In today’s first day of full-squad workouts, the day started out with Ned Colletti, Grady Little and Tommy Lasorda addressing the club. It was the first time that either Ned or Grady had spoken to the entire team in their current roles and I’m sure it was an exciting day for both of them.
Once the players hit the field, more than anything I wanted to get eyes on our new players. While I’ve seen veterans such as Bill Mueller, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Brett Tomko, Jae Seo and the rest of them play many times, it was great to see them all in Dodger uniforms. It was also great to see our highly-touted young players like Russell Martin, James Loney, Andy LaRoche, Matt Kemp and Joel Guzman mix in with the established big leaguers. I was also anxious to see Andre Ethier, who I had not seen previously. He sure appears to be good looking player.
It was also announced today that the Dodger minor league system was ranked first in terms of talent by the Baseball America Prospect Handbook. This is a tremendous accomplishment considering that the organization was ranked 28th as recently as 2002. Not coincidentally, 2002 marked the hiring of Logan White as scouting director and Terry Collins first as field coordinator then as farm director at the end of 2004. They, along with assistant general manager Kim Ng, who served as interim farm director in 2004, deserve so much of the credit for our renaissance.
Logan and Terry have also put together outstanding staffs who have scouted and helped to develop these players. We as an organization couldn’t be prouder to be recognized. However, we know that our jobs are not done and we must continue to work hard to help our current players reach the Major Leagues and to continue to add talent through our scouting efforts.
In response to the post about Justin Ruggiano, we were very pleased with his progress last year. Justin hit a combined 15 home runs and drove in 66 between Vero Beach and Jacksonville while hitting over .300 at each stop. As to why Justin’s name doesn’t get mentioned as much, we in the organization like to think it is because we have a deep system and some of our players just get skipped over. However, the organization is aware of Justin’s play. We expect him to start in Jacksonville this year.
There are some people around here who joke that life in Dodgertown during Spring Training is like the movie Groundhog Day. We wake up every morning and make the same trek to the breakfast area, followed by a walk (or golf cart ride) to the office, morning workouts, afternoons back in the offices, meals in the dining room, nights in the Dodgertown lounge. These are all good things, of course, but repetitive nonetheless. You definitely lose a sense of what day it is.
Well, this morning it officially felt like Groundhog Day to me, as we got to breakfast and the song "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher was playing over the speakers.
But, since it’s not actually Groundhog Day but President’s Day, here’s an interesting note. Let me know if I forgot anyone.
FEELING PRESIDENTIAL: As today is President’s Day, we honor several former Dodgers who share their surnames with our nation’s past Commanders-In-Chief. Among them are Terry Adams (2000-01), Gary Carter (1991), Hod Ford (1925), Jim Grant (1968), Randy Jackson (1956-58), Brian Johnson (2001), Charles Johnson (1998), Lou Johnson (1965-67), Bob Kennedy (1957), Brickyard Kennedy (1892-1901), John Kennedy (1965-66), Al Nixon (1915-16, 1918), Otis Nixon (1997), Danny Taylor (1932-36), Harry Taylor (1946048), Zack Taylor (1920-25, 1935), Ron Washington (1977) and six different Wilsons.
It was a quiet day at Dodgertown today, but plenty of work still got done on the field and in the front office. One fan brought a dog the size of a baseball glove with her to Dodgertown and Brett Tomko proceeded to play with the puppy for a few minutes in between workouts. If it sounds like I’m setting up T.J. Simers for an easy line, don’t worry… I know he’s more creative than that.
There were several more arrivals at camp today, including new third baseman Bill Mueller, center fielder Kenny Lofton and outfield prospect Andre Ethier, among others. The rest of the guys will report tomorrow and take their physicals before the first full-squad workout on Tuesday.
For those of you who have been asking about pitching prospect Chad Billingsley, take a look at the feature on him by Tony Jackson in today’s Daily News.
