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Tomorrow I Begin My Quest to Find Manny Ramirez in the Japanese Minor Leagues

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Ever since I learned that Manny had signed a contract with the “Kochi Fighting Dogs” in the Japanese minor leagues back in January, I’ve been thinking about making a pilgrimage out to see him play. Knowing that Japanese major league baseball followed a similar schedule to the MLB with the season running from April to October, I assumed whatever league Manny was in would be similar. This is not the case… Last week I looked up the Fighting Dogs schedule so I could plan a trip to Japan sometime in July only to find out the league takes a two month hiatus from June to August. Manny’s contract currently only goes to July, so I had to make some game time decisions and ended up booking a solo flight to Japan tomorrow morning, just in time to catch his last two games on May 26th and 28th.

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Now just because I’m a cultural savant and can navigate China with my eyes closed, doesn’t mean Japan is gonna be a cakewalk for me. In fact, even fewer people in Japan speak English than in China and while I’m “basically fluent” in Mandarin, the only word I know in Japanese is Konichiwa. Also, Manny isn’t playing in one of Japan’s more cosmopolitan cities like Tokyo or Osaka, he’s playing in Kochi, which as far as I can tell is pretty much the Cleveland of Japan. It’s not really a tourist or business destination so there is a very good chance I’m the only foreigner at the baseball stadium besides the token non-japanese players on each team.

Best case scenario, I score an interview with Manny, we hit it off, and he lets me sample the unlimited supply of sushi that the team is contractually obligated to provide him with. Worst case scenario, I crush a bunch of beers and get to watch Manny being Manny one last time on a 3rd tier Japanese baseball diamond. Either way it’s a win-win, but I’d like to think the Fighting Dog’s front office would at least let me get 5 minutes with Ramirez after hearing how I’ve come all the way from Barstool HQ in Manhattan. Just in case they give me the opportunity I’ve started doing some Big J Journo research by reading past interviews he’s done and according to this one in the New Yorker, I may have an IN.

“You know where I want to go? I want to go to China. I want to go and see—it’s a city that I don’t know how to say the name. It’s the Prohibit City?” He meant the Forbidden City, in Beijing. “I saw it on the History Channel. They do a lot of tours over there.” – Manny Ramirez

Manny my man! Mi casa es su casa. You want a tour of the Prohibit City?? I got you. Know that place like the back of my hand.  Didn’t take Francis there while he was in town because it’s boring AF but if you want a tour I’ll give you a tour. No problemo.

977300_4957742741409_1160559041_o                       (Donnie and friends at the Forbidden City with their JV Football Trophy)

Regardless of how my Manny Quest ends, still expect some Japan content coming down the pipeline as I’ll be heading up to Tokyo afterwards to film a bunch of “Whoa That’s Weird” episodes. Japan may be way more 1st world than China, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less weird. In fact, if my 17 layover there back in 2014 was any indication, Japan makes China feel kinda normal in comparison…