Mark Weidemaier looked relaxed on a quiet Saturday morning after the Dodgers arrived at the Washington Nationals spring training complex in Viera. Sitting in the dugout before batting practice, Weidemaier wore a Dodger uniform and held a fungo bat. In just a few minutes, Weidemaier would pitching a round of batting practice, following by hitting grounders to the infielders.
As the Special Assistant to the General Manager, Weidemaier knows what’s coming around the corner. "The marathon starts soon," he says, referring to his schedule as an advance scout, watching and monitoring future Dodger opponents while they play in other cities. "In 2004, from February 12 until October 10, I was home 14 days in eight months." An expert traveler, Weidemaier keeps three suitcases in Pittsburgh, Denver Chicago. He gives the bellman a tip and says, "I’ll be back."
Weidemaier had an extra assignment on Saturday during a 2-1 loss in 10 innings against the Nationals, marking the changes on the dugout lineup card while coach Rich Donnelly stayed behind due to the flu. Weidemaier will leave the Dodgers on March 14 and start scouting the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
… One of the most prolific collectors of Dodger memorabilia, Sal La Rocca, has been a visitor this week to Dodgertown and to Viera on Saturday. "Captain Sal" lives in Tennessee and was reviewing some of the recent errors in certain baseball card sets. For example, an Upper Deck card had Hall of Famer Billy Herman’s photo and a signature "cut" (attached signature from a paper product, such as a cancelled check or autograph book) by Babe Herman. Billy Herman was a Dodger infielder (1941-43, 1946) and Babe Herman was an outfielder (1926-31, 1945). The other mistake was a card of Dodger Hall of Famer Zack Wheat (1909-26) which had a photo of his younger brother Mack Wheat (1915-19), a backup catcher. "I should know it’s Mack Wheat," La Rocca said. "Because I have the original photo!"
… Saturday mornings in spring training mean another exhibiton game, but for players and coaches, chances are a younger relative has an early-season Little League game back in their hometown. Those 6 and 7 years of age and just learning the game might ask, "What’s a National?" when receiving their Washington uniform.
Opening Day ceremonies are fun, and taking the team photo is a great tradition. But sure enough, it won’t take long for a parent to start pacing the grounds or furiously puff on a cigarette, wondering why their seven-year-old "phenom" in a baggy Mets uniform is playing second base instead of first base instead of just sitting back and letting the kids play the game. It also might make anyone think twice before volunteering to coach a youth league team.
It’s one of the scenes most people could do without as the real spring training is conducted as the same time. Want to see a future major leaguer? Check out a minor league game or spring exhibition. Want to see a future doctor, lawyer, police officer, teacher or poet in action, stop by any Little League or youth softball field.
David Vincent, baseball historian and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, is considered the leading expert on the home run in Major League Baseball, having compiled a computer data base of the more than 235,000 home runs hit since 1869.
When asked about youth league baseball on Saturday, Vincent noted the significant changes from the sport compared to kids growing up in the 1950s. "There is a change of talent level — it’s better organized, better fundamentals and better instructors. Kids who are 8-9 can do things that weren’t being done by older kids of previous generations. That’s not necessarily a good thing. There’s a certain amount of innocence lost and not having fun. And if you don’t do it right, you’re not going to play."
Vincent is currently making the final edits on his new book, "Home Run – The Definitive History of Baseball’s Ultimate Weapon," which will be released in March 2007.
… For those interested in Vincent’s research, check out retrosheet.org, a web site created and maintained by David Smith which features boxscores, play-by-play and career records of every Major Leaguer, past and present. It’s one of my favorite web sites and if you’re a fan of baseball history, you will bookmark this site.
The message boards were chatting today about the new Dodger helmets and speculation that we’re changing uniforms, so I figured I’d clear that up a little bit for everyone.
The new helmets this year were a change made unilaterally by Major League Baseball this year, not the Dodgers, and to make sure everyone knows – we’re not changing the uniforms next year. The only difference will be what we’ve already announced: That we’ll be putting the names back on the backs of the jerseys in 2007. But, rest assured, the Dodger uniform isn’t going anywhere. No new color schemes or anything like that.
Now, it’s off to listen to Rick Monday and Jerry Reuss. I’m curious to hear how the former teammates sound together on the air…yesterday I thought Reuss and Russ Langer did a nice job. Hopefully Dodger fans are enjoying a little twist to the spring broadcasts.