And for those of you who are Jim Hill fans from KCAL/KCBS (and who isn’t?), be sure to watch today at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET for his live interview from Holman Stadium with Tommy Lasorda. Last night, Jim and his crew were at the stadium until 3 a.m., reporting live back to Los Angeles and they’ll be here again all night tonight. As most of you know, we’ve started a new relationship with KCAL this season for 50 of our home games, in addition to 100 games on FSN West 2. Both stations are always looking for interesting features to run on our players, so be sure to keep tuning it to get the latest news about the team.
In response to one of your posts about our Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s, it is true that Las Vegas is very much a hitters park and pitching there can be difficult at times. We in the Dodger organization are cognizant of this and we take these factors into account when evaluating our players. These factors include both statistics and scouting. Many of our professional scouts, Ned Colletti, Kim Ng, Logan White, Terry Collins, myself and members of our development staff evaluate our players at various times during the year. I personally like to see the team both at home and on the road for some of the reasons that are mentioned. Each ballpark and league bring with them different conditions and variables. It is up to us as an organization to make educated evaluations and make sure that our players are at the right levels in order for them to fulfill their potential. We value our relationship with the Las Vegas organization, and the fact that they are only a short plane flight away makes it an ideal spot from a logistical sense.
As for the questions on Greg Miller, Andy LaRoche and Justin Orenduff, these players have all time at Double-A and are talented. Where they start the season has yet to be determined, but given good health, we hope all three will be in Triple-A at some point during the season.
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.
In response to your requests for updates on our prospects, Chad Billingsley, along with Greg Miller probably have as good stuff as anyone in the organization. The most important thing for Miller is to stay healthy and get a full season in.
Billingsley is coming off a very good year in Double-A and we anticipate him starting the season in Triple-A. We will let his performance dictate when he is ready for the Major Leagues. He will get some innings in Spring Training so our new staff can get a feel for him and he can get his feet wet. It is possible that we could see Chad in LA very early, but we will allow him to go at his own pace and try to make sure that he is ready when he is called up.
As for Yhency Brazoban, who you also asked about: He will pitch the 7th and 8th innings along with Danys Baez. Who pitches first and how often will be up to Grady. However it pans out, we feel very good about our ability to hold leads late in games with those two and Eric Gagne.
Most tours of Dodger Stadium include the familiar storylines of Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson, Tommy Lasorda and Fernandomania. But for a group of Chinese athletes traveling around Southern California this month, a visit to the ballpark meant taking pictures and discovering the basic mechanics of baseball. For example, Dodger Stadium’s seating capacity is 56,000; more than 122 million fans have visited since the ballpark opened in 1962; the regular season runs from April through September; the playoffs are in October; the ballplayers are currently training in Florida.
Yesterday’s tour began on the Club Level and the group gazed at the last stages of construction and the installation of the box seats. When I mentioned that all 50,000 seats were taken out during the offseason and replaced, someone asked, “Does that happen every year?” Actually, the seats were last replaced 30 years ago, which might give Vice President of Stadium Operations Lon Rosenberg a chance to recover from an exhausting and challenging assignment.
The boxers in the group were interested to learn Dodger Stadium once hosted a series of championship fights in 1963. Shang Yingqiu of the Beijing Sports University is a basketball player and vice professor and team leader of the Chinese rhythmic sportive gymnastics. Her favorite player is Michael Jordan. Basketball at Dodger Stadium? The Harlem Globetrotters played an exhibition game in 1964 as a full-size regulation court was placed on the infield in the same location as the boxing ring.
The many photos on the walls bridged the language barrier, whether showing the action of a Dodger ballgame or musical concerts such as Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. The Olympic theme also surfaced with photos from when the Dodgers played at the Los Angeles Coliseum from 1958-61. The Coliseum was the site of the opening ceremonies in both the 1932 and 1984 Olympics. Dodger Stadium hosted the first Olympic baseball tournament in 1984.
Probably the most popular item on the tour was the original bullpen cart from 1969, restored a few years ago by Rosenberg when he found the main components in storage. The baseball-shaped cart, with an oversized “LA” cap as the roof and braced by two baseball bats, transported pitchers from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound during Dodger games. Later, it was replaced by a Dodger-decorated automobile. The cart is on display just outside the Stadium Operations office on the Club Level. You can’t explain to all groups that the cart was used in an era when starting pitchers went at least seven innings and the “bullpen by committee” had not yet gained popularity among managers. So on this day, it was easier to sit back and watch the smiles as the athletes took turns posing for pictures behind the steering wheel.
