CBS 5 Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell hosts “GameDay” every Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. on CBS 5 and offers his unique sports analysis here.

PHOENIX, Ariz. (CBS 5) — New Oakland A’s designated hitter Manny Ramirez is spending his days at spring training reflecting on his career, his family and lessons learned as he seeks to make an impact on the team once his baseball suspension ends in May.

Ramirez hopes to follow in the footsteps of Frank Thomas, who rejuvenated his career as a designated hitter with the A’s.

“I hope I can do the same thing,” Ramirez told CBS 5 in an interview at the Athletics spring training facility. “I feel blessed by just being here and having a job. But first I gotta make the team before I can think about getting paid.”

Those who have observed Ramirez so far at spring training this year describe his demeanor and the way he expresses himself as being a lot different than the way it used to be when he was a superstar slugger with the Los Angeles Dodgers – before his downfall after being caught using banned substances.

“You go through a a lot in your life,” he explained, “you look in the mirror and sometimes you say to yourself: ‘Well, I gotta change. I gotta do something positive with my life.’ I want to be a role model for my kids.”

Ramirez was very candid about what happened that got him to this point in his life – and there was more to it than just his baseball woes.

“I lost my career, made a bad decision,” he said. “I almost lost my family and I got to that point that I was lonely. I was empty inside and I said ‘I’ve got to change.”

Ramirez continued: “Then I started going to church with my wife and little by little, now I feel great. The blessing came and I’m here.”

He acknowledged that it was difficult accepting a minimum contract with the A’s that offers no guarantee, but he looked forward to proving himself again.

“The bible says you gotta lose your pride,” he observed. “I can still play, but I gotta go out there and prove it.”

Ultimately, Ramirez said he “plays the game because I love it. It’s not about the money or the fame or none of that. When I was a little kid, I used to play the game, loved the game. So, I decided to come back because I still love the game and I can still play.”

Some of his new found teammates at A’s training camp said they’ve already seen signs of leadership from the veteran Ramirez, helping others to improve as he works to restore his own career.

“I embrace it,” Ramirez said of the opportunity to serve a leadership role on the team. “If I can help some of these young guys and make them better, why not share it.”

The earliest Ramirez can get a shot at a return to Major League Baseball would be May 30, the day his suspension is officially up – which ironically is also his birthday. If all goes well, he just might have two reasons to celebrate come the end of May.

(Copyright 2012 CBS San Francisco. All rights reserved.)


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