Here are today’s Dodger lineup vs. Washington at Viera:
Jason Repko, RF; Dioner Navarro, C; Chris Truby, 1B; Joel Guzman, LF; Cody Ross, CF; James Loney, DH; Andy LaRoche, 3B; Oscar Robles, 2B; Ramon Martinez, SS. Starting pitcher – Aaron Sele.
Here are today’s lineups for the Detroit Tigers and Dodgers at Holman Stadium:
Detroit: Curtis Gunderson, CF; Don Kelly, SS; Carlos Pena, 1B; Alexis Gomez, RF; Kody Kirkland, 3B; Reggie Taylor, DH; Brent Clevlen, LF; Vance Wilson, C; Ramon Santiago, 2B. Starting pitcher – Jeremy Bonderman.
Dodgers: Oscar Robles, SS; Nomar Garciaparra, DH; J.D. Drew, RF; Matt Kemp, CF; Bill Mueller, 3B; James Loney, 1B; Delwyn Young, LF; Willy Aybar, 2B; Russell Martin, C. Starting pitcher – Brad Penny.
The eighth-largest crowd in the history of Holman Stadium (8,080) watched the Dodgers defeat the Boston Red Sox, 6-4, this afternoon. Starter Derek Lowe allowed two hits in four scoreless innings and the Dodgers hit three home runs for the second consecutive game – today’s longballs by Ramon Martinez, Cody Ross and J.D. Drew.
Dodger leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton left the game in the first inning after he was hit by a pitch. Lofton suffered a bruised right knee.
Outfielder Andre Ethier is day-to-day after an MRI exam revealed a sprained right shoulder, which he suffered while diving for a ball earlier on Tuesday at Jupiter against the Cardinals.
The most popular T-shirt among Boston fans in the grandstands was the "NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE" motto, coined after the team’s World Series victory in 2004. … Also attending the game was Lyle Spatz, Chairman of the Baseball Records Committee for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Spatz said it was the first time in 49 years he witnessed a game in person when the Dodgers wore their home uniforms. His last Dodger home game was 1957 in Brooklyn. Spatz recited the uniform numbers for the 1957 squad, including No. 41, worn by Brooklyn and Los Angeles pitcher Clem Labine (1950-60), a Vero Beach resident who attended Thursday’s game. …
Back in Los Angeles, the Dodgers would like to wish a speedy recovery to longtime Dodger usher and elevator operator Luis Arevalo, who began his career at Dodger Stadium in 1984 and recently underwent surgery to amputate his leg due to complications from diabetes.
Here are the lineups for today’s Red Sox-Dodgers game at Holman Stadium in Vero Beach:
Boston – Coco Crisp, CF; Tony Graffanino, 3B; Trot Nixon, RF; Dustan Mohr, LF; J.T. Snow, 1B; Willie Harris, 2B; Alejandro Machado, SS; Luis A. Jimenez, DH; Dusty Brown, C. Starting pitcher – Bronson Arroyo.
Los Angeles – Kenny Lofton, CF; Nomar Garciaparra, 1B; J.D. Drew, DH; Jeff Kent, 2B; Joel Guzman, LF; Dioner Navarro, C; Jason Repko, RF; Ramon Martinez, 3B; Tony Abreu, SS. Starting pitcher – Derek Lowe.
NOTES – Former Dodger pitcher Jerry Reuss arrived this morning to begin preparing for Friday’s radio broadcast. Reuss was a member of the Dodgers’ 1981 championship team. The franchise will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that season throughout the 2006 campaign. … Happy birthday to Dodger infielder Willy Aybar, who turns 23 today … Veteran umpire Bruce Froemming, who will be at first base for today’s game, is a Vero Beach resident and a frequent visitor to Dodgertown. At 7 o’clock this morning, Froemming walked his dog on one of the empty minor league fields … This is the eighth anniversary of a street sign dedication ceremony at Dodgertown in honor of broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
The Boston Red Sox make their only Spring Training visit to Dodgertown on Thursday. There are familiar faces on both sides of the field as the 2006 Dodgers feature several former Red Sox, including infielders Nomar Garciaparra (1996-2004), Bill Mueller (2003-05), pitcher Derek Lowe (1997-2004) and non-roster pitcher Aaron Sele (1993-97).
