Baseball: Auckland Tuatara pursue Major League All-Star Manny Ramirez

Twelve-time Major League Baseball All-Star Manny Ramirez could be set to sign for the Auckland Tuatara - thanks to COVID-19.

The two-time World Series winner has reached out to the NZ-based club, hoping to use the Australian Baseball League as a way to return to the big time.

Dominican-born Ramirez played 19 seasons at US baseball's highest level, predominantly with the Cleveland Indians (1993-2000) and Red Sox. He was named World Series Most Valuable Player, when Boston broke the 'Curse of the Bambino' to win their first title in 86 years against the St Louis Cardinals.

Ramirez, an outfielder, also won nine Silver Slugger Awards, as the best batter for his position.

The 48-year-old last appeared in the Major Leagues with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, but has since played in Japan and China.  

"Manny Ramirez has been out of the Major Leagues for a while, but he wants to be back there," says Tuatara general manager Regan Wood. "He thinks he's good enough."

But Newshub understands the news could get even better, with the Tuatara also speaking to former Major League Pitcher of the Year Félix Hernández, who is currently contracted to the Atlanta Braves, but has opted out of playing due to coronavirus concerns.

Hernández is a six-time all-star, and has pitched both a 'perfect game' - conceding no hits over nine innings - and an 'immaculate inning' - nine pitches, nine strikes - both for the Seattle Mariners.

New Zealand's coronavirus situation means the Australian Baseball League could be the only competition where Ramirez and Hernandez can play their way back into the Major Leagues.

"You've got the uniqueness of, there's no COVID-19 in NZ," says Wood. "We've done a great job collectively with the Government and everyone else.

"Everyone's looking at us going, 'wow, I can go there I can be safe and I can still play the sport that I love'."

Wood concedes the ABL format is likely to change, with the recent spike in coronavirus cases across the Tasman and getting players into New Zealand the obvious road blocks. 

One option is a tournament-style format in New Zealand that could attract MLB squads, so Ramirez may not be the only Major League star on show this summer.