As a quick visit back to a time when Manny Ramirez wasn’t necessarily innocent, but certainly wasn’t notorious, here are some excerpts from a New York Times story in August 1991. Manny was 19, had been drafted by the Indians in June, and was playing for their Burlington, North Carolina rookie league farm team in the Appalachian League:
While the center fielder with the quicksilver swing feels at home within the confines of Burlington Athletic Stadium, the shy teen-ager from teeming, close-knit Washington Heights feels marooned here, in small-town America.
“You get homesick,” Ramirez said, washing down a fried chicken dinner with his favorite drink, orange juice, at Perkins’ Family Restaurant, a few miles from the ball park.
Burlington is a town of textile mills, discount clothing outlets, great barbecue, country music and plenty of hospitality in central North Carolina. . . .
Leaving home is hard enough for any 19-year-old. But it was only six years ago that Ramirez arrived in Washington Heights from Santo Domingo, joining his father, who drives a livery cab, and his mother, who works as a seamstress in a factory. In many ways this has been a more difficult migration. His high school team was all Dominican, and his sandlot team, in Brooklyn’s Youth Service League, was mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican.
Ramirez’s struggle to learn English helped keep him from graduating with his classmates in June. His English has, however, improved considerably since he signed on as translator for his roommates, Fernando Hernandez and Ulises Colon, who came here directly from the Dominican Republic and speaks no English. . . .
Ramirez has to adjust to professional baseball, and the Appalachian League is the bottom. His 31 teammates, aged 17 to 22, come from places like Alice, Tex.; Nashville, and Tijuana, Mexico. They travel by bus, stay at Super 8 motels and, with $15 a day for food on the road, subsist on Burger King. The pay is $850 a month.
They play 68 games in 69 days, on the road three days, home three days, and on the road again. “We don’t even know where we’re living,” Ramirez said. . . .
Ramirez’s $469-a-month, two-bedroom apartment lacks a lot of things. The three ballplayers make do with two drinking glasses, two tin plates, one pot and one frying pan. Ramirez is the translator and [Fernando] Hernandez is the cook. “He’s a great cook,” Ramirez said.