February 2007

Let the games begin

The intrasquad game today was certainly enough to whet the appetite of Dodger fans. It was only 4 1/2 innings of baseball, but two Dodger squads squared off against each other at Holman Stadium this morning in front of several hundred fans, media and staff members, all wanting to get their first glimpse of the 2007 Dodgers. The “home” team ended up winning 8-3, in a game where the teams banged out 17 hits, thus defying the old adage that pitchers are ahead of hitters this time of year. Fernando Tatis keyed a four-run third inning with a three-run homer for the winning team and Larry Bigbie ripped a solo shot for the losers. Andre Ethier went 2-for-2 with two line drive singles and Jason Repko was 1-for-1 with an RBI. Matt Kemp made the only defensive gem of the day while playing center field by diving to rob Juan Pierre of a single. Luis Gonzalez was hit on the arm by Mike Megrew, but stayed in the game and the team came out of the contest without injury. Derek Lowe, Joe Mays and D.J. Houlton all tossed two innings, while Megrew, Zach Hammes and Scott Elbert worked one frame apiece.

We had CNBC here today to film a piece on Matt White which will air throughout the day tomorrow (Thursday), including confirmed hits at 8:20 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:55 p.m. The Associated Press also wrote an article that will now circulate around the country, but this will probably be the end of this story for a while, as Matt is obviously trying to focus on making the team rather than this truly unique article that has captivated tons of people.

Another part of our day was spent meeting with individual players about their intended efforts in the community in 2007 and the various things they’d like to do. This is a huge part of what our organization is about and we’ve got some guys this year that are really looking to do some unique things, so be on the lookout for more of that.

Meanwhile, after a Vero Beach bowling outing last night, tonight was the annual softball game between the L.A. Dodger employees and the ones here from Vero and I’m sorry to say that despite taking a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh and final inning, the L.A. Dodgers somehow lost, 5-4. It was a tough loss and we’re all trying to get over it. I just won’t sleep much knowing that we couldn’t hold the lead.

The night is slowly coming to an end, as we just spent two hours meeting with our broadcasters and Ned Colletti. Every year during spring, Jaime, Pepe, Rick, Charley, A Martinez and any others that are in town get to sit down with the general manager and let him recreate the offseason for them so that they can pass that along to the fans. Tonight, Ned gave them two hours of interesting information that will make the spring broadcasts far more enjoyable.

And with that, be sure to tune in tomorrow on KFWB 980 and dodgers.com for the first game, which will start at 1:05 p.m. ET. Time to get things going…

Busy days

Things are definitely picking up here at Dodgertown, with the intrasquad game coming tomorrow. Today has been a crazy one, with our annual photo day among the many requests that have been flowing in. The amount of national coverage the Dodgers are getting these days is truly astonishing. Eric Neel from ESPN the Magazine arrived today and we’ve already seen the national baseball writers from Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, CNNSI.com, USA Today and countless others.

As for the KFWB comments, we truly do appreciate your sentiments and will take all of this into consideration. One thing that they are doing this year that they’ve never done is podcasting, so check out this page for regular interviews from Dodgertown. They are certainly aware of your comments and doing all they can to provide the die-hard fans with unique, original content and this is one example of that.

For anyone who missed the Saito piece by John Donovan, it’s definitely worth a look. Otherwise, we’re just gearing up for some real pitches to be thrown on Thursday.

On a sad note, I’m bummed to pass along the news that Maury Wills, Don Newcombe, Gil Hodges, Walter O’Malley and Buzzie Bavasi all fell short of the Hall of Fame balloting today. These guys really do all belong in Cooperstown and it’s a shame that they’re not in there, but we’ll keep hoping that eventually the voters realize just what they’re missing. T.J. Simers wrote about Maury Wills this morning, and he sums it up well in this morning’s L.A. Times.

As they always said in Brooklyn, we’ll wait ’til next year.

In today’s Los Angeles Times, there is a great feature on Juan Pierre by Kevin Baxter, who just re-joined the newspaper after several years at the Miami Herald. Kevin, who also speaks Spanish, should bring a different perspective to many of the baseball articles throughout the year and we’re looking forward to having him around at Dodger Stadium.

Another thing I really want to point out is the photo album on the front of dodgers.com. As far as I know, we’re the only team in all of baseball that has a daily photo album from Spring Training. Jon SooHoo does an awesome job trying to give fans an idea of what is going on down here on a daily basis and just in case some of you don’t get to look at it each day, you should make it a point to check these out.

In regards to the trade winds that you’re asking about, it’s safe to say they’re always blowing this time of year. While I don’t really ask Ned or Kim about what’s about to happen, I do know that there are a lot of GMs talking to one another right now because teams are getting a better idea of what they have in camp, the health of their team and what they are able to part with. That’s not to say we’re going to make a trade anytime soon, but it’s safe to say that it’s a possibility. I know that’s vague, but that’s the best I can tell you right now.

