For the last 59 years, the Dodgers have been coming down here to Vero Beach, FL to train for the upcoming season and incredibly, Tommy Lasorda has been here for nearly all of them. Tommy, who enters his 57th season with the club this year, arrived last night and will be here for the next couple weeks before taking off for his official duties as the Ambassador to the World Baseball Classic.
Grady Little asked Tommy to speak to the team this morning and his ability to fire up a room still amazes me. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear him give motivational speeches on many occasions and while some of the stories are told and retold, his zest for delivering them is always at a level that’s above the rest. It really is hard to believe that he is 78 years old. There were several young prospects in the room (including Chad Billingsley, pictured) and many had never seen him or heard him speak in person before. His passion really is unparalleled.
Equally as impressive is Maury Wills, who first came to Dodgertown in 1951 and is still wearing a uniform every day, working with the Dodger players on their bunting and baserunning. Maury is 73 years old and he’s just as energetic as Tommy, though in a little different way.
And on this, his 68th birthday, I can’t fail to mention Manny Mota, who has been with the team for 37 years and 27 as a coach, the longest of any coach in club history. He is so devoted to the community, it’s hard to describe. He’s shown me pictures of the work that the Manny Mota Foundation does in the Dominican Republic and you can’t even imagine the looks on these kids’ faces. He is always a tremendous help to the people in the Dodger front office and at 68 years old, still has plenty to offer the current Dodger team.
There are some teams that might take this for granted or others who aren’t fortunate to have the history that this organization has, but just walking around Dodgertown makes you realize just how special this franchise is. There are legends around every single day and their devotion to this team and its fans is really something else. If you have never been, the trip is well worth it.