December 2007

FSN, Furcal and the Float are en Fuego

A check of the winter leagues finds Rafael Furcal hitting .361 (13-for-36) through eight games while playing mostly second base. He has two doubles, a homer, three stolen bases (in three attempts), a .395 OBP and .500 slugging percentage. Looks like the Raffy of old and certainly what we’re all hoping to see in 2008. Of course, it’s only eight games and it’s the Dominican Winter League, not the big leagues (Jose Lima is among the leaders in ERA and Carlos Perez is up there in wins), but it’s certainly a positive sign.

Also, don’t forget that FSN Prime Ticket is running its Blue Year’s Eve marathon starting at 2 p.m. on Monday.  And when you wake up on Tuesday morning, be sure to check out the Rose Parade for the Dodgers’ first-ever float. We’re the 50th float in the parade (of course, celebrating our 50th anniversary in Los Angeles), and there will be legends from every decade on the West Coast riding on the float.

I had a chance to stop by the decorating area two days ago and the float looks really cool. Of course, I saw it without all the roses, but even just with paint on it, it was impressive.

This could be the last post for 2007…if so, on behalf of the entire Dodger organization, thanks for supporting the team throughout the season and we hope that 2008 will bring health to you and all of your families, happiness to Dodger fans around the globe and a World Championship to Los Angeles.

Farewell to a true friend

It’s a very sad day for the Dodger family, as Stu Nahan passed away today at the age of 81. Though a half century separated us in age, I’ve always felt very close to Stu and our sincere thoughts go out to his wife, Sandy, and his children.

Most people who grew up in Los Angeles (or Sacramento), knew Stu as a legendary TV and radio announcer, while anyone who grew up outside of these cities in the 80s probably remembers him from his roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High or the Rocky Series. I still remember watching "Fast Times" in the visiting clubhouse of Bank One Ballpark when Stu was still traveling with us in 2003 and the entire Dodger team was giving him grief for his ugly sportcoat and giant glasses as he interviewed Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli) in the movie.

Over the past 10 years or so, I’ve gotten to know him quite well and I was honored to be at the ceremony for his Star on the Walk of Fame earlier this year. The event, which had to be rescheduled because of his bout with cancer, was a great celebration of his life and I’m comforted by the fact that he had the chance to see just how many people cared about him. Hopefully everyone will smile when they think of him today because that’s what he was always doing – smiling.

His self-deprecating sense of humor and stories from his days as a bad minor league hockey goalie always kept people laughing and in the last few years, in his retirement, he could regularly be found in the first row behind home plate at Dodger Stadium, sitting with his good friend Scott Boras. He tells a great story of how the two of them met when Stu had to crash land a plane on a farm many, many years ago and it turned out to be the farm that Scott was living on as a kid. A lot of Stu’s stories were made up, but I actually think this one was true.

In any event, we could count on at least one call to the press box each homestand, as Stu would be trying to settle a bet with Scott over a weird statistic or the name of a random player traded by or to the Dodgers in the mid 80s.

But one thing will always stand out in my mind about Stu and that was his huge heart. Last week I got a message from him and when I called back, he wanted to know how I was doing, given the changes in my department at the Dodgers. He didn’t sound well and at the time, I had no clue that he was calling from his hospital bed. When I asked him why he sounded so bad, he told me the cancer had returned and no matter how many times I tried to ask about him, he kept bringing the conversation back to me and how I was doing. That was quintessential Stu Nahan and it was the last time we spoke, but it’s a wonderful memory that will stay with me forever.

He lived a great and full life and I hope all of you will keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Spring Training tickets

Season tickets in Vero Beach went on sale today. Mini packages and individual games will go on sale at a later date, but for those of you who plan to go to all 10 home games at Dodgertown, you can go online and do so.

I’m not expecting much more exciting to blog about in the next few daysso if this is my final post for a while, I wish you all a happy and healthy end to the holiday season.

Quite a sight…

Just had an impromptu visit from Tommy Lasorda, who popped into my office and spent the last hour sharing stories from the past 50-plus years with the Dodgers. This happens from time to time and definitely serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to work for the Dodgers.

At the end of the hour, Tommy told me he wanted to show me something I would never believe if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. By this point, we’ve got a group of people hanging out in the office and he breaks out a DVD from the 80s (I guess it was once a VHS that was converted) from Spring Training. In it, he is showing Joe Garagiola just what it means to have players who play for the name on the front of their jersey.

