When Manny Ramirez arrived in Boston in 2000, he knew exactly what he was getting into. He understood the decades of misery that preceded him, and the massive expectations that awaited him and his $160 million contract.
One of the best right-handed hitters of his generation, Ramirez shattered those expectations as he helped break the Red Sox’ World Series curse in 2004 on his way to becoming a two-time champion. His eight-year run in Boston made him beloved, and more than a decade after it, he’s still adored at Fenway Park.
Ramirez was back in his one of his favorite places Tuesday, walking out of left field as he joined some of his former Red Sox teammates — David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez included — in something of a surprise appearance as the team celebrated its 2018 championship with a ring ceremony prior to the home opener against the Blue Jays.
“Every time I went to left field, all the fans cheering and cheering my name, it’s a great feeling,” Ramirez said of his time at Fenway. “Especially when you come back and see Alex (Cora) and you see David and you see Pedro.”
It was Ramirez’ first time back at Fenway since 2017, when Ortiz’ No. 34 was retired. And he has nothing but fond memories for a place he says brought the best out of him.
“When I came to Boston, to be honest, I knew it was going to be tough, but it also made me a better player, just to be always on top of my game and always give all I got,” Ramirez said. “I know sometimes, a lot of people saw that I was maybe not working that hard, but I was working hard. I was doing my thing. I was putting my numbers in. Like I said, this is an awesome place to play. It was God’s purpose for me to be here and play here.”
Despite all his success, there’s still a piece of Ramirez’ career that’s still missing: an induction to Cooperstown.
Ramirez certainly has Hall-of-Fame numbers, but PED suspensions put a stain on his career. In 2017, his first year as a Hall-of-Fame candidate, Ramirez was named on 23.8 percent of ballots, and that number dropped to 22 percent in 2018. A candidate must be named on 75 percent of ballots in order to be elected.
Still, Ramirez remained positive and optimistic about it when asked Tuesday if he thinks he’ll one day get into Cooperstown.
“I hope so, I hope so,” Ramirez said. “We’re praying. But you know, I think in life, everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect, but I think with time, if it’s God’s will, we’re going to be there. If not, hey, we’re just happy that we got the opportunity to play the game that we love.”
The 46-year-old Ramirez is retired from baseball now as he spends more time with his family, which includes three kids. He joked, “I thought playing against the Yankees was going to be tough, but raising boys is something different.”
When he’s not busy with that, Ramirez has enjoyed watching the Red Sox, particularly Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
“They’re awesome,” Ramirez said. “Betts, J.D., the way they use both parts of the field and average, it’s unbelievable. It reminds me of myself when I used to do that.”
They at least have winning championships in common. Ramirez smiled as he thinks about how far Boston, which he called “the best city to play,” has come since he signed.
“I remember my first time when I came here in 2000, everybody was talking about the curse,” Ramirez said. “And we never thought about the curse. But we came, we won two, then they won two more, and it’s awesome. When you see those trophies, I think then you realize it was worth coming here.”