January 2009

Happy birthday, Jackie and Happy Trails, John

Today would be the 90th birthday of Jackie Robinson and we stopped to celebrate this great day today with the second annual celebration at Dodger Stadium on the eve of Black History Month. Nearly 100 local youngsters came to the ballpark and heard first-hand stories from Jackie’s old teammates and friends to ensure that his story lives on forever.

While we’re fortunate enough to have people like Don Newcombe, Tommy Davis, and Sweet Lou Johnson, among others, who can tell today’s kids what life was like for them back during the Civil Rights movement (and before it), we know that won’t always be the case so making sure that these kids hear it first-hand ensures that they can tell their grandkids that they heard it straight from those who experienced it…

Meanwhile, this evening at Dodger Stadium, we’re hosting a retirement party for the AP’s John Nadel. As Jerry Crowe of the LA Times wrote earlier this week, John is one of the few newspaper people who have left on their own terms of late, as that industry continues to take hit after hit. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone say a bad word about John, who has covered our team for several decades. He’s always been far more concerned with getting the story right rather than getting it first, and he’s been a class act in every way. We’ll miss having him around the stadium next year. Congrats, John!

 

Caravan

You’ve all been waiting for this info so please forgive the delay in getting it out. Our eight-day community caravan begins tomorrow, with public events on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

All the info you need is here!

Hope to see many of you along the way…

ITD Tour

So, it looks like we’re going to have to wait until the season starts for the Inside the Dodgers tour. I promise it will still happen, but as you might have heard, we’re actually re-doing the entire field and it’ll be better for you all to see it when it’s done. For those who understand horticulture better than I, here’s a description of what is taking place from our rockstar head grounds crew member, Eric Hansen.

“As you look down over the next 10 days you will see quite a transformation.  This project began yesterday (Sunday) morning at about 7 AM with the removal of existing turf and scheduled to conclude the middle of next week with the installation of new sod.  We will install the same type of turf as was removed which is a hybrid bermudagrass base (Tifway 419) over seeded with a perennial rye.  West Coast Turf in Palm Desert will be providing and installing the turf.  West Coast Turf is the company that provides most of the turf to the high profile stadiums in the South and Southwest.  They are also the company that has provided the turf for most of the Super Bowls.

This is what you can expect to see over the next few days.  The sod is being removed by a machine (Karol Toymaker) that uses teeth that cut and shred the material (sod & soil) at a depth of approximately two inches.  At the present time, Bush Turf is close to finishing its first pass.  They will make a second pass over the entire field to clean up the organic matter still remaining on the surface.  Once this is finished, approximately 200 – 300 tons of sand will be added to the field to replace that which was removed.  Once this is finished, 2000 lbs of gypsum (Calcium) will be applied to the surface and blended into the top 6″ of soil.  By the way, our soil profile consists of approximately 12″ of high quality sand meeting well defined specifications.  Once this phase is completed, the sprinkler heads that we have buried will be raised and set.  The sand will be watered to help it settle and grading will begin.  Bush Turf will use a blade equipped with two receivers that read a signal sent from a laser set up on pitchers mound.  The signal being sent are predetermined elevations programmed into the transmitter. The blade on the tractor adjusts up or down based on the signal it receives.  With this equipment the field can easily be graded with 1/8″ – ¼’ of desired  elevations. Once the grading is finished, the only thing left to do with the soil prior to installing sod is apply preplan fertilizer and wait for the sod to show up.

There are a few other things that will also occur.  We also have to work on the infield skin which will involve blending amendments into the profile and then finishing with a final laser grade.  Also, once the turf has been installed, we will add about 50 tons of new warning track material which will help freshen up the color and appearance.”

It’s obviously quite complicated but that’s why he does what he does and we do what we do, right? All I know is that a few years ago, Major Leaguers rated our field as the best to play on, so I know that we’re in good hands with Eric and his crew. In the meantime, thanks for your patience on the tour. We’ll definitely set it up when we get back from Spring Training…

Quite an honor…

Finally getting a chance to post after quite a long day and hopefully you all got the chance to see the news conference honoring Jeff Kent. If not, there’s video, photos and all sorts of awesome coverage on the front of dodgers.com and mlb.com, but it was certainly an honor to emcee the event and be a part of his “last day” in the Major Leagues. I think a lot of people have seen a different side of Jeff over the last four years with the Dodgers but he certainly let down his guard a little today, and it was pretty cool to witness.

I actually got to spend the morning with Jeff and his family and just seeing how important they are to him seems to validate his decision to “go home” and spend more time with them. As I told him today, he’s got the best years of his life ahead of him and with his motorcycle dealership and the golf course he just purchased, he will certainly be busy.

