It was early February 2008 and Manny Ramirez found himself participating in an early-morning stretch with a group of fellow major leaguers.
Ramirez had committed to spending the bulk of his offseason that year at what was then called Athletes Performance (now EXOS) in Tempe, Arizona. It was a new Manny, not only in terms of his approach toward getting ready for the season but also regarding the media.
After not speaking to reporters for the previous five or so years, Ramirez immediately opened up this time around. And the very first words he uttered would prove to be prophetic.
"I want to be like Julio Franco and play until I’m 48."
Well, here he is.
Ramirez has let it be known through his agent Hector Zepeda Jr. that his desire is to play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League this season. And, yes, if he was to return to the Taiwan-based league he played in seven seasons ago it would be at the age of 48 (which he turns May 30).
"I believe the Lord has sent him a message leading him to say, 'Let me try and see if I can get back into the game,'" Zepeda Jr. told WEEI.com.
Ramirez first informed Zepeda Jr. of his plan back in November, leading the agent to take a video of the former Red Sox participating in a hitting session in the Dominican Republic. After a story of the comeback was released in the Taiwan Times earlier this week, Zepeda Jr. got a call from one of the CPBL teams.
"They said to wait until the middle of the season," said the agent. "So basically it is going to be more of the middle of the season before they make moves."
Ironically, Julio Franco -- who last played at the age of 55, spending seven games with an Independent League team in Fort Worth -- is also continuing his baseball existence in Asia, serving as a hitting coach in South Korea.