Baseball has played a major role in Manuel’s recovery

Talkin’ baseball got Charlie Manuel talking again.

Nine months after suffering a stroke, the 80-year-old hitting guru is back to sharing his knowledge of the game with anyone who wants to learn from a World Series champion.

“When I was cooped up in the hospital, it was tough to take,” Manuel told The Associated Press. “It seemed like a long time before I really learned to walk again, and when I started doing things, I realized that when I talk about baseball, I feel more comfortable.”

The former Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians manager recently became an investor in Perfect Game, a youth and high school baseball sports platform. Manuel, who lives in Florida, has already spent a couple of weekends at their local tournaments and plans to attend as many youth games as he can.

“I was interested because it’s amateur baseball and it gives me a chance to talk to kids about the game and it doesn’t interfere with the job I’m doing now,” Manuel said. “I’ve always loved watching amateurs. People don’t realize when I come to Philadelphia, I usually watch 10-15 high school games a summer. I love seeing the guys who could definitely hit.”

Manuel still works as a senior adviser for the Phillies and he’s already scouted the team’s Single-A affiliate in Clearwater. He’s heading to Double-A Reading next week and plans to visit the NL-leading Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Manuel got a rousing ovation when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the season opener on March 29. It was a long road after his stroke last September, and baseball played a major role in Manuel’s recovery.

The stroke damaged a part of Manuel’s brain that controls language expression, so he needed speech therapy to learn how to talk again. He was struggling to say his name and had a difficult time staying interested until the therapist asked him about baseball.

He perked up and the words began flowing.

“I think when I talk about baseball, I feel like I can talk better,” Manuel said. “I still am trying to improve on my speech, but at the same time, I think I can talk baseball. Plus, I love to help people.”

It took the City of Brotherly Love a while to embrace Manuel and his down-home charm when he was hired in 2005. He ended up becoming a folk hero in Philadelphia after leading the Phillies on the most successful run in franchise history, including the 2008 World Series title. He’s No. 1 on the team’s career managerial list with 780 wins, and he finished his career with a record of 1,000-826, six division titles and two pennants.

“We loved playing for the fans of Philadelphia, and Philly is my favorite place in the United States,” Manuel said.

Manuel was the ultimate player’s manager. From Jim Thome and Ryan Howard to Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, guys loved playing for him.

“I talk to a lot of my former players like Thome, Howard, Utley, Rollins, but also when I was in the hospital, I was surprised that a lot of the guys I had in the minor leagues, they called me,” Manuel said. “That made me feel good. I was the kind of guy if you were one of my players, I took time to work with you, and I wanted you to be the best player in baseball.

“I still feel that way. I was honest and I think that worked for me, and I got a locker-room personality. If I could get people to relax and play the game right, that was the goal. I was very fortunate to stay in the game as long as I did and everything happened for me because I had good players. I always had good talent to work with and organizations were treating me great. That’s something I’ll never forget.”