And finally, as for an email address where you can send your complaints regarding any issues with KFWB, this is just as good of an outlet as any, as broadcasting is also part of my responsibilities at the Dodgers. As I’ve stated in the past, we’re working very hard with KFWB to try and make this a partnership that works for the fans and though I’m not fully aware of what happened last night since I’m here in Florida and it took place at 11 p.m., I will certainly check in with my contacts there and try to figure out how to avoid those problems again.

Anyone else ready for games?

It seems like this time ever year, Spring Training feels more like an exercise in patience than anything else. It’s kind of like the poker games that seem to take place nightly in the Dodgertown lounge. But, we’ve still got four more days until the intrasquad game and five until we head to Orlando for the first game and I know just about everyone here is itching for some competition.

There were some interesting stories in today’s papers. Ken Gurnick’s story about Andre Ethier seems to tell a lot about why he struggled last season and Ken has another one about Andy La Roche that shows why he seems more comfortable this spring. In the Daily News, Tony Jackson touches on the same two subjects in one article.

I’ve also got to continue pointing out Tony’s blog because he seems to be posting three times a day, which puts Inside the Dodgers to shame. They’re all quick hits that can keep a Dodger fan entertained throughout the day.

In the L.A. Times, Steve Henson points out that Randy Wolf can hit and for anyone who grew up in the Valley and saw him tear it up in high school or college, it’s nice to know that he could see an occasional early-inning pinch-hit appearance in the bigs. Randy will also start the spring opener in Orlando on Thursday, Grady announced yesterday.

Over at the Orange County Register, new Dodger beat writer Al Balderas has a piece on Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley that’s definitely worth a read.

And our other new beat reporter, Diamond Leung of the Riverside Press Enterprise, has an interesting story about Jason Repko in which he admits that if there are other teams that want him, he’d be open to being traded. I’m sure that’s a tough thing to say when you’ve been with one organization as long as he has, but just like anyone in the working world, the opportunity for more responsibility or in this case, playing time, is the issue. Still, given that Jason is one of the nicest guys on the team, I’m certain that he’ll continue to play his heart out here in Los Angeles as long as he’s here.

Our AP reporter, John Nadel, is in town for a week and his first article is on Joe Beimel, which hopefully puts that story to rest. But keep an eye on the newswire all week, as stories about the club will be posted there regularly while John is at Dodgertown.

And finally, don’t forget tonight’s DodgerTalk at 8 p.m. PT. If you’ve got Tivo or DVR, it’s the perfect chance to record the Oscars, listen to DodgerTalk on KFWB and then watch the Oscars almost commercial free for the rest of the night.

Wow

When I posted the leadoff note yesterday morning, I had every intention to come back later in the day and add more to it, but I got swamped with work and never did. I just jumped on about 26 hours later and was stunned to see all the comments. I was starting to think that everyone had become bored of posting, but I guess not. Glad to see you guys are all fired up.

Things here are going very well but starting to pick up. We’ve got TV crews coming all week from FSN Prime Ticket, MLB Productions, MLB.com, TBS (our new postseason rightsholders) and of course, the guys from Dodgers on Demand, among others. Plus, we’ve got each player spending time with the DodgerVision crew so that you guys can be entertained between innings and throughout the home games in Los Angeles. It’s all part of the things that our office coordinates during Spring Training at Dodgertown and across baseball.

Speaking of Dodgertown, I have to say I’m surprised by all the stories that have come out so far with the "Farewell to Dodgertown" theme. Today was USA Today and we’ve already seen them in Sports Illustrated, among others. Of course, understanding the history and tradition here, I’m not surprised that there are people who want to cover our potential move but I guess I’m just a little stunned that these all seem to make it look like this is our last spring. We will obviously be here next year, for sure, so hopefully everyone doesn’t get too far ahead of themselves.

However, in the interest of making sure all of our players and staff know about the history here at Dodgertown, Grady Little had a guest speaker at this morning’s team meeting and it was Billy DeLury, who has been working for the team for more than 55 years. It’s hard to even fathom the kind of dedication and commitment to anything that Billy has shown to this organization and it’s a testament to him that Grady asked him to speak to the players.

Switching subjects, there were a couple of interesting stories to point out today. First is Diamond Leung’s piece on Matt Kemp’s contact lenses in the Riverside Press Enterprise. Also, I mentioned the other day that both Tony Jackson from the Daily News and Diamond are doing blogs this spring that they’re updating regularly. Tony’s today is about Dave Collins and Diamond’s post has an interesting bit right now about Damian Jackson’s tatoos, including one in memory of Mike Darr.  I got chills reading it, to be honest, because when I was a reporter from 2001-02, I actually covered Mike’s funeral and I have to say that that was by far the hardest assignment I’ve ever undertaken.

That’s about it from Dodgertown right now. Keep the chatter going and keep throwing out your ideas and questions. We’ll try to answer what we can, when we can.

Leading off

Grady announced this morning that Rafael Furcal will lead off and Pierre will bat second…more later.

First full-squad workouts

The first full-squad workout took place today and I’m glad to report that the sun has come out in Vero and things seem to be getting better by the day. There were no injuries to report, unless you count my pulled groin muscle from our nightly football games among the front office staff. I’m not going on the DL, though…this one should be day-to-day.