One thing I think is for certain…we can mark our calendars five years for now for a trip to Cooperstown, where Jeff will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as the greatest offensive second baseman of all time.

 

WBC Rosters and more…

Good lively chatter on the last thread. Glad everyone is getting geared up for the season to start. All I can say is that there should be absolutely no question that the driving force behind Camelback Ranch was, without any question, the fans. That’s not intended to be a slight to Vero Beach, which was an amazing home to us for six decades, but I’m here every day and you simply don’t hear people talking about how much revenue Camelback is going to generate. You hear them talk about the fans and the trips being planned to Glendale…honestly.

In any event, in case you missed the show announcing rosters on the MLB Network, provisional rosters for the WBC came out today and here are the Dodgers who could take part:

Russell Martin and Jonathan Broxton

Minor leaguers Brian Mazone, Val Pascucci, Kenley Jansen and Ivan DeJesus Jr.

Fernando Valenzuela (coaching for Mexico)

Charley Steiner (broadcasting for MLB)

…and I’m sure there are others I’m not remembering. The timing of the announcement was set to the first day of individual ticket sales, so if you are planning to come out to the stadium on March 21 or 23, you can purchase them now online.

In other Dodger news, Jason Repko signed today, leaving just Martin, Broxton and Andre Ethier as our arbitration eligible guys who haven’t signed. I caught up with Russ today on the phone and he sounds like he’s determined to have an even better season this year and coming off back-to-back All-Star campaigns, that would be enormous for the Dodgers.

Speaking of Andre, he posted his latest food review in Arizona over at Dining with ‘Dre.

And finally, on the eve of a very historic day for our nation, if you missed this article in the NY Times, you should definitely take a read. George Vescey wrote a great piece about Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. through the eyes of our very own Don Newcombe. I believe that somehow Newk gets overlooked in the role he played in integrating the game of baseball and our nation and everyone at the Dodgers feels extremely fortunate that we have this living legend in our offices every week.

 

 

 

Camelback is creeping up…

As the days tick off the calendar, it’s hard to fathom that we’ll be in Arizona in a little more than three weeks. The excitement is building (as is the workload) but we’re all getting ready around here and there’s definitely a buzz that accompanies having Spring Training so close to home.

I’ve worked here for about 15 years and I’ve never heard so many people planning their trips to come see the Dodgers during Spring Training. While the PR department and Baseball Ops all headed to Vero in the past, there were countless hard-working employees (and an enormous number of fans) who never saw Dodgertown. I keep hearing people up and down the halls talking about what weekend they’re coming to Camelback and that’s really cool.

For those of you planning to come out for some games, tomorrow is the day you can start buying tickets to single games so hopefully you’ll all be out there. And if you come, be sure to say hello. I’ll be there for the entire six-plus weeks (minus my time in LA for the World Baseball Classic) and everyone knows everyone, so just ask around and we can hopefully catch up on site.

Coincidentally, individual game tickets go on sale for the WBC on Monday and for any of you who saw the packed houses in San Diego last time around, hopefully you’ll be making your plans for then, too. Come out and support your country (even if you’re reading this from somewhere outside the US), as it should be a great time to come visit and back your hometown players).

On the baseball front, obviously we made news yesterday with the release of Andruw Jones. Clearly it was a disappointment for all of us and I know that everyone had high hopes when he arrived (including many of you at ITD). At this point, all you can really do is turn the page and focus on ’09 Adding another starting pitcher, which is a main focus of Ned and his crew right now, and hopefully bringing Manny back would make for a pretty nice offseason.

Enjoy the weekend and in case you haven’t been watching the MLB Network, tune in on Monday night at 9 p.m. for a special tribute to the Negro Leagues. 
MLB NETWORK TO AIR SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO NEGRO LEAGUES ON MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY.pdf

 

This Saturday!

For those of you who have not seen the story that Ken Gurnick did on Nomar yesterday, check it out. It touches on his baseball future (still unsure, according to Nomar) and his charitable present, as he and Mia are hosting their second annual celebrity soccer game this weekend. For anyone who went last year, it was a great event and raised more than $150,000 for bone marrow donation awareness and research.

Also this Saturday is your first chance to purchase individual tickets for games at Camelback Ranch during Spring Training. Given that we played in front of standing room only games during all of our Cactus League games last year, I’d imagine they’ll move quickly, so be sure pick a week (or weekend) to come out and then hop online and get your tickets.

And finally, on a very sad note, we just got word that former Dodger coach Preston Gomez passed away today. As some of you might recall, he was hit by a car during Spring Training last year and it seems he never really recovered. I know that he was close with a number of people in the organization and our hearts go out to his family and friends. Here’s what his former manager, Tommy Lasorda had to say:

“The man spent his entire life in baseball. He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers. Al Campanais gave him an opporunity to be in professional bsaeball. He managed at least three major league teams and was a credit to the game. We are very sorry to see him pass away. He wore the Dodger uniform with pride and dignity. He has helped a lot of people in our game and he will be missed.”

