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Manny Pops into Mid-Hudson to Shoot Video

February 16, 2005
Author: Justin Rodriguez
Publication Date: February 16, 2005
Training Center: Corporate Office

Chester - Manny Ramirez is one of the faces of the hated Boston Red Sox.

He is disliked by Yankee fans from Brooklyn to Monticello. So what was Ramirez doing in Orange County yesterday - right smack in the middle of Yankee Country?

Preparing to beat up on the Bronx Bombers.

Ramirez spent two-plus hours at Frozen Ropes to shoot a documentary/instructional film called "Read and React: Building Hitters from the Eyes Out."

So how does the video correlate to Ramirez smacking long fly balls around "The House that Ruth Built?"

Ramirez swears by the different techniques on the video, developed by Red Sox team eye doctor Dan Laby and Frozen Ropes owner Tony Abbatine. He used them last season. The results?

A .308 average, 43 homers, 130 RBI, a seventh All-Star Game appearance and a World Series MVP trophy.

"I just love it," Ramirez said. "These drills definitely help me recognize pitches. They've helped me a lot. I'm getting old, man. Anything to improve my game."

Ramirez, 32, thinks enough of the cutting-edge techniques to fly from Miami to Newark yesterday just to come to Frozen Ropes. Ramirez was due back in Florida last night.

"I decided to reach out and to my surprise, Manny said he would love to come to New York," said Abbatine, who served as a player development advisor to the Red Sox last season. "I've done this before with players and it was like pulling teeth. Manny was happy to do it."

One of the techniques became a pre-game ritual for Ramirez. A Red Sox trainer would toss him a plastic ring with four baseballs attached to it. Each ball has a different shape on it such as a dot or line.

The trainer calls out a shape when the ring is in the air and Ramirez must catch that ball. He often had his wife throw him the ring at home. According to Abbatine, the drill helps players recognize pitches and improves their reaction time.

In another drill, Ramirez sported a patch over his left-eye and took batting practice. That workout is designed to help his reaction time when he's faced with, say, a 90 mph slider from Randy Johnson. Ramirez also lined up to a three-dimensional picture of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in his wind-up with small letters over it.

"There's my daddy," joked Ramirez, who is 6-for-27 (.207) lifetime against Rivera in the regular season.

Abbatine had Ramirez bend in different positions and call out the letters. To impair Ramirez's depth perception even more, Abbatine had the slugger wear sunglasses while calling out letters.

Another drill was designed to help reaction time in the batters' box.

"The drill put your body in a better position to hit," said Tim Hummel, who starred in the video with Ramirez and will join him at Red Sox's spring training next week. The 1997 John S. Burke Catholic graduate hopes to make the team as a utility infielder. "Nothing is going to simulate live pitching, but they train you to visualize and see the ball better. It's a great way to warm up."

As for Ramirez, he smiled and laughed with the Frozen Ropes staff after shooting the video. He took pictures and signed autographs. And get this:
Even a few Yankee fans lined up for an autograph from Manny Ramirez of the hated Red Sox.