Along those lines, though, Yhency Brazoban took a huge step today in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, as he threw off the mound for the first time since injuring his elbow. Tony Jackson of the Daily News had a nice feature on him in this morning’s paper and though he does seem like a forgotten man at times because he’s not in the news a lot, you can rest assured that no one here has forgotten his abilities.

One really important thing to mention to those of you who haven’t filled your thirst for Dodger news – tomorrow is the start of Dodgers On Demand straight from Vero Beach, where our partners at Time Warner Cable will be posting 5-7 minute reports every day from Vero Beach, making them the only place on TV where you can get original news every day from Dodgertown. For any subscribers of Time Warner Digital Cable, you get this completely free. Just go to channel 1 and look in the "local" folder. This is a huge benefit to Dodger fans and TWC has a crew of four guys who have been working around the clock since they arrived to get this off the ground, so be sure to check it out.

Today was also a busy day in the PR Department, as we sent off the final proof to our yearly media guide, which we’re no longer calling a media guide. It’s now an information guide because the truth is, it’s equally as valuable to fans as it is to the media. You’ll be able to purchase copies at the Top of the Park Gift Store once the season starts and inside, you’ll find 500 pages of player bios, executive bios, history and records, player development bios and information and all sorts of other really interesting info for true fans. On the cover this year is Jackie Robinson because as you probably have heard, we’ll be celebrating the 60th anniversary of his Major League debut all season long.

And finally, we have had our partners from KCAL/CBS out here the last couple days, so Jim Hill taped about 20 interviews with various Dodger players. Be sure to check that out in the next couple of weeks, as they’ll be airing throughout the spring.

Lowe to start Opening Day

Just a few minutes ago, Grady announced that Derek Lowe would start on Opening Day again this year. The rest of the rotation is still to be determined, but for the third straight year, Derek will be on the hill in the first game.

In fact, it’s interesting to note that even with guys like Kevin Brown, Hideo Nomo and the like, the last time the same guy has made three consecutive Opening Day starts for us was 1995-98, when Ramon Martinez started four straight lid-lifters.

It's warming up!

It’s starting to actually feel like spring out here. The sun is out and workouts are in full force. Plenty of bullpen sessions today from the same guys who threw two days ago (Penny, Tomko, Lowe, etc.) and lots more position players showing up and starting to take batting practice.

Tomorrow we should see the rest of the veterans here in preparation of Wednesday’s first full-squad workout.

Meanwhile, just like you all, a lot of our players and coaches are big sports fans outside of baseball. Derek Lowe went down to see the Daytona 500 yesterday from Jeff Gordon’s pit, which he said was a pretty cool experience. And last night, while many of us were hanging out in the Dodgertown lounge, Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin was transfixed on the pro-bullriding event that was on ESPN. In fact, we have a former bull rider as part of our team – Stan Johnston, who is one of our trainers.

Another cool thing about Dodgertown is obviously the history we have here and last night, Signe Hilton, who is a member of our PR department, said that she felt like she was walking back 50 years in time just coming down the hallway that leads down to the lounge. It’s very true – there are great photos from the 50s on the walls and even the music sounds like it’s from that era. It’s just one of the neat things about this complex that hopefully all of you can experience in the next year or two.

And finally, don’t forget that tomorrow you can chat live on dodgers.com with Dodger closer Takashi Saito at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET.

That’s it for now. We’re eight days away from our first intrasquad game and nine days away from the first "real" pitch of the spring.

The Windy City

Spring Training hasn’t moved to Chicago, but gusts up to 20 miles per hour kept us all trying to stay active throughout the day. That wasn’t a problem for the players, who continued workouts today. Several guys threw their first bullpen sessions, including Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf and Takashi Saito. It’s pretty amazing to see a decent-sized contingent of Japanese media following Saito, as he was a relative unknown a year ago this time, despite his success in Japan.

We also set up a quick photo with our three Taiwanese players (Tsao, Kuo and Hu), as today marks the Chinese New Year. Kuo told me that this is a big deal back home, kind of like Christmas, where they all receive and give gifts. He’s living with Tsao here in Vero, but they don’t seem to have plans to celebrate in any particular fashion.

Brett Tomko slightly sprained his ankle yesterday but said that he expects to still throw his bullpen tomorrow. And today is Manny Mota’s birthday, so a special welcome goes out to him.

Otherwise, it’s a quiet day around here. We added Kelly Stinnett to the mix as a non-roster invitee, so he showed up today, as did non-roster outfielder Larry Bigbie. And everyone under the sun is still talking about the goldmine that Matt White is sitting on in Massachussetts.

Don’t forget to listen to DodgerTalk tonight on KFWB 980 at 8 p.m. PT, as Joe Beimel will be a guest of the show.

And, I know some of you asked about when tickets go on sale for individual games, so check out this page for all the info.

Finally, I have heard that a past president of the Dodger Booster Club, Ross Daly, recently passed away, so our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and those who knew him.

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