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T.J. SIMERS

Ramirez laps it up like a real Page 2 veteran

August 03, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

Ten minutes into my first meeting with Manny Ramirez and he wants me to sit on his lap, and if Kevin Brown has learned to read by now, I'd love to see the expression on his face when he sees that.

I skipped the fawning Manny media session Friday, arriving before Saturday's game to deal with the unpredictable one for the first time, knowing that he's already telling ESPNdeportes.com after one day on the job he wants to end his career with the Dodgers.

"I really like it here, man," Ramirez says, and I wonder when he talks to female reporters if he says, "I really like it here, woman."

He says the Dodgers have a "great bunch of guys," and I don't particularly care for Curt Schilling either, so I know what he means.

He says, "The guys here have received me with open arms," and to demonstrate, stands up and hugs Mark Sweeney. It's the first contact the pinch-hitter has made in a long time, so I'm happy for Sweeney.

I'm just a tad bit skeptical, and so I want to know if this euphoria is all about cashing in on a bigger payday, his departure from Boston allowing him to become a free agent at season's end.

"I've already made $160 million," Ramirez says. "I like it here. I'm looking for peace."

That certainly makes him the Parking Lot Attendant's favorite kind of player, I say, Frank McCourt probably more than happy to give him peace, so long as he doesn't have to pay him.

Ramirez laughs and laughs. "Will you put a good word in for me?" he says, but I have to let him know I'm probably not the right guy for that job.

For a second, I consider warning him about the Screaming Meanie, but some things should just be experienced.

It's easy to understand why Ramirez wants to play here -- if they're going to pay Andruw Jones $18 million a year, what might they pay someone who actually hits the ball?

"Over here is different," he says in discussing the peace he has found here. "Over here, after the game, you can go to dinner and nobody bothers you."

Someone asks about the difficult relationship he had with the Boston media, and I interrupt. "The media here is much nicer than what's in Boston."

And he holds up his hands. "Wait, it's only been two days," he says, and he knows Plaschke better than I thought.

Several L.A.-area reporters continue to pester him about Boston, and I say, "Who cares about Boston?"

Ramirez loves it. "Come here and sit on my lap," he says, and I wonder what the newspapers' expense account policy is for tipping baseball players for lap dances.

My buddy wants to move on, but there's one more question about Schilling's criticism of him.

"Why am I going to waste my energy on what people say about me?" he says. "I just want to come here and play hard every game."

I cannot help myself. "That's the knock on you. And you didn't look like you were playing hard on that ball hit to the wall Friday night," and he says, "That's a double; I'm not going to catch that."

"Yeah, but you played it into a triple," I say, and with a laugh he replies, "Who do you think I am? Juan [Pierre]?"

He aces his first Page 2 exam, and how often does that happen around here?

Later I learn the Dodgers' PR guy has prepared Ramirez for Page 2 -- I didn't think it was J.D. Drew. But then again, the same word went out to Gary Matthews Jr., and kids, let that be a lesson -- ordering HGH is going to make you endlessly defensive, a perpetual pouter and eventually put you on the bench.

"Time will tell," Ramirez says when I want to know if we can believe what he says about being at peace here.

I know this, I say, "Your agent, Scott Boras, is known for pursuing other things besides peace."

Ramirez laughs, and once again extends an invite to sit on his lap. Anything to make Salma jealous, I say.

A short time later Ramirez wallops the first pitch he sees for a home run, the Manny-happy crowd demanding a curtain call.

Now knowing how superstitious baseball players can be, I wonder if I'm going to have to take a seat in the Dodgers clubhouse before every game.

Next thing you know, Jeff Kent will be wanting to give lap dances, too.

IT WAS perfect, friends of talented Daily News sportswriter Matt McHale, who passed away recently, getting together at a Little League field in Encino to reminisce.

Kings broadcaster Bob Miller showed up wearing a food-stained shirt, which was half tucked in, along with a grungy White Sox cap and shorts over bad legs.

"They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," Miller said in honoring McHale, a passionate newsman and L.A.'s very own Oscar Madison.

A number of friends spoke, everyone sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and food was served with this suggestion: "Eat, and when you're done, lick your fingers in Matt's honor."

It was perfect.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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