February 2008

Sunny Saturday

The hot topic around Dodgertown today was Russell Martin and the amount he’ll play this season. Joe Torre said that he’ll try to watch out not to overuse Russell and that he’s had experience with a player like this, as he’s had Jorge Posada as his catcher in New York for a decade. However, he said that he wouldn’t make any decisions about how often Russell will play until the two of them get a chance to sit down and chat. For his part, Russell said that last year he often lobbied Grady to play even when Grady tried to give him days off and that he’ll probably do the same again this year, but that he understands the need not to wear himself down over the course of a season.

Additionally, everyone came away impressed with Jason Schmidt, who threw a bullpen session today and used four different pitches. Joe Torre said he thought Schmidt was further along in the process than he expected but that he’ll still have two days off before his next bullpen (like Yhency Brazoban), whereas the rest of the pitchers will throw every other day.

First day of workouts

A gorgeous day in Vero Beach and it was just as pretty to watch the pitchers and catchers working out for the first time.

Joe Torre addressed the team this morning and as you can imagine, when someone with his resume speaks, the room is all ears. That’s not to say that our previous managers were chopped liver by any means, but obviously very few in the history of the game have four World Series rings to hold up and grab someone’s attention. (Don’t worry, Joe didn’t hold up four rings in the meeting today).

Generally speaking, there were two mobs at Dodgertown today and I was unsure which one I was supposed to be following. The first was a group of about 25-30 Japanese media members, who followed Hiroki Kuroda’s every step on his first day of Spring Training. What jumped out at me was that even during PFPs (pitchers fielding practice), there would be about 10 photographers taking a shot, then busting out their laptops and sending the photo immediately to Japan for the entire world to see within minutes. The speed of information truly amazes me these days and this was one example that really spoke to that.

Meanwhile, just as Kuroda was leaving the field I was at, Joe Torre was coming towards it and he had about 50 fans chasing him down for autographs. He was gracious and signed for just about everyone, but obviously he has to also be able to watch practice, too, so I was going to try and help him wade through the masses. But, with the dozens of media members chasing Kuroda, I had to make a decision and figured I’d help him out, as he’s the new guy in town.

Nonetheless, both made it through just fine and there wasn’t a ton of new news otherwise today. Russell Martin is celebrating his birthday while Ron Cey turned 60, which is almost hard to believe. Then again, just as I typed that, it dawned on me that this blog is almost two years old so I went to look up the first post and sure enough, it was two years ago today that we started to take the fans Inside the Dodgers. It appears I was a lot better back then about adding photos, but for some reason the site doesn’t seem to let me do that anymore.

Nonetheless, hopefully it’s the regular feedback that’s far more valuable than the photos, as you can get those every day from Jon SooHoo’s gallery on the front of the site.

Speaking of feedback, to respond to the comment about joining your Fantasy League, I’m honored to be invited but I don’t think you want someone with inside info going up against the rest of the group. Seems kind of unfair. And to the question about photos from Dodger Stadium renovation, we will post some new ones next week. SooHoo is here with the team, but I’ve reached out to Mark Langill, our team historian, to see if he can shoot some and put them on the site soon.

Anyway, back to today…After Joe met with the media following workouts, we sat him down with Tim Kurkjian of ESPN, so he will be the Sunday night conversation in case you want to see it.

Also, be sure to vote for your favorite Dodger outfielders, as that category opened today at dodgers.com/anniversary.

And finally, for those of you who were awaiting the TV schedule for the regular season, here it is.

Reporting Day

A busy morning, with plenty of people trickling in…

The day started with breakfast in the dining room, where I joined several of our coaches including Bob Schaefer, Mariano Duncan and Triple-A manager Lorenzo Bundy. The newest member of the front office/coaching staff also joined us, Jose Vizcaino, who is back with the organization as a special assistant to baseball operations. Mariano was telling us about how impressive Rafael Furcal looked this winter in the Dominican Republic, which is great to hear. Certainly a nice way to start the spring…

Over at the clubhouse, pitchers are trickling in, with Jason Schmidt giving a state-of-the-Schmidt address, so to speak. That is to say that most of our beat writers talked to him this morning about his progress and he said things are going very well and that in the past couple weeks, he’s really started to feel good. There’s still no real timetable for when he’ll pitch in games this spring or if he’ll be ready to go by Opening Day, but we’ll obviously see how that unfolds throughout the spring.

Otherwise, most of the national media that was here yesterday left after they got Joe Torre’s inaugural address, but ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian is still here, so keep an eye on Baseball Tonight/Sportscenter for his updates. And of course, the usual places of news are the four media outlets covering us daily from here, MLB.com, the L.A. Times, Daily News and the Riverside Press Enterprise.

