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Getting to know new Tampa Bay Rays Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez

Family affairs

Johnny Damon: Johnny David Damon is a bit of an Army brat, born on the base in Fort Riley, Kan., on Nov. 5, 1973, to Staff Sgt. Jimmy and his Thai wife, Yome. He then lived in Japan, Germany and Kentucky before settling in Orlando at age 5. He went on to star at Dr. Phillips High and was a UF recruit before signing with the Royals as the 35th pick of the 1992 draft. Damon met his current wife, Michelle, above left, at a Houston restaurant in 2002 — he proposed with an 8 karat yellow diamond a few years later in a hot tub — and they have two daughters, Devon, 4, and Danica, 2. Damon also has 10-year-old twins, Madeline and Jackson, from his first marriage.

Manny Ramirez: Manuel Aristides (Onelcida) Ramirez was born May 30, 1972, in the Dominican Republic then moved to the tough Washington Heights area (168th Street) of New York City when he was 13. He starred at George Washington High, hitting .615 as a senior with 14 homers in 22 games, and the Indians made him the 13th pick of the 1991 draft. Ramirez is married to Juliana, a native of Brazil whom he reportedly met when both were working out at a Bally's Total Fitness center in Boston. They have two sons, Manny Jr., 8, and Lucas, almost 5, and live in Weston, near Fort Lauderdale. Ramirez also has another son, Manny Jr., a teenager who lives with his mother in South Florida.

Mane events

Ramirez is considered one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his era. He is 45 home runs from becoming the eighth player to hit 600, and he is a 12-time All-Star and former World Series MVP. But he is most identified by his long, flowing dreadlocks. They've been the source of controversy and consternation in some of his previous stops, but the Rays are embracing his look. Manager Joe Maddon said he'd do his hair that way if he could and is contemplating a look-like-Manny-themed road trip. The dreads also could become popular at the Trop. Rays officials are considering selling Manny wigs, like the Dodgers did (Los Angeles' version is above, incorporating our idea of what a Rays version could look like). The Dodgers sold out of the $28 souvenirs several times.

Damon goes more for the fauxhawk look now. He no longer sports the long, flowing hair (and beard) he grew while recovering from a concussion during the 2003 playoffs. The look prompted a T-shirt that referenced the caveman from the Geico insurance ads and another that referenced Jesus, with fans dressing as Damon's Disciples. (When Damon signed with the Yankees, some T's referenced Judas). It was even news when he cut his hair. But he's still proud of it, even making special mention of it before slipping on his Rays cap at last week's introductory news conference.

New Rays Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon will provide plenty of material based on what they say, where they are and, most important, how they play. So with the start of spring training just more than a week away, here's a primer on who they are, where they came from and what you need to know (or at least might want to know) about them:

By the book

After the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Damon wrote a book, which he titled Idiot, with Peter Golenbock, the noted St. Petersburg author. It covers his life story but focuses mainly on that 2004 season, providing revealing peeks inside the clubhouse, including Damon's pregame ritual of naked pull-ups.

Ramirez authorized a biography, Becoming Manny, co-written by a reporter and a psychologist. It delves deeply into his background — he was an extremely shy, quiet child — with the authors talking to and about his mother, sisters, friends, and Little League coach and mentor, going back to his days growing up in the Dominican Republic.

Webmasters

Both have websites, though Ramirez's hasn't been updated to reflect his new team.

Johnnydamon.com features an interesting photo-gallery mix of modeling and baseball shots, and info on his charitable foundation and his support for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides help to severely injured service members.

Mannyramirez.com is a bit Dodger-intensive, with several Mannywood T-shirts in the merchandise area. But it also has entertaining videos, including one of him playing cricket; personal photos; and a Q&A that reveals his love of Japanese anime videos and a desire to live in Japan.

Dollar dance

In explaining why he signed with the Rays for a (relatively) meager $2 million, Ramirez said it was because he has already made his money. He has earned about $205 million, according to baseball-reference.com. Damon has done okay, too: about $110 million.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Multimedia magnets

Both players are popular subjects with the sports media, but they've branched out a bit:

Damon, who likes hanging out with rock stars and actors, is comfortable in front of the camera. His TV appearances include big-time shows Saturday Night Live and David Letterman's Late Show; Conan O'Brien and Dennis Miller; the Food Network's Ace of Cakes; Live with Regis and Kelly; and even Martha Stewart. (Yep, Martha.) He did an episode of MTV's Cribs and a spot in the movie Fever Pitch, and was featured in People magazine's 2004 Sexiest Men issue, right.

Ramirez doesn't do as much, but he made a memorable appearance on Jay Leno's show in 2007, left (wearing sunglasses, talking classic cars, fist-bumping actor Steve Carrell). He had done a SportsCenter commercial and a skit with Jimmy Kimmel. He also was featured in the New Yorker magazine.

Getting to know new Tampa Bay Rays Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez 02/05/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 6, 2011 12:13am]
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