed outfielder/DH Manny Ramirez to a minor league contract, the team announced. He will report to the club’s Triple-A affiliate and work out for a few days before being officially activated. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports Ramirez will earn $500,000 pro-rated at the big league level and has agreed to cut his hair.
Manny, 41, opted out of his contract with the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League last month in an effort to find a job in MLB. He was said to have an offer on the table from a team in Japan, but obviously that never materialized….
n 49 games with the Rhinos, Ramirez hit .352/.422/.555 with eight home runs and more walks (23) than strikeouts (21) in 206 plate appearances. He has not played in MLB since 2011, when he appeared in five games with the Rays before being suspended 100 games for a second failed drug test. The suspension was cut in half after he sat out the remainder of the season.
After three months as the single most popular person in Taiwan, Manny Ramirez will leave the EDA Rhinos by week’s end. Weep not, Manny fans, because he’s probably headed for the greener, more lucrative pastures of Japan.
We’re still struck by how fully fans embraced Ramirez, even if they initially couldn’t tell him from another dreadlocked Dominican ballplayer. But it couldn’t last. The Rhinos had only signed him to a three-month contract (expiring June 30), one that allowed him to break it in order to sign with at team outside Taiwan.
The Rhinos’ statement on his leaving the team says only that Ramirez has been “homesick.” But according to the indispensable Manny Does Taiwan blog (which hopes to keep operating under a different name), Ramirez has been pursued by the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s NBP. And Chiba can pay him a hell of a lot more than the $25,000 a month he was making in Taiwan.