Spring Training is underway…

It’s amazing how quickly the comments ramped up as soon as Spring Training arrived.

We are here in Dodgertown, having arrived last night around 8 p.m. to a welcoming committee at the airport. Actually, those welcoming us at the airport were mostly autograph seekers who make a living putting that stuff on eBay, as Saito and Kuroda were on our flight and they got bombarded as soon as we got into the main area of the Orlando airport. I guess the autograph is worth more if it’s in Japanese, as they were all saying "Kanji," which I guess means, "Japanese." In any event, they were both gracious and signed as much as they could and with that, Spring Training was officially underway.

Also on our flight were the rest of the PR department, Ellen Harrigan from Baseball Operations and Mike Borzello, the new bullpen catcher this year who comes to us from the Yankees. He will join Rob Flippo down there and hopefully bring with him some of the success the Yankees have had over the last 10 years. Mike grew up in Southern California and we actually went to Joe Torre Baseball Camp together in the late 80s, so it’s good to have him in the Dodger family.

The entire clubhouse staff is here and we’ve already seen Mariano Duncan, too. From what I hear, we’ll have about a dozen players here today, with the rest showing up tomorrow. Billy DeLury, who joined the team in 1950, has been here holding down the fort since late January for the start of the two Adult Baseball Camps that just concluded.

As we settle into the office, we’re hoping the weather will cooperate this morning, as we have a media conference scheduled for 1 p.m. ET with Joe Torre. Not surprisingly, there are tons of New York and national media members who have been checking in with me almost daily to see when Joe will first speak here at Dodgertown so they can document it all for the papers in Manhattan.

For those of you who don’t want to wait to read the written reports, ESPN should be carrying it live on one of their multiple channels (maybe "The Ocho"), so be on the lookout for that. I’ll try to post any highlights later this afternoon.

Otherwise, it should be a relatively quiet, albeit exciting, day at Dodgertown.

UPDATE: It’s pouring at Dodgertown, but we have a tid bit of news. Takashi Saito signed a one-year deal today, which was really never in question but nonetheless, is nice to get done.

Dodgertown Here We Come…

With pitchers and catchers reporting in just a few days (and our office leaving on Tuesday), the first of the many Dodgertown stories have begun and the L.A. Times and Daily News are filled today with memories from Vero Beach.

Hall of Famer Ross Newhan writes about Dodgertown in not one, but two articles, while columnist Bill Plaschke also weighed in.

Matt McHale, who covered the Dodgers for many years and spent tons of time in Vero, wrote his  "farewell to Dodgertown" story today, and between Newhan, Plaschke and McHale, there must be years and years of time living in that so-called sleepy town.

McHale’s colleague, Dennis McCarthy has spent the week at Vero Beach for the 51st fantasy camp. He suited up like one of the campers and filed several stories in addition to the daily blogging he did. In case you missed them, here they are:

Boys of Summer Polish Dodgertown Memories, Sunday Feb. 10

No Pain, No Gain at Dodgers camp, Thursday, Feb. 7

Bottom of the Ninth for Dodgers Camp, Tuesday, Feb. 5

Last Chance to Play with the Big Boys, Sunday, Feb. 3

I’m sure I’ll be saying this very often to people I see and meet over the next six weeks, but it bears saying at the start of Spring, too.

All of us at the Dodgers understand that there will be some people in Vero Beach and on the East Coast who are disappointed with our decision to leave Dodgertown and we can empathize with those feelings. However, we also know that we will be serving a larger majority of Dodger fans, especially families, by making this move.

The primary reason we are moving is to make it easier for families who are Dodgers fans to enjoy Spring Training.  Just think, it takes five hours to fly to Vero; it takes one hour to fly to Glendale.  It takes five days to drive to Vero; it takes about five hours to drive to Glendale.  It costs $442 per person to fly to Vero.  It costs $442 for a family of four to fly to Glendale. 

Plus, the state-of-the-art-facility in Glendale will help our team.  As Ned has pointed out in the past, the long drives from stadium to stadium in Florida mean that you spend more time driving and less time evaluating players. When the team was in Brooklyn, it made all the sense in the world to be training in Florida but the time has come to make this move for our fans.

Another thing that might surprise some is that fan reaction has been extremely strong as everyone is looking for a chance to say goodbye to the team. On the first day of ticket sales in Vero, there was an incredible turnout that exceeded our greatest expectations. We think that is a sign of the fact that many fans understand our reasoning behind the move and are taking this opportunity to show their appreciation for all that’s taken place over 60-plus years.

