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Fans flock to Manny's minor-league games

June 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
"Manny-Mania" has hit the Inland Empire. The weeklong tour of the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez in the minor leagues continues Monday night as he works himself back into shape while serving a 50-game suspension.Folks in San Bernardino are very excited, but they are still waiting for Manny's bat to heat up. He's only had one home run in his brief stint with the 66ers, 0-2 Sunday night with a couple of strikeouts.

But it is a huge deal. Monday night, it's a sellout. All 4,400 seats will be full.

From the bright lights in "Mannywood" to the minor leagues in San Bernardino, there still is every bit the buzz around watching Manny Ramirez play ball.

"Once you get a chance to see Manny this close, you just got to, you know what I mean?" said baseball fan Ian Forman, Rancho Cucamonga resident. "I went online as soon as they said to go and get tickets and we're right here in the second row. Hopefully we'll see him and get an autograph."

"I think it's wonderful," said San Bernardino resident Anna Cox. "It lets people know we have a minor league baseball team here, it's great advertisement, and go Manny! I'm just really hyped about having him here."

Whether it's the dreadlocks or the fact that he's the only guy dressed in white during warm-ups, it was pretty easy to spot Manny at the stadium Monday. And the fact that he is here may be the biggest thing ever to happen at the stadium.

Mike Saeger has called the games on the radio for fifteen years.

"I think this probably rates as the biggest baseball event in the time that I have been here, aside from San Bernardino getting a pro team back in the late '80s," said Saeger, 66ers radio announcer.

Of course the only reason he is in San Bernardino is because he is being punished for using a banned substance, and whether you like it or not, the fact is most people here don't seem to care.

"We all make mistakes," said one fan. "He's paid for it so more power to him."

"There's two sides of the coin. Baseball is baseball -- you've still got to hit the ball," said another fan.

Everywhere you look, you see the dreadlocks. There have been quite a few big-name players to play in the stadium: Back in the 1980s Ken Griffey Jr. played in the stadium; in 1990 Orel Hershiser had a rehab start here, and just a couple of years ago the entire Seattle Mariners played in the stadium.

But as one person put it, Manny Ramirez playing in San Bernardino is the biggest thing since they built the freeway.

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