One by one, Tommy gets some of the most well-known names from Dodger lore to go down on their knees and say "I love the Dodgers." It was Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek, Willie Crawford, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and others screaming at the top of their lungs about how much they love the Dodgers. It’s funny how much the game has changed over the years but Tommy’s stories never grow old (even if I have heard some of them 100 times).

At the end of the video, Tommy shows off the tombstone that was made for him that says, "Tommy Lasorda – Dodger Stadium was his address but every ballpark was his home." In the clip, he says he wants to work for the Dodgers even after he dies. When Garagiola asks how he plans to do that, Tommy said that someday on his grave, he wants to put a Dodger schedule every year so that when people want to know whether the team is at home or on the road, they can say, "Go see Tommy."

Of course, by that time maybe graves will have digital photo frames to remember the departed and wireless Internet access, so we can direct them to dodgers.com, but one way or another, we’ll make sure he’s covered.

Blue Years' Eve and Blue Years' Day

In case anyone is looking for entertainment on New Year’s Eve, there will be a nine-hour marathon on Dec. 31 on FSN Prime Ticket to celebrate the 50th Anniversary in Los Angeles.

The marathon will include FSN original programming, as well as other great Dodger stuff from recent years. Patrick O’Neal will host the event, introducing all 15 shows starting at 2 p.m. and going until 11 p.m. Steve Lyons will also make an appearance, walking viewers through the 2008 Rose Parade float progress.

Among the things you can watch that day are:

2 p.m. Beyond the Glory (’88 WS/Gibson homer)

3 p.m. In My Own Words Tommy Lasorda

4 p.m. Dodgers’ Insider – Hollywood Stars

4:30 p.m. In My Own Words Frank McCourt

5:00 p.m. In My Own Words Ned Colletti

5:30 p.m. In My Own Words Joe Torre

6:00 p.m. Before The Bigs Brad Penny

7:00 p.m. In My Own Words Jeff Kent

7:30 p.m. In My Own Words Juan Pierre

8:00 p.m. Dodgers Insider Manny Mota

8:30 p.m. Dodgers Insider Campo Las Palmas

9:00 p.m. Before the Bigs Rafael Furcal

9:30 Before the Bigs Russell Martin

Then, once you’ve slept off whatever you did on New Year’s Eve, the float will be turning the corner in the Rose Parade, carrying legends like Vin Scully, Jaime Jarrin, Tommy Lasorda, Eric Karros, Steve Garvey, Wes Parker, Fernando Valenzuela and, Manny Mota and current Dodgers like Nomar Garciaparra, James Loney, Takashi Saito and Hong-Chih Kuo, as well as fan favorites Nancy Bea Hefley and Roger Owens, who will be tossing peanuts alongside the float. Come to think of it, we’re a little first-base heavy with five regular first basemen, plus Fernando who has made appearances there! But the theme of the parade is an international one and we’ll be represented by the United States, Japan, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan and Mexico.

Rock the Vote (plus Gary Bennett and the Spring Training schedule)

A few things you can vote on these days…

The all-time Los Angeles Dodger team is now moving on to third basemen, so check that out and vote for Ron Cey, Adrian Beltre, Jim Gilliam or Pedro Guerrero. Plus, vote for first base, second base and shortstop, which are all still live.

Also, the Los Angeles Sports Council is conducting fan voting for the top moments in Los Angeles in 2007. The candidates for top Dodger moment are Russell Martin’s clean sweep of the catching awards (All-Star, Gold Glove & Silver Slugger); Takashi Saito’s record of saves converted in his first 50 career chances (he was 47 for 50); and Brad Penny’s unprecedented L.A. Dodger start to the season (13-1). Voting will last until Jan. 10 and the awards ceremony is on Jan. 20.

We announced the signing today of Gary Bennett who will back up Russell Martin. He’s a former World Champion and career NL guy who knows the league very well and should be of benefit to the team even on days when he doesn’t play. I’m sure that his inclusion in the Mitchell Report is of interest to many people, as should be his response. To me, he’s done the stand up thing by admitting his mistake and I’m glad to know this is behind him.

Also, we’re announcing our tentative Spring Training schedule today so check it out on the site. Season tickets will be on sale soon and in early ’08, you’ll be able to buy mini-plans. Tickets for individual spring games go on sale usually in early February, so be on the lookout for more info.

Today's news conference

Just finished a great event with Kuroda and everything went very well. At the end of the day, he told me how impressed he was with the entire organization and all that we did to make him feel at home (actually, he said this to the interpreter who passed it along to me).