So with that, it’s time to pack the bags and head out to Florida on Tuesday. If anything of interest happens tomorrow, I’ll post again but otherwise, you might not see anything new until we arrive in Vero Tuesday night.

Wonderful Wednesday

Super Tuesday was followed by a wonderful Wednesday and from the comments posted yesterday, it seems that those who came to the various stops on the caravan enjoyed themselves.

I really thought the Panda Inn event was a great way for fans to meet their favorite players in an up-close-and-personal setting and hope that we can do more events like this in the future.

Our offices are crazy busy this week preparing for Spring Training, as many of us leave on Tuesday for Vero Beach.

Hope to post again over the weekend…

A Super Tuesday

The caravan has left Yankee Doodles and is on the way back to the stadium after a very successful first day. I hope that many of you got the chance to see the Dodgers up close and personal and that you’re getting fired up for the season.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be sending off the equipment truck to Vero Beach from Dodger Stadium at 9:30 and you’re all invited to come on down and be a part of it. We won’t be able to have the players sign autographs or we’ll be late for the hospital, but hopefully the players, broadcasters and former Dodgers will get the chance to come over and take some pictures and chat with those of you who come on down.

Brad Penny and Matt Kemp switched places so Brad will be with the Caravan tomorrow.

More details about the other public stops are below at a previous post, but there’s a number to call for reservations at the lunch stop and CityWalk should be hopping like in years past.

Also, on your commute, tune into KABC 790 at 8:40 for an interview with Joe Torre. Joe will also be on with Dan Patrick at 8:20 on KLAC AM 570.

Hope to see you all out there tomorrow.

Two of the Dodgers' biggest fans…

We just received the very sad news that the Dodgers have lost a good friend in Bill Shelley.

Tot Holmes did a very classy job of summing up Bill’s love for the team at LAdugout.com. We will certainly miss seeing Bill at Dodgertown this Spring and our thoughts are with his family this evening.

Cancer took Bill’s life after being a dedicated Dodger fan for many years, which makes another loss this week that much tougher to take. Jeff Hann was a patient at Mattel Children’s Hospital and two years ago, I received an inquiry about having him come out possibly get a pitching lesson with a Dodger. Jeff was on his high school’s baseball team, but cancer kept him off the team and Derek Lowe granted the wish and took Jeff down to the bullpen for a side session.

Much to our surprise, while we were down there, Greg Maddux happened to walk up and Jeff couldn’t believe his good fortune. He didn’t seem awestruck – he just listened to their tips and did his best to throw the pitches they were teaching him. He had a very good arm and though he was tall and lanky, you could tell he was a solid pitcher.

After a long, courageous battle with cancer, Jeff passed away on Friday and according to our contact at Mattel’s, he talked about that day at Dodger Stadium all the time. 

Derek’s encounters with Jeff and Courtney, another young patient who lost her battle with this horrible disease, drove him to start D-Lowe’s Heroes, a program last year in which he invited patients out to Dodger Stadium and spent time with them on the field before the game while also providing them with dinner in the Dugout Club and great seats to the game.

It seems fitting that, for the start of the Caravan tomorrow and Wednesday, we will be at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and City of Hope, the Dodgers’ partners in ThinkCure. Frank and Jamie McCourt, as well as all of us at the Dodger organization, are committed to finding a cure for this deadly disease.

Our deepest sympathies are with the families of Bill and Jeff. I hope that you’ll take a moment to look into donating to ThinkCure and support the great work that these two hospitals do every day of the year. 

Rudy on duty

We have signed Rudy Seanez to a one-year contract (big league deal) for 2008.

Don’t forget about the various public stops of the caravan, which were all listed two posts ago.

Football season has passed…

Quite a finish for the football season…marking the beginning of baseball season, as far as I’m concerned. I know we all debate the Hot Stove League throughout the winter, but now that the Superbowl is over, everyone’s attention can officially shift to Spring Training.

For those of you looking for caravan information, keep scrolling down.

As for the difficulty in getting Coliseum tickets, I certainly understand the frustration of those who couldn’t get tickets and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find a way to get all of you to the game. There was certainly no intention to price our fans out of the game, as suggested. Season ticket holders have always received the best benefits, which is the same way it works for almost all sports teams in America. We knew that this game had extremely high demand and with 3.8 million tickets sold in 2007, it would be tough to accomodate everyone who wants to attend that game. I do know that all the fans who came down to Dodger Stadium were able to purchase tickets, but I know that doesn’t make it any better for those who couldn’t do so. Please stay tuned for more information in the event that we are somehow able to release more tickets.