Winter Development Program

Here’s an excerpt of an email sent out by our Assistant Director of Player Development, Chris Haydock to the front office this morning that I thought I’d share with all of you.

Today, the Baseball Operations Department is proud to begin its second annual “Winter Development Program” at Dodger Stadium. This intensive two week program will run through January 24th, and will feature some of the best and brightest prospects in our system.

Although the program will feature on field, morning workouts, the core of the program will be the seminars and guest speakers we have lined up to help acclimate our top minor league players to the big leagues. The seminars will include topics such as media training, community affairs, medical, marketing, security, and major league travel policies/procedure. Our players will have two off-site community visits, as well. Guest speakers will include former Dodger players Duke Snider, Tommy Lasorda, Maury Wills, Wes Parker, Don Newcombe, Lou Johnson, Tommy Davis, Eric Karros, Darren Dreifort, and Ramon Martinez.

Also- USC Athletic Director and former Heisman Trophy Winner, Mike Garrett, Legendary LSU Baseball Coach Skip Bertman, our very own Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, and hopefully others will also spend some time with our players during the program.

An additional goal of the program is to get our players excited about playing in Los Angeles. Evening events have been planned in Hollywood, Santa Monica, downtown, and Pasadena to name a few.

Needless to say, we are extremely excited about this program, and are thankful for all of the help each of your departments has put in to make it a success.

Here is a listing of the players we have invited to attend:

“Graduate Group”- from last year’s program:

Clayton Kershaw

Blake Dewitt

Cory Wade

Scott Elbert

Ramon Troncoso

James McDonald

Chin Lung Hu

 

Pitchers:

James Adkins

Jesus Castillo

Brent Leach

Josh Lindblom

Jacobo Meque

Travis Schlicting

 

Position Players:

Tony Abreu

Josh Bell

Ivan DeJesus

A.J. Ellis

Austin Gallagher

Jamie Hoffmann

Andrew Lambo

Lucas May

Russell Mitchell

Xavier Paul

Trayvon Robinson

Matt Wallach

 

 

Broadcast news…

At the end of this month (Jan. 26), the Southern California Sports Broadcasters will have their annual awards luncheon and we have a number of people who were nominated for top honors. It’s kind of like the Oscars for local sports broadcasting and a nice event they do each year.

Among those being nominated are:

Vin Scully – TV play-by-play

Jaime Jarrin – Foreign Language play-by-play

Rick Monday – Radio play-by-play

Jerry Reuss – Radio analysis

Fernando Valenzuela – Foreign Language analysis

Ken Levine – Talk show host

We certainly offer our congrats to all of them in advance of finding out whether they won, as they’re all among the best in their fields.

Of course, as you all have read, we’re in the process of seeking a play-by-play person to work alongside Steve Lyons for the 40 games that Vin doesn’t travel to East of Denver, so as always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated. Perhaps you live in a minor league town where there’s a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Or maybe there’s someone you’ve heard elsewhere who you think fits the bill. I can assure you, we’re working quite hard to find someone that you will all love to listen to (and watch) in ’09 so feel free to post your comments.

And finally, it certainly appears that Trevor Hoffman is headed to the Brewers and I’ve never heard a bad word about the guy, so I certainly wish him well. He certainly would have been a nice addition to the bullpen and clubhouse, but rather than work from the ninth inning backward by adding a closer, I think that Broxton certainly showed glimpses that he can handle ninth inning pressure and I presume we’ll now look to add relievers that bridge the gap to him. I want to make sure you know that I’m not in baseball ops…I’m just going by what I have read and what my take is on the situation…plus, it’s good food for thought (or chatter).

A new thread!

You’ve been asking for it, so here’s a new thread for you all. I hope everyone had a great holiday season and New Year’s Eve and that you’re all ready for a great 2009. It was relatively quiet over the last 10 days to two weeks in the baseball world, but I imagine that will change in the coming month. Obviously there are still a number of free agents out there – Manny atop the list – so I’ll continue to keep my fingers crossed that he’s wearing Dodger blue this season.

A few things that I know for sure will be happening in ’09…

- An Inside the Dodgers tour of the stadium (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten)

- Vin and Tommy’s 60th year with the organization

- The Opening of Camelback Ranch - Glendale

- The semis and finals of the World Baseball Classic

- The next “Under the Lights” event, part of DodgerLIFE, which is Jan. 17 (a chance to take BP at Dodger Stadium)

And a heck of a lot more.

I should be posting regularly now that we’re back in the new year, so check the site regularly … 

 

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