- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The state of Rhode Island is having trouble collecting some of the millions it lent former pitcher Curt Schilling, another reminder why chasing celebrity is almost always a bad thing.

Schilling met with the state’s governor on Wednesday to ask for even more help, after his 38 Studios company missed a $1.1 million payment on a $75 million loan guarantee state officials gave him to lure the video game company from Massachusetts two years ago.

Schilling was in full baseball mode afterward, refusing to answer questions about how much taxpayers might be on the hook for his business venture.

“My priority right now is to get back to my team,” he said.

Not sure if he meant the Red Sox or the Diamondbacks, two teams that particularly appreciated his talents on the mound. Like most others, I thought Schilling was retired, and had taken his talents elsewhere.

Until this spring, I thought Manny Ramirez was retired, too. He said so himself, just after being threatened with a 100-game suspension by Major League Baseball while trying to enjoy time with his new team in Tampa Bay.

He played in only five games for the Rays, with one hit in 17 at-bats, the kind of numbers that can force a hitter into retirement. As anyone who follows baseball knows, though, lack of production had nothing to do with Ramirez leaving the sport.

He’s a two-time loser in baseball’s doping game, busted while playing for two different teams. His 555 career home runs have long since been rendered meaningless, along with his 12 All-Star appearances. There’s no Mannywood at Dodger Stadium anymore, though odds are there’s a storage closet full of fake dreadlocks there gathering dust.

But Manny is Manny, and he is a name. He remains a celebrity of sorts, and, this being baseball, there figured to be a team that would chase him.

That the Oakland Athletics swallowed the bait wasn’t too surprising. One look at the fans scattered around the Coliseum on any given night speaks to the desperation of a team that can’t wait to get out of town. They can’t lure in people with amenities like swimming pools and erupting home run sculptures, but they might sell a few tickets with Ramirez batting cleanup.

He can’t play until May 30, which happens to be his 40th birthday. But come Saturday night in Albuquerque, you can see him in uniform as a member of the Sacramento River Cats. Get your credit card out now and you can buy a Manny Pack of tickets when they get home to the state capital, complete with a Manny Ramirez T-shirt, while supplies last.

The new Manny Ramirez is apparently cuddly and warm, kind of like Dinger, the River Cats furry mascot. Nothing at all like the guy who cheated baseball and paying fans in cities across the country by bulking up with performance enhancing drugs to hit home run after home run.

I’m sure the T-shirts come in kids’ sizes. Hopefully, they will also come with instructions for parents to explain why he is being celebrated.

“Well, son, he hit all these home runs. He also did funny things like talk on his cellphone in the outfield. We used to say it was Manny being Manny.”

“So, dad, why hasn’t he been playing? Has he been hurt?”

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