Folks have wondered for several months now what would happen with Manny Ramirez, who had been playing winter ball in the hopes of continuing his playing career. Last season, the Cubs brought in Ramirez as a player/coach at the AAA level to a great deal of fanfare, and with great results. Ramirez seemed to be a positive influence on a number of young Cubs players, so the hope has always been that the team would figure out a way to get him to return in some capacity.
And they have – Manny’s coming back as a hitting consultant at the Major and minor league levels. Ramirez will work with Cubs hitters and prospects on the fundamental and mental aspects of hitting. Whatever you think of Ramirez’s past, he seems to be a changed guy, and he’s a big influence to have in the organization, especially with younger players. This is a very good thing.
In addition to the Ramirez hiring, the Cubs also officially announced the Kevin Youkilis hiring – he’ll serve as scouting and player development consultant, and will work with minor league hitters.
The Cubs also announced the full staff for their new Mental Skills Program, with descriptions from the press release:
– Josh Lifrak, Director, Mental Skills Program – Josh joins the Cubs after spending the last 10 years as the senior mental conditioning consultant at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. While at IMG, Josh developed and implemented mental skills training programs for hundreds of athletes spanning a multitude of sports, including baseball.
– Darnell McDonald, Coordinator, Mental Skills Program – Darnell has been promoted to this role after joining the club’s front office last April as a baseball operations assistant. McDonald retired from a 16-year professional career at the end of spring training last year, a career that included all or part of seven seasons at the big league level.
– Rey Fuentes, Latin Coordinator, Mental Skills Program – Rey begins his third season with the organization and first in this role following two years as cultural programs coordinator. Fuentes graduated from Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., in 2002 with a degree in Exceptional Student Education.
– Dr. Ken Ravizza, Consultant, Mental Skills Program – Dr. Ravizza is a professor of Applied Sport Psychology at Cal-State Fullerton and has served as a consultant to the U.S. Olympics team for more than 20 years, as well as many professional organizations, including the Tampa Bay Rays, under manager Joe Maddon, the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It never made sense that MLB teams didn’t do more, in a formalized way, to address the extensive mental aspects of the game, so I’m pleased to see the Cubs going this route. Odds are good that you’ll see many other organizations following suit in the coming years.