CHICAGO -- At 43, Manny Ramirez is only a year older than Bartolo Colon and decidedly more svelte than the Mets pitcher. Come to think of it, Ramirez is decidedly more svelte than he himself was during his playing career.

Draw your own conclusions about why that might be, but the fact is, Ramirez looks good and feels good as he enjoys this deep playoff run as a member of the Cubs' staff.

Well, actually, he is not an official member of the Cubs' coaching staff. But he surely is helping out in his not-clearly-defined role. He was in the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field Monday chatting with players, as usual, especially young Hispanic ones.

Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic and Spanish is his first language, but he attended and played for George Washington High School in Manhattan.

Ramirez got to know Cubs manager Joe Maddon when he was playing the final five games of his major-league career for the Rays in 2011. It was then that he announced he would retire rather than face a 100-game suspension for a violation of MLB's drug policy.

So what exactly does Ramirez, a guy who few would have pegged as a future coach in his younger years, do?

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"During that spring training [in 2011] we had a lot of conversations and a lot of conversations about hitting," Maddon said. "We found out that we're definitely on the same page. It was really cool to watch batting practice [with him]. We'd talk about not just the physical components. I'm talking about the mental.

"He's really attuned to the mental side of hitting, and I love that. So that was easy. So then when he came on board, [Cubs president] Theo [Epstein] talked and said, 'I really like what he does with the hitters.'

"Beyond that, he's almost a cultural coach. The fact we have so many young Hispanic players, to have Manny here to validate a lot of the stuff that we're talking about really helps, not a little, but a lot. His influence within that group has been substantial.

"When I have a situation or a moment dealing with some of the younger guys there, he'll come in, we'll talk about it, and then I just turn him loose. Again, finding out they're on the same page when it comes to teaching the mental part of the game, and just sometimes the physical part with the instructional component. So he's been really important to us.

"I love having him here. He's a positive, upbeat kind of a guy, and so he's been a really nice fit. I'm telling you, when it comes to Starlin [Castro], and Jorge Soler, primarily those two guys, the job he's done has been spectacular."