The countdown to pitchers and catchers has begun on the front of the site, which means we’re extremely close to departing for Vero Beach. I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t wait for Spring Training and I hope that many of you will take a trip to Dodgertown if you never have. You won’t regret it.
Also, voting began today for the top catcher in Los Angeles Dodger history so be sure to visit dodgers.com/anniversary. Obviously on that page, you can only vote without comments, but I’d be interested in hearing you all debate the various catchers on the list. I’m really interested to see who will be picked…it’s up to the fans, and it’s not just the catcher. Many positions are now open, so vote if you haven’t.
Also, for those of you with questions for Ned, he’ll be chatting with fans on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Or, you can tune in tomorrow to ESPN 710 at 3 p.m., where he’ll be in studio with Steve Mason for an hour.
Late last night, we got the word that one of the greatest Dodger pitchers of all-time, Johnny Podres, passed away at the age of 75. Johnny was a part of four World Championship teams with the Dodgers, including the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series. He was the first person to throw a pitch at Dodger Stadium in 1962 and the stories I’ve heard about him all day certainly show what a tremendous loss this is for the Dodger family.
Tommy Lasorda shared his memories of Johnny over at his blog, so be sure to check that out.
Unfortunately, we got more tough news today when we came into the office. Jaime Jarrin called to let me know that Ruben Valentin, who has covered the Dodgers for many years and was a regular voice on FOX’s SAP channel, passed away over the weekend during a visit to his native Puerto Rico. Ruben was a very classy man who always treated us with great respect and we tried to give him the same in return.
He is remembered over by Miguel Angel Morales at the "Detras de los Dodgers" blog.
Our hearts go out to both of the families of these great men and I hope that you’ll all take a moment to remember them and keep them in your thoughts.
Just working from home this weekend while our prospects continue their program at the stadium. As you probably read in Ken Gurnick’s story yesterday, the players had dinner last night with John Wooden, one of the many great surprises in store for them during this two-week period. Speaking of Gurnick, for what it’s worth, he has absolutely nothing to do with the photos on the site or the captions in them. I saw the post here that listed the mistake and asked MLB.com to correct it.
In case you missed it, there’s a great story on Robin Ventura’s ankle transplant surgery on MLB.com and it’s a fascinating read. Robin is probaby one of my favorite players to deal with over the 13 years I’ve been in baseball. After I got to know him a bit, it blew me away that he’ll often be remembered as the guy who charged the mound against Nolan Ryan because that just didn’t strike me as his personality. I guess we all do some dumb things when we’re young. Regardless, it’s great to see that he’s pain free now in his ankle because it had really gotten the best of him by the end of his career with the Dodgers.
Another nice story to read is in the Toronto Sun and it’s about Russell Martin, whose helping some fellow young Canadians improve their games.
Otherwise, not much else doing over the weekend. If you’re driving into work on Monday, tune into KABC, where Nomar will be doing an interview between 8 and 9 a.m. about his upcoming charity event. And keep an eye out next week for lots of articles about our prospects and this great development program, as we’re opening it up to the media for two days and giving them a chance to chat with all the up and coming Dodger players.
UPDATE: One more thing: The Wilson Valdez deal that has been rumored for quite some time is official and he has been sold to a Korean team.
A few of you asked about the Player Development Program currently underway at the stadium and probably saw the photos on the site. I can’t even begin to tell you how great this program is and how much the young prospects are getting from it.
Every day, the players are working out on the field in the morning. The instructors are mostly our minor league field coordinators, but there are also some big league coaches here and some Dodger legends helping out like Maury Wills, Wes Parker and others. Each day, the prospects are also getting to hear from former Dodgers in a classroom type setting and today it was Bill Mueller and Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider who came out to speak with them.
They’re also learning about the things that go on in the front office, from Marketing and Public Relations to Community Affairs. Today, they went out into the community and visited a large group of youngsters at a local school. Overall, this is a huge step towards making these players feel acclimated from their first day in the big leagues.
Also, we signed a few more guys as non-roster invitees to Spring Training. They are left-hander Matt Riley, who was with us at Triple-A Las Vegas last year; Alfredo Simon, a right-hander who was with Triple-A Oklahoma (Rangers’ affiliate) last season; and George Lombard, an outfielder with a couple of years of big league experience that was with Triple-A Columbus last year in the Washington organization.
With less than five weeks to Spring Training, I would have thought I’d be blogging every day but there hasn’t really been much to report from the past week.
The only real noteworthy news right now is that we added another game to our Spring Training schedule. We’ll play a night game on March 4 against the Nationals as a split squad (we also play them earlier that day in Viera).
Also, for those who missed the announcement a couple weeks ago, Nomar and Mia Hamm are having a celebrity charity soccer game on Jan. 26 at the Home Depot Center. All the information you need can be found at the website for her foundation.
Earlier today, James Loney visited Mattel Children’s Hospital and spent some time with the young patients there. He was in town for the Rose Parade and asked if he could go back to the hospital again, having visited it earlier this year, so it’s great to see our young players getting involved in the community on their own. He’s kept busy here this week, hitting up the Laker game on Thursday, where he was interviewed during the game by FSN Prime Ticket and then stopping by Clipper practice, where he played HORSE with Sam Cassell.
As for the question about a Blue Carpet event, that remains to be seen. It was a great event…I’m just not sure if FSN Prime Ticket will repeat that event or do something different this year.
And regarding the Caravan – it’s set to take place Feb. 5 and 6 this year. Details and locations to follow, but it’s shaping up to be our best ever, with great public events and some very cool stops along the way.
That’s all I can think of for now…will keep posting things as they come up.
Is it just me or does that seem like a tiny number?
Hard to believe we’ll be in Vero Beach in less than six weeks, with quite a bit still to be done prior to our departure. Of course, most of that is on the business side, where myself and nearly 150 talented and dedicated colleagues will be focused, whereas the baseball side is getting pretty close to set. Ned Colletti has said that we might add a reliever or bench player to the mix and who knows, maybe some team makes a trade offer that makes sense and improves the team and he pulls the trigger. But as of January 2, I’m feeling very good about 2008 based on what’s in place right now. How about you all?
In case you missed it, Dodger minor league staff assignments were announced today.
As for yesterday, hopefully many of you got to see the float in the Rose Parade. It was a tremendous experience and everyone involved really loved being a part of it. Sure, we had to be at the stadium by 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day, but it was a small price to pay for something so rewarding. There were Dodger fans all over Pasadena and legends past and present were on board to wave to the fans.
Safe to say, it was a great way to kick off the 50th Anniversary of the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles. There will be plenty more where that came from, so be on the lookout for the latest (you can always check dodgers.com/anniversary for the latest news and info about the season-long celebration).