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Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez gives off familiar feeling of Manny Ramirez

T.J. SIMERS

He oozes with charisma and appears ready made for Hollywood. Both are from the Dominican Republic with Red Sox roots and have reputations for having bad attitudes, and both bring an element of fun.

July 30, 2012|T.J. Simers

When Manny Ramirez arrived as a Dodger, he asked me to sit in his lap.

Maybe it was the female hormones we would learn later he was taking, but so much for immediately disarming Page 2.

Think what you like of him now, but upon his mid-season arrival here a few years ago, Manny Ramirez just overwhelmed Los Angeles.

He made baseball entertaining and that's not easy to do most nights. As an example, check out Monday night's game.

OK, so later we would learn of the stuff Manny was using, and as awesome a hitter as it made him, I still don't understand why all the Dodgers weren't eating it like candy.

But whatever the moral outrage over enhanced performances or the old Boston stories of a malcontent Manny doing this or that, there is no taking away the fun folks experienced here those first two Mannywood months.

There hasn't been a really good, fun reason to return to Dodger Stadium ever since, but what about this Hanley Ramirez?

If he's anything like the Hanley Ramirez who finished second in MVP voting a few years back, it's like the Lakers stealing Pau Gasol, only a tougher version of Gasol.

Ramirez has been that good at times.

Ramirez is also from the Dominican Republic with Boston Red Sox roots and has a reputation for having a bad attitude.

"Oh yeah," says Ramirez when I advise him of his reputation. "I'm just honest."

"So to be honest," I say in extending a Page 2 greeting, "Do you have an attitude problem?"

"Not really," says Ramirez, which really isn't an outright denial.

"So then all those stories about you having an attitude problem are just not true?"

Ramirez's reply: "Can you mention one?"

I tell him he's been playing in Miami, out of sight and I can't get specific now, but we can sit down later and go over every report that has him being a problem.

"I would love to," he says while giving me an enthusiastic fist pump that would make Manny proud.

And like the Ramirez before him, this one has not only added more potential pop to the Dodgers' lineup, but sizzle as well.

While he was in Miami, Marlins' players would put two fingers over an eye in the shape of a V, the Lo Viste salute as they call it.

"It didn't really help you guys down in Florida," I tell him, knowing he's already come up with something similar for the Dodgers.

"I see you," is how he explains it, Dee Gordon and Ramirez putting their fingers around their eyes as if looking out of binoculars.

"It's stupid," I suggest.

"It's fun," Ramirez fires back, and I think I'm going to like this guy.

He's already oozing with charisma, giving fans a variety of hand gestures celebrating a great play, or great play of a teammate. He appears ready made for Hollywood.

In pregame warmups, he jumps around like a kid who has just been told he will get the chance to play in a Major League Baseball game. Coupled with Matt Kemp, it might be as good an enthusiastic pairing as there is in baseball.

Later someone asks what it's like coming to a team where he won't have to feel the pressure of being the man since Kemp is already here.

"It makes it easier for everybody," Ramirez says. "That's one of the keys — you don't have to try hard."

There were reports in Miami that Ramirez didn't always run out everything, and who does that remind you of?

But when I hear that, I repeat what he's said: "You don't have to try hard?"

"Always play hard," Ramirez says, "Yeah."

"Good," I tell him, "I just want to make sure we're on the same wavelength."

"We're always going to be," says Ramirez with a huge grin that seems all-too familiar.

He says as a youngster, he loved watching the way Manny Ramirez hit a baseball. Later they became friends, and now he talks like him, dancing around the tough questions by reminding everyone the past is the past.

"A clean slate," is what Manager Don Mattingly calls it, but he hold off on the comparisons to Manny.

"I look at Hanley differently," Mattingly says. "With Manny I felt he was coming to us as kind of a rental; I kind of thought we wouldn't re-sign him after the season.

"But with Hanley I look at this as long term. This guy is part of what we're going to do for some time, a building block. The blaze that Manny came in with is hard to live up to for anyone, so I just want him to get comfortable and play."

Mattingly says Ramirez will eventually move to shortstop and will stay there in time. Ramirez says he couldn't be happier whatever happens.

"I think these guys are going to make me better," Ramirez says. "They are good teammates. You see players screaming for each other and just say, 'Wow.' Then you're really happy to be here."

So he wasn't happy with his Miami teammates?

"What can I say? That's in the past," he says.

"So that's a 'yes,'" I say, and repeat it.

"I can't hear you right now," jokes Ramirez, and as the return of fun to Dodger Stadium goes, it's a good start.

THE DODGERS honored Cpl. Wesley Leon Barrientos before the game as their "veteran of the game."

The fans gave Barrientos, who had both legs amputated after being wounded in Iraq, a thunderous ovation. Barrientos vowed to walk in three months and run again in six months and accomplished both.

Unfortunately, many fans don't arrive until later; why not replace "God Bless America" in the seventh inning with the stirring tribute to veterans and give veterans a chance to really hear it from the crowd?

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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