First-year Dodger manager Grady Little piloted the Red Sox in 2002 and 2003, posting a combined 188-136 regular season record. Dodger bench coach Dave Jauss spent the last three seasons as an advance scout for the Red Sox also served with Boston as a director of player development; minor league field coordinator; and as first base coach from 1997-99 when Grady Little was the bench coach.
The Red Sox spring roster features former Dodger infielder Alex Cora (1998-2004), relief pitcher Rudy Seanez (1994-95) and catcher Ken Huckaby (1996-97).
Boston coaches Ron Jackson and Brad Mills are former Dodger minor league instructors. And best wishes for a speedy recovery to Dave Wallace, the Red Sox pitching coach who served many roles in the Dodger organization, including pitching coach (1995-97) and interim general manager (2001). Wallace is currently recovering from surgery relating to an infection in his right hip.
Also in attendance this week at Dodgertown is Devil Rays scout Stan Williams, a right-hander pitcher for the Dodgers from 1958-62 and who also served as Boston’s pitching coach in 1975 and 1976. Williams reported to Dodgertown for the first time as a player in 1955 at age 18. Two years later, he joined the Major League camp and on his first day was invited to dinner by Dodgers Carl Erskine and Duke Snider. When he returned to Dodgertown that night, Williams wrote 17 letters to friends and family, telling the story of how two veterans had taken a rookie under their wing.
One of the most popular topics of conversation has been the World Baseball Classic, especially at the dinner table tonight following the day’s activities. The international flavor of the tournament allows the discussions to range from the strength of the current Cuban team compared to its past Olympic squads; the 11-inning thriller between Panama and Cuba; and the stunning 8-6 victory by Canada over the United States.
Thursday’s game and next Monday’s game against Boston will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Pacific time in Los Angeles on KFWB. The live broadcast will be carried on MLB.com and affiliates.
Here is today’s starting lineup for the Dodgers vs. Baltimore at Vero Beach:
Kenny Lofton, CF; Nomar Garciaparra, 1B; J.D. Drew, RF; Jeff Kent, DH; Matt Kemp, LF; Bill Mueller, 3B; Sandy Alomar Jr., C; Willy Aybar, 2B; Oscar Robles, SS. Starting pitcher – Chad Billingsley.
In response to the comment about our Spring Training broadcasts, I wanted to make sure you all know how important it is to us that our fans get a chance to listen whenever possible.
As you probably know, we were airing our games on tape delay on KFWB for the last couple years and that did not go over very well with our fans. This year, we knew that airing the games live on the radio still was not a possibility, given the format of the station, so making them available on dodgers.com was our next-best option. Of course, we do realize that to access those games, you must buy a subscription to the Gameday Audio. But, I do honestly believe that $14.95 is very reasonable, considering that you get access to more than 2,400 games, including the entire regular season.
In doing a little research, I’ve found that very few teams around baseball broadcast all of their spring games and some only do a handful. While that’s not a reason for us to change what we do, we also have to understand the needs and interests of our radio partner.
However, you should all know that we put quite a bit of thought into maximizing the amount of games that could be heard from Florida this spring and that we take your comments seriously when it comes to matters like this.
It is with deep sadness that I devote my space today on the passing of Kirby Puckett. I was a teammate of Kirby’s with the Twins from 1986-1990. As I have told many people over the last 24 hours, Kirby was the real deal. What you saw on TV is what you got. He never forgot where he came from which was the projects in Chicago. He treated the clubhouse kids, the front office people and media as if they were all longtime friends. He was generous to a fault. I can talk all day about what a great ballplayer he was, but it was the enthusiasm and little boy’s joy that he brought to the game that set him apart and made him the revered figure that he is. He is the guy that I will always hold up as an example of everything that you want in a player and a teammate.
I always tell this story about how one night the alarm went off in my brand new car. I ran out of my apartment looking for something to grab in case there was someone trying to break into my car. It turned out to be nothing. I told the story in the clubhouse the next day and Kirby, who was standing nearby, offered me an old bat. He told me he always kept a bat near his bed since he was a little boy in case someone broke into his house when he lived in the projects. Even though he had electronic security now, he never got out of the habit. I took the bat home with me and said to myself, "I can’t use this bat, this is Kirby’s." I still have that bat and will cherish it the rest of my life. It reminds me of this great guy and ballplayer who never forgot what it was like to be poor. And THAT, more than his Hall of Fame numbers, is what made him special.