PHOENIX I would love to see Manny Ramirez playing at Raley Field this spring.
It could happen. Man-Ram launching tape-measure bombs onto the grassy berms where parents and Little Leaguers dwell.
The dreadlocks; the bandana on said dreadlocks; that goofy smirk of indifference; and that swing that launched 555 career home runs in the big leagues, some chemically enhanced.
Think of the conversations Ramirez could inspire between kids and parents if the guy with the R-rated reputation were rounding the bases at the family-friendly ballpark by the Sacramento River.
Baseball has been idealized for too long. We've been too slow myself included to face up to the reality and hypocrisy of baseball's steroids era.
Why not some straight talk?
I'm trying to teach my kids to love baseball as my dad taught me, so here is what I would say to them about Ramirez if he came to the idyllic ballpark created by the late, great River Cats owner Art Savage.
I'd say that Manny is an older guy now, pushing 40, who is trying to come back to baseball with a new attitude after getting into trouble.
Last year, he quit after getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs. He also had a terrible reputation of being a guy who only cared about himself.
I always wished Manny had been different. If he weren't always acting like a hard guy, he would have been one of the biggest stars in sports.
Despite the way he looks the baggy pants, the suspect body language he is one of the greatest power hitters ever born.
Manny saw the ball. He hit the ball. It didn't matter how hard you threw it or how much you bent it or if you threw it at him. Sooner or later, he would hit it so far it would make your spine tingle.
And he would smile in a way that showed an open heart and a fun-loving spirit. It's just that when the games were over, that spirit would disappear. He wouldn't talk or he would and you wish he hadn't.
Manny comes from a tough life, a tough neighborhood in New York City. He learned two things growing up there how to hit a baseball and not to trust anybody.
You know what was the saddest part about Manny? He didn't appreciate the gifts he had.
Manny would drop balls in the outfield and act as if he didn't care because he knew he could hit the home run and everyone would cheer and forget how terrible he was in the field.
But he lost the game. He had all this money, but he no longer had a purpose. Everyone needs a purpose in life.
Manny has little kids and a beautiful wife, and yet he was just another steroids cheat.
For me, being someone who has loved and followed players from Latin America, Manny's situation was hard to take. Jose Canseco. Sammy Sosa. Miguel Tejada. Rafael Palmeiro. Manny.
All these guys had Hall of Fame written all over them. In Spanish, they call that Salon de la Fama.
And now all of them are outside of baseball. Canseco is always on Twitter, saying how much he misses the game. I know that Tejada is crying this spring with no job in baseball.
Now Manny is back with the A's, the only team that will have him. He's making $500,000, which is a lot to you and me, but it's nothing to a guy with his talent.
The A's have made no promises. It's on Manny to be able to hit. He's trying. I've seen him posing for pictures with kids. He's trying to help young teammates. He's trying to hit again, though on Wednesday some A's minor league pitchers had their way with him during batting practice.
He's 0 for 5 in Cactus League games and didn't play Wednesday because his back hurt. That happens when you get older. What also happens is you realize, sometimes too late, that you can lose what you loved the most if you don't appreciate it.
Maybe Manny doesn't really mean it when he says he wants another chance. He wasn't around for me to ask after the A's and Dodgers played to a 3-3 tie. But I hope he does mean it.
I hope he catches on with the A's, a dull team in desperate need of some excitement. If he makes it, I hope the A's send him to Triple-A Sacramento before calling him to Oakland.
It would be a great sight at Raley Field and a great conversation to have while those dreadlocks rounded the same bases little kids run after weekend games.