Day One, Roy Smith (Dodger Vice President, Scouting and Player Development)
The first day of Spring Training is like the first day of school—you have a mix of nervousness and anticipation. When I played it was nervousness about being ready and making the team. I have found that my feelings as a front office person are similar. Now I am anxious to see our new players and how they interact with the new coaching staff.
Another common feeling that’s shared between players and front office people is optimism. Every year in your mind, you believe this is going to be the best season you’ve ever had. Now I’m hoping that all our moves pay dividends and that our winter of hard work will culminate in a championship.
Yesterday the theoretical became reality and you just don’t know how it will look until you see it. I hope I never lose any of these feelings .
If the sight of Eric Gagne on the mound doesn’t excite Dodger fans, I’m not sure what will. Eric threw a bullpen session today, as did several other Dodgers, including Danys Baez and Derek Lowe. Also on the mound were some of the prospects you’ve all been hearing a lot about like Chad Billingsley and Justin Orenduff. No one is going full speed just yet, but the pop of the catcher’s mitt was a great sound here at Dodgertown. Hundreds of fans were gathered around the "old strings" area, where Dodger greats like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser used to throw their ‘pens, too.
Nomar Garciaparra also worked out at first base, which was great to see. As you might have read in the L.A. Times, he came down to Dodger Stadium earlier this month to work out with Eddie Murray and get a jump on Spring Training. That really impressed a lot of people around here – just the fact that he wanted to see what it was like to play the position at Dodger Stadium, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to simulate game action at Chavez Ravine while he was at Dodgertown. In the photo, he and Grady Little got a chance to catch up out on one of the fields here after the drills were done.
A couple more guys arrived here today, including new shortstop Rafael Furcal. Not surprisingly, he was a little lost when I ran into him trying to find the clubhouse, as he’d never been here before as a member of the Dodgers. I was able to give him a ride on the golf cart and he got a chance to meet his new teammates and take his physical, which all players do upon their arrival.
As for the blog, the comments have been great so far, so keep them coming. We’ve had some good suggestions already and will continue to stay on top of your requests as best we can.
Greetings from Los Angeles and welcome to the “Inside the Dodgers” blog. Although Spring Training is under way in Florida, it’s business as usual for those at Dodger Stadium. Whether selling tickets, planning the publications, designing ad campaigns and billboards, or monitoring the progress of the offseason stadium renovation and construction, the clock is ticking and everyone knows Opening Day and the 2006 season is just around the corner. I will be in Vero Beach from March 5 until the end of Spring Training and I always enjoy my time there. If you like history, just imagine attending a training camp started by Dodger President Branch Rickey in 1948, and filled with photos and landmarks from both the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger teams.
I am posting my first entry from my desk at Dodger Stadium in the Publicity Department. As the team historian and a former newspaper reporter, this Dodger blog is an exciting opportunity to give fans some insight about the daily activities surrounding the ballclub. For example, one of the morning assignments yesterday was taking my digital camera around the ballpark for updated pictures at Dodgers.com. My favorite angle is from center field. Pull back the outfield gate, step onto the warning track and the view gazing toward home plate is spectacular. The various stadium seating levels piled toward the sky have been compared to a wedding cake and Italian opera house.
Early in the morning, the goal is to get a photo when there are clouds to avoid shadows. Unfortunately, the sun was peeking through the clouds at the wrong time around 9:30. I was taking photos by the new baseline box seat area near the visitor’s dugout around 9:40 when the clouds suddenly covered the sun. I didn’t want to run toward the center field fence, so I briskly walked around the outfield track, hoping the lighting would remained unchanged for a few minutes. By the time I reached center field again, the shadows had reappeared. Fortunately, another cloud cover came along later in the afternoon when I was in the Right Field Pavilion. Those little things make me appreciate the work of Jon SooHoo, one of the best photographers in baseball. Jon packed what seemed like seven trunks of equipment for his multi-week stay in Vero Beach. Check out his photo galleries this spring.