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On the new Red Sox spring training stadium and Manny

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  February 16, 2011 03:17 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Spent a while at the new site of Fenway South, the Red Sox' new spring training facility which is scheduled to open next February. That was after a few hours in Port Charlotte, where Manny Ramirez unexpectedly reported but quickly left .

First the stadium.

The Red Sox already have taken their ration of criticism for the building of this state-of-the-art facility in these tough economic times, but what's done is done. The stadium and surroundings should be beautiful.

Lots of dirt and some concrete, but lots of work left to be done. Lee County representative Bob Taylor anticipates a completion date of January, 2012, more than a month before spring training is scheduled to begin next season.

There are 126 acres on this site which is located at the beginning of the Gateway section of the city past the airport. There should be a Patriots Place type feel to it when all is said and done, with lots of space to have a substantial retail presence. Construction crews are now working six days a week.

There will be six minor league fields surrounding the stadium, tons of batting cages and tunnels, and workout rooms. On a selfish note, looks like the press box will have a good view, which is unusual these days because luxury boxes usually are built with that view.

There's a 37-foot Green Monster with seats atop it. Same configuration as Fenway. There's also Ballpark Way, which will be similar to Yawkey Way and be closed off on both ends so people can walk and shop.

There will be six luxury suites, five more than City of Palms Park.

The 11,000-seat facility (10,000 seats and 1,000 standing room) will have 3,500 parking spots. There'll also be a few soccer fields which will be used for local amateur teams and double as extra parking.

Naming rights, you say? Nobody really knows the answer to that one yet, but don't be surprised.

As for Manny, he surprised one and all at Charlotte County Stadium in Port Charlotte this morning when he arrived well ahead of Sunday's reporting date. Didn't stay long. Manager Joe Maddon was impressed by the early arrival and owner Stuart Sternberg, who is paying Ramirez $2 million this season, expects a good season from the former Red Sox slugger, whom he acquired for pennies on the dollar compared to the $20 million and $25 million salaries he used to earn..

"We shop in a different store," said Sternberg when asked if Ramirez knew he was making only $2 million and what type of background work was done on Ramirez before he was signed.

"We don't shop where they give you real fancy shopping bags out the door. I would like to think those teams do more dilgence. What ever happened before, we checked out. You talk about six degrees of separation but there's really two. There's always this guy who knew this guy. We didn't hear anything that would make us think otherwise and the meetings we have with him were great."

Johnny Damon, who will replace Carl Crawford in left field, has always been good for Manny. Was that a factor in bringing both in?

"That never bubbled up to me. The first thing is they don't hate each other. How much guys are buddies and how helpful that is, who knows?" Sternberg said.

There's also been speculation that Sternberg, who lives in Westchester, N.Y., could be a suitor for the Mets if the financially-strapped Wilpon family needs to sell. Asked if he were interested, Sternberg said, "No. This is the Wilpons' team. I can't envision it at all."

Sternberg, a Mets season-ticket holder, said of his relationship with the Wilpons, who once entertained him as a limited partner before Sternberg bought the Rays: "They've been welcoming and helpful. Nothing but kind in advancing what we've tried to do. I'm a Mets season-ticket holder. I looked at Mets when I first thought about a minority ownership. It turned out to be the Rays and it's been a rewarding experience. We've won two AL East championships."

On the loss of Carl Crawford, "As a fan and an owner, with Carl, a cornerstone player, we knew he was going elsewhere. It stings, and watching him stand in left field in our building for nine games, it will be tough, but we'll get used to it. And it works the other way too. When we come into Boston with those two guys - Manny and Johnny - I'm sure people will be eager to see them."

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