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Dodgers hitter Ramirez takes a swing at cricket

DECKED out in a chinstrapped red helmet, padded gloves and pillowy shinguards, Manny Ramirez watched from the side as a bowler warmed up.

After the first ball kicked up dust and rocketed past him, the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger turned and wondered about his safety. But it wasn't long before one of the most feared hitters in baseball felt secure enough to step in and take a few swings with a cricket bat.

"Let me see a fast one," Ramirez shouted to the bowler, Souvir Bhuta, who fired one in.

The Dodgers had Wednesday off, so the mercurial Ramirez moved to this suburb southeast of Phoenix, where he took batting lessons from Australia's Shaun Marsh in a promotion for international cricket broadcasts in the US.

Ramirez, a 12-time Major League Baseball All-Star who has 527 home runs, has been sidelined with a tight hamstring.

The made-for-the-media event took place on a sunsplashed field often used by the Arizona Cricket Club, one of an estimated 750 cricket teams in the US.

The event paired two men who make their living with a bat - although it wasn't the bat Ramirez was used to.

Marsh is a left-handed opening bat who plays for his country and for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. Like Ramirez, Marsh is coming back from a hamstring injury that he said had sidelined him for about six weeks. The Australian gave Ramirez a few quick pointers on the rules.

"It's pretty simple, mate," Marsh said. "You just make sure you're nice and relaxed. You keep your eyes on the ball, just like you do in baseball."

With Marsh standing nearby, Ramirez swung and missed at his first pitch, then lined the second one past the bowler's ear. On the third delivery, Ramirez let the ball hit the wickets.

"That's an out?" Ramirez asked. "Give me one more chance."

A few minutes later, Bhuta's ball bounded behind Ramirez, who danced out of the way. "Am I allowed to charge the mound?" Ramirez said.

He expressed admiration for Marsh and the skills of cricketers, although he cringed when told that batsman can spend nine hours at the crease. "That's too long," Ramirez said.

Asked to recall his longest at-bat, Ramirez said, "Maybe 10 pitches."

Ramirez's escapades in the outfield are legendary, but at least he has a large leather glove to protect himself, unlike in cricket, where only the wicketkeeper wears gloves in the field.

"It's unbelievable," Ramirez said. "I don't know how they do it. The ball comes like 110 (mph) and they catch it with no glove."

Sometimes they catch it in the ribs.

That's where Ramirez's longest drive hit Anil Cheruvu, one of the fielders from the Arizona Cricket Club.


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