Former MLB star Manny Ramirez is on his way to Japanese baseball after Monday’s announcement that the 44-year-old slugger had reached an agreement with the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the independent four-team Shikoku Island League Plus.
Ramirez’s wife released a photo of him signing a contract on her Instagram account, and the Fighting Dogs made an announcement on their website Monday morning.
“We are very happy to announce (to) all of you that we have reached an agreement with Mr. Manny Ramirez (Manuel Aristides Ramirez) who was active in (the) Boston Red Sox etc.,” the team wrote above a photo of Ramirez wearing a Kochi uniform while standing with team owner Rintaro Kitakomi and vice president Jun Kitakomi.
Ramirez spent 19 years in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox, leaving with a .312 career average. His 555 home runs are 15th on the all-time list and he’s 18th with 1,813 RBIs.
A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez was MVP of the 2004 World Series, which saw the Red Sox end an 86-year wait for a title, and also played with Japanese stars Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima on the Boston team that won the 2007 Fall Classic.
Ramirez was known as a colorful, eccentric character during his playing days, with fans and media usually responding to his various misadventures as “Manny being Manny.” He was also not without some controversy, once being suspended over a banned substance in 2009 and retiring while potentially facing another in 2011.
Ramirez hasn’t played in MLB since 2011, but hit .352 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs in 49 games in Taiwan with the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 2013. At the time it was thought the slugger might land in NPB after leaving Taiwan during the season, but no deal materialized.
Ramirez won’t be the first former star player to suit up for Kochi. The late Hideki Irabu briefly played for the club in 2009, and Kyuji Fujikawa signed with the team after being released by the Texas Rangers during the 2015 season.