Rami Makini gets second lease on life

Updated: March 14, 2016


The Cajun Chronicles
Gary Salisbury
May 29th 2023
New Orleans, Louisiana

“What the hell is that thing? Is that seriously a VCR?” exclaims Ryan, the team’s IT guru.

“Yeah… Why? You’ve never seen one of these?” replies the team’s manager, Mike Whiteman.

“Not since I last went to my grandmother’s, no!”

“Yellow is video. That’s all you need to remember. Man… kids today.”

There aren’t very many people here, to be honest. The team sent out an e-mail that the team signed a new AAA pitcher named Rami Makini, so we showed up. Curiously enough, an African radio station of some sort is here. Apparently a few young guys from Sierra Leone are doing a radio documentary on Rami’s life in baseball, so they set up some equipment. According to the guys, radio is still king out there. TV hasn’t really caught on that much.

However, I am still mostly getting a kick out of this old VCR equipment, and the fact that Manager Mike is adamant to show us his prized rectangular video possessions today at the media meeting. Normally, G.M. LeBlanc would do most of the talking, and might bring Fayetteville’s manager Flores to say a few words, but he is in Virginia with his team.

Instead, Manager Mike dusted off tapes of Makini, whom he managed many moons ago as the head of Sierra Leone’s National Team, to show the media.

I honestly had no idea people even used VCR’s in the 21st century. But, according to Vic, one of the youngsters here for the documentary, updated television and video equipment was rare there at the time, and hard to find in most video stores. Most people over there still preferred radio.

G.M. LeBlanc started with an opening comment “We are very proud to sign a man who has been a trailblazer in his home country and his continent. New Orleans has signed Sierra Leone’s primary baseball star to a contract, and he will be playing at our AAA affiliate in Fayetteville. It is a rare privilege to have such a unique player as part of our roster. We wish Rami all the best, and we might even see him with the Trendsetters at some point.”

Manager Mike then grabbed his clunky remote (complete with two AA batteries, taped into place) and, after a bit of coaxing, finally got his system to work. He quickly zipped through the pre-game ceremonies of a game against South Africa several years ago. A few moments went by, and we saw the unmistakable light-green jerseys (very) quickly hit the field, and he finally slowed the video down to more digestible speeds.

“This is why I wanted to show you these tapes”, he said, “you have to see his forkball. It is major-league worthy”.

He then went though a bit of tape, showing us some good pitching, flying back and forth through the recording to show us the good strikeouts, but it was clear Manager Mike thought very highly of his Leonian prospect. A level of admiration normally reserved for a father showing videos of his son. If you really break it down, Rami Makini was Mike’s entrance to PEBA. He spent a long career managing many international teams, but the success of “T-Bone” gave Mike the courage to attempt pro baseball. He felt his journey was justified.

Not long after “T-Bone” made his major-league debut for West Virginia last year, Mike Whiteman began to search the PEBA for opportunities, and over the winter, landed in New Orleans. Of course, when the organization’s AA team in Delaware got the injury bug and depleted their pitching squad, Manager Mike made a big push to sign the recently-released African.

Will he ever make it back to the majors? Maybe, maybe not. But it just shows how much baseball is becoming a global sport, now that the dark days of the “steroid era” are long done. Until a few years ago, we would have never thought major-league teams would spring up in Japan, Cuba and Europe…. and legitimate pitchers would appear from obscure areas of Africa… but they have, and what an exciting time it is to be a baseball fan.

On a side note, Rami Makini’s documentary, “Rami: The African Cannon” will be aired via radio across western Africa sometime in the fall, and will be available online for download shortly afterwards.