Congratulations to the Solano Elementary School’s Class of 2006, which held its graduation ceremony this morning at the Dodger Stadium Club. There were speeches by both students and faculty members, followed by the presentation of diplomas. After the ceremony, parents and students enjoyed punch and cake and watched a slide-show video of the students’ activities throughout the year.
This is a tradition which began in 1980. Because Solano is part of the Dodgers’ Adopt-A-School program, and located only a few blocks from Dodger Stadium, many members of the Dodger front office visit the school throughout the year, detailing their respective job responsibilities and answering questions about life at the ballpark.
It’s warm up here in Oakland…and the A’s are hot, having won seven in a row. Hoping we can knock them off their streak a bit. The last time the team played here, they faced Barry Zito like they are today and went 15 innings. The Dodgers won on back-to-back bases loaded walks.
We also made a transaction today – we reinstated Navarro from the DL and optioned him to Triple-A, where he’s been rehabbing. As for the lineup:
Nomar, 1B (now qualified for the batting leaders)
Saenz, DH (one of three Dodgers to ever homer as a DH)
Kemp, LF (he’ll be on ESPNews live at 3:40 PT/6:40 ET from our dugout)
There is natural curiosity this morning surrounding Chad Billingsley as the top rookie prospect prepares to make his Major League debut against the Padres in San Diego. In mid-June, the question is whether the right-hander is ready to join the Dodger rotation on a full-time basis. Billingsley, who turns 22 on July 29, was the Dodgers’ first-round selection (24th overall) in the June 2003 First-Year Player Draft.
Since the amateur draft began in 1965, the Dodgers have made a pitcher their top selection on 19 occasions, including left-hander Scott Elbert (2004), currently pitching for the Dodgers’ Single-A Vero Beach affiliate; and recent first-round draft choice Clayton Kershaw.
Billingsley becomes the sixth pitcher from that group to reach the Majors, joining Rick Rhoden (drafted in 1971), Rick Sutcliffe (1974), Bob Welch (1977), Steve Howe (1979) and Darren Dreifort (1993). And Billingsley becomes only the second pitcher to make his debut as a starting pitcher.
The other was Sutcliffe, who pitched five scoreless innings and received a no-decision in a 1-0 victory against the Houston Astros on Sept. 29, 1976. That game marked the managerial debut for Tommy Lasorda, a third-base coach who took over the ballclub when Walter Alston announced his retirement two days earlier after 23 seasons.
While the spotlight was on Lasorda, there was no pressure on Sutcliffe that evening as the second-place Dodgers already were eliminated from the pennant race and trailed Cincinnati by 10 games in the National League West. Sutcliffe returned to the minor leagues in 1977, appeared in two games in 1978 and resurfaced in 1979, winning Rookie of the Year honors with a 17-10 record.
Bring on the kids…the last five players in today’s lineup are all under 24 years old and the average age of them is 22. Scary.
Nomar, 1B (should qualify for the batting title after today’s game)
Kemp, CF (one of just five guys in history with 7 HR in first 18 days in the bigs)
Also, all draft-day winners should have be contacted by now, so if you have not heard from our office and think you picked the first two selections correctly, please post it here.
Remember the name Danny Muegge? He’s the kid we got with Dioner Navarro and William Juarez in the Shawn Green deal. Tonight, he pitched 7.0 shutout innings and allowed five hits, as Jacksonville won 1-0, their 14th straight win and 22nd in the last 23 games. I told Matt Kemp yesterday that once they finally got rid of the stiffs like him, they started winning again.
For those who can’t get enough baseball from MLBlogs, Dodger Thoughts and the rest of the blogs out there, check out The Daily News’ baseball blog, with updates from Tony Jackson, who covers us for that paper.
Other interesting happenings from the press box tonight – Luis Garcia, my counterpart at the Padres and the guy who preceded me at the Dodgers in 2002, stole A Martinez’s microphone and had him nervously searching the press box for an inning.