I really think that the Dodgers’ history in Japan paid huge dividends with this signing. It actually made me think about Alfonso Soriano from last winter and how he ultimately decided that he didn’t want to move all the way to California from his home in the Dominican Republic. Sometimes your location works against you and sometimes, like with Kuroda, it works in your favor. Having a huge Japanese population in Los Angeles certainly helped sway him, as did our aggressive pursuit of him with numerous members of the front office. Among those Frank and Ned credited today were Acey Kohrogi, Keiichi Kojima, Scott Akasaki, Curtis Jung, Logan White and Paul Fryer.

After the news conference, we walked Kuroda down to the field where he took the mound for the first time. Then he got a chance to talk to Russell Martin on the cell phone from on the field, which was a cool moment.

I know we’ve got a lot of work to do before March 31, but I echo the comments from the last post by Roberto – I wish Opening Day was tomorrow.

Konichiwa Kuroda-san

Hiroki Kuroda has passed a physical this morning and will be introduced tomorrow as the newest member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The signing has been speculated and anticipated for quite some time and seems to be a perfect fit, as it did not require the club to give up any of the young talent that has fans so excited about 2008.

As most of you know, there is a very long history between the Dodgers and Japan dating back to the team’s days in Brooklyn. It sounds like the popularity of the Dodgers as well as Kuroda’s respect for Takashi Saito and the supportive Japanese community in Los Angeles had a lot to do with his decision to join the Dodgers over the other teams that coveted him — some reports have that number as high as 20 Major League teams.

I probably speak for many baseball fans when I say that I’m excited for the talk around the game of baseball to return to the field. The Mitchell Report will have a lasting place in baseball history but I’d like to think that as an industry, we can and should accept our mistakes and continue to welcome the changes that have been made over the past few years to maintain the game’s integrity.

I’m looking forward to the day this year when Kuroda gives us eight strong innings and Saito finishes the game with a save, a fist pump and his trademark smile.

I’m sure I’ll write more tomorrow after the news conference.

Statement from Frank McCourt

“As the steward of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I am steadfast in the belief that performance-enhancing drugs have no place in baseball. The Dodgers have supported and fully cooperated with this investigation, initiated by the commissioner and conducted by Senator Mitchell. We wholeheartedly support Commissioner Selig’s efforts to rid the game of these substances and we commend Senator Mitchell on a thorough investigation. Our commitment to our fans during our stewardship has been and always will be to do everything in our power to maintain the game’s integrity.

“With that said, I have not had the chance to read the report in its entirety and once I am able to do so, I’ll be willing to share any further thoughts.”

A great day…

It’s only 2:45 but today has really been phenomenal. This morning we hosted about 300 kids from local youth organizations at a holiday party at Dodger Stadium and it doubled as an introduction to Los Angeles for Andruw Jones. In addition to the newest Dodger, we had people like Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti, Eric Karros, Kenny Landreaux, Bobby Castillo, Rudy Law, Charley Steiner and Steve Lyons, among others, on hand to spend time with the youngsters.

As for Andruw, he couldn’t have been more gracious with the little ones and the big ones (those in the media), and we’re certainly looking forward to having him here.

The thing that he kept repeating that stuck out with me is his converations with Ned and Frank in which he said they showed him how much they wanted him and how badly they expect and want to win here. I obviously don’t know what was said behind closed doors but whatever it was, it clearly convinced him that a two-year deal with the Dodgers than a potentially longer gig elsewhere. (On a side note, the final center fielder of the winter signed today – Aaron Rowand for five years and $60 million; Hunter was five years and $90 million and Kosuke Fukudome at four years and $48 million). 

He mentioned that in Curacao, where he grew up, the two teams everyone talks about are the Dodgers and Yankees so if there are any people from Curacao reading this, we welcome your native son to Los Angeles and hope you’ll come visit us this Spring in Vero Beach or this summer in LA. He also confirmed that he speaks four languages – English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento, which is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and has some Arawak Indian and African influences (according to my trusty google search). That’s the official language of Curacao and the one he’s spoken since birth.

We also announced today that we have invited 11 players to Spring as non-roster players, including Tanyon Sturtze, Danny Ardoin and Mike Koplove, among others. The full release is here.

Additionally, today we will non-tender Mark Hendrickson, making him a free agent.

I know a lot of you are asking about Kuroda and unfortunately, I don’t really have an update. From what I understand, members of the Japanese media have reported that he told someone at the the Hiroshima Carp that he wants to play for the Dodgers, but if that’s the case, he has not yet told the Dodgers that. That would certainly be great news if it proves to be true and as soon as I know it’s official, I’ll post here again.

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