SAN FRANCISCO - Manny Ramirez Jr.'s hair looked a tad long when University of San Francisco coach Nino Giarratano offered a good-natured wisecrack about his dreadlocked dad.
"Probably just a hint I need to cut the hair," Ramirez said with a smile.
At times when Ramirez might need a little lift, some guidance on his swing, Giarratano need go no further than pulling out some old highlight videos of the first baseman's famous father. Yes, the slugger with 555 career home runs.
"It's a great reminder of everything," said Ramirez, whose USF team began the year 0-10 and is now in the postseason chase. "I have so many AB's on my computer and have always seen it, always heard it. He was a great hitter, so it's not a bad example to look at."
While he has the bloodlines, Ramirez is eager to prove he can be a clutch hitter and play professional baseball. He is expected to be drafted after his junior season a year from now. He will be USF's projected starting first baseman in 2016 batting in the middle of the order.
By now, he's more than used to the hype surrounding his name.
Yet other than those occasional instances, there's not a lot of talk about Ramirez's lineage. That's by choice.
Manny Jr. is just being Manny.
"It's not easy being known as Manny Ramirez Jr. He handles that really well," said shortstop Nico Giarratano, the coach's son. "Every time he hits, they announce his name and everybody goes crazy, like, `Oh, man, it's Jr.' He's got a good shot. He works hard at it."
Ramirez decided as far back as he began playing baseball to create his own path, separate from his dad - who became famous for home runs and notorious for drug suspensions.
"That's what I've been trying to do since I started playing the game, starting from high school, through college now, just starting to have my own identity," he said. "It's hard to do, just with my name and who my dad is. I might as well just go with the flow. I don't really pay much attention to it. Just accept it, I've been dealing with it for so long. It's nothing new to me."
And when father and coach offer different direction? Ramirez tends to go with Giarratano's guidance.
Ramirez, 19, insists he won't take advantage of situations just because of his recognizable last name. He is determined to earn everything he gets in this game.
"I just try to be myself and whatever happens, happens," he said.
Giarratano is used to producing high draft picks and first-rounders and expects Ramirez to have a great season as a junior next year and get his chance. The 17th-year coach had hoped to get Ramirez 200 at-bats this season, but that didn't happen given he is playing behind an experienced senior.
Ramirez is batting .214 with five RBIs and no home runs with 27 strikeouts in 26 games and 15 starts going into a weekend series at Dallas Baptist. The Dons bounced back from their tough start with an impressive run. They are in third place in the West Coast Conference and must finish in the top four to make the conference tournament - and it's likely to come down to the final weekend.
Ramirez first met Giarratano as a high school sophomore and is thankful for this chance.
"Experiencing him this whole year just made me realize there's so much more to baseball and the importance of culture," Ramirez said. "It's just his drive, you can just relate to him because he's just like you, a regular human being. He loves the game of baseball."
He wound up at USF after playing with pitcher Mack Meyer at the IMG Academy in Florida. Ramirez joined the Dons after one season at Central Arizona College.
It didn't hurt to be playing a few miles away from the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. He will be around to see the Dons' Benedetti Diamond get a major facelift by next year, too.
Ramirez, 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, still hopes to pack on another 15-20 pounds before next year's amateur draft.
"He has a great influence in his baseball life," Giarratano said. "It's great to be able to teach him, because he absorbs everything that I give him. It's only a matter of time before it clicks into place for him and he takes off."
Giarratano knows a thing or two about father-son dynamics. Every Monday, when the baseball team has an off day, he hits grounders for Nico, then throws him batting practice before going to lunch together.
Family is a big part of Giarratano's focus leading these young men.
"That's my extension, to teach them about life and to be here in these moments," said Giarratano, who in 2011 donated a kidney to his ailing father, Mickey, now 84. "That's the piece I feel most comfortable teaching all the time, just life."