Martinez, who does regular radio reports for KFWB 980 and also dutifully handles the Coca Cola Challenge at Dodger Stadium, made a friednly wager with Fernando Valenzuela on tomorrow’s World Cup match. Martinez, a native of Ecuador, will wake up early tomorrow to watch the game, most likely with Jaime Jarrin, who’s also from there. Fernando is probably willing to bet on Costa Rica just to be different.
Walked to the park today in perfect weather…Derek Lowe decided that rather than run around the track inside PETCO Park, he’d run around downtown San Diego, so we exchanged head nods and hand signals while listening to our iPods. Funny how modern communication has changed the way we all interact.
Also stopped by a room in our hotel where a number of our sponsors and dugout club members were checking in for a two-game trip. That’s one of the perks of being tied into the club in that fashion – they took a trip to Vegas earlier this year and I think they’ve got another one later this year.
For the third straight year, you can take your dad to Dodger Stadium this Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day. The annual Father’s Day Catch will be from 10 a.m to 1 p.m. and is free, but it fills up quickly, so come down early and have a catch with your dad on the outfield grass.
Reporting early to the park was Chad Billingsley, who said he slept well last night, given the circumstances, but that his phone started ringing off the hook around 6 a.m. from friends back home who had read the news. Needless to say, he’s pretty psyched about tomorrow’s start and said that Andy LaRoche’s homer last night was a bomb. LaRoche has two taters in two games with the 51s.
Nomar, 1B (could qualify for the batting title by the end of the night with 5 PA)
Martin, C (has an RBI in six straight)
Hard to believe Don Newcombe turns 80 today. The former Dodger right-hander is the only player in baseball history to have won the three major awards during his career — Rookie of the Year (1949), Cy Young Award (1956) and Most Valuable Player (1956). This season marks the 50th anniversary of Newcombe capturing the first-ever Cy Young Award, posting a 27-7 record for the N.L. champion Brooklyn Dodgers.
Newcombe remains active with the Dodgers as the team’s longtime Director of Community Relations. He is also a vital link to a critical time in baseball history when Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with the Dodgers in 1947. Newcombe played with the Negro League Newark Eagles and joined the Dodgers in 1949. He pitched a shutout in his debut and was a member of the N.L. All-Star team. That game, played at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, featured the first appearance of black players – Newcombe, Robinson, catcher Roy Campanella and Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians.
While Major League Baseball annually salutes Robinson’s historic debut on April 15, 1947, Newcombe had a distinguished career of his own, both on the playing field and in the front office. He also played a major role in helping counsel those with substance abuse problems.
After the game, Grady just announced that tomorrow we’ll purchase the contract of Chad Billingsley and he’ll start on Thursday here against the Padres. Joel Guzman is heading back to Vegas and Jason Repko went to the 60-day DL.
Seo left the game with tenderness in his right shoulder…doesn’t seem too serious, but he’ll get checked again tomorrow.
Odalis Perez is headed to the bullpen following two innings of relief tonight.
Jeff Kent is back in the lineup again today. Still not sure what the corresponding move is, but we’re working on it right now.
In case you missed it, there’s an awesome feature in today’s USA Today about all the rookies on the Dodgers right now. Matt Kemp’s picture is actually on the front of the entire newspaper and why shouldn’t it be – he leads all Major Leaguers with six homers this month! And speaking of rookies, the L.A. Times speculates that we could see Billingsley sooner rather than later.
A tough loss for the U.S. soccer team today. Nomar, who’s a huge soccer fan (he actually was before he met his wife, too), is probably pretty bummed. At least Mexico won yesterday (it was on in the clubhouse before the game in Colorado).
We’re back in LA for the day and head to San Diego tomorrow. We’ll know more about Gagne tomorrow. Jeff Kent should come off the DL then and J.D. Drew should be back in the lineup, barring a setback.
Enjoy the off day.