It’s a week and more now since the shock news that the Red Sox were designating Hanley Ramirez for assignment. The opprobrium has subsided, replaced by phlegmatism in part thanks to Mitch Moreland‘s continued stellar form – capped by a rocket to straightaway centre off Charlie Morton in the recent set in Houston.
But in this corner at least another emotion dominates – mournfulness.
I saw my first live baseball game on April 4 2015 at Fenway Park. The Red Sox held off the scuffles that dogged them later that year and topped the Blue Jays 4 to 1. Ramirez lasered a bomb over the Monster, his helmet lolled from his dreadlocked dome and he scuttled, arms pumping, chasing in David Ortiz.
That was, of course, the April that came to define Hanley’s time in Boston. He was electric with the bat, clubbing 10 home runs in the season’s opening stretch, and tortuous during his ill-fated first steps in left field. There were no faux pas that evening, but history tells us that’s more through chance than anything greater. The swashbuckling 2015 Jays had yet to hit their stride; the side featured Dalton Pompey and Josh Thole and was some way from the dizzy heights mounted later that year – ‘bat flip’ and all.
All of which is a prefix.
It’s a little over 24 hours until I attend my second ever game at Fenway. And Hanley will be absent. And that’s weird.
For all Mookie Betts‘ superstar power, Dustin Pedroia‘s scrappy leadership, Jackie Bradley’s highlight defending and Chris Sale‘s rubber-limbed dominance, Ramirez has held a special place in my personal affections.
Call me sentimental for that home run, if you will. But my favourite player ever – Koji Uehara – took the save that night. And the result was immaterial to the experience.
Hanley transcended all that.
His 2016 is an exercise in reinvention – a laughing stock entering spring training, he took a borrowed glove and became a serviceable first baseman; silencing doubters and slamming 30 home runs as a middle order menace, bringing out the stops for the Ortiz Retirement Tour.
This is the start of the Hanley I’ll miss. The one who air-punched when catching a routine pop-out, the master of the dugout dancehall; a Dominican Bacchus, charged by Gatorade not Claret, the spectre of fun in a well of sobriety.
I won’t miss 2017 Hanley, shoulder impingement and all. Nor, really, the onfield embodiment of the 2018 guise.
I won’t question the decision in baseball terms. Merely personal, selfish ones.
Gone is the guy in the Mother’s Day neon catcher’s garb.
The wacky uncle at the wedding breakfast.
The man whose last departure from Fenway came with a megaphone, Hawaiian shirt and straw beach hat. How does that coincidence define him…
In a little over 24 hours I’ll be in Fenway Park, with a Benintendi bobblehead in my bag, ruing the fact I’ve timed my Transatlantic trip with those of Betts and Pedroia to the DL.
And I’ll be thinking about Hanley. That laser in 2015, that presence in the dugout and the smile on his face.
Farewell Hanley, they don’t make enough sportsmen like you. It’s been real.