February 2009

A historical entry from Mark Langill…

There is no time limit to “the rest of the story,” and this recent tale involves one of the most famous home runs by an opponent in Dodger Stadium history. Although Opening Day 1977 is best remembered as Tommy Lasorda’s first game as Dodger manager (not counting the four games at the end of the 1976 season credited to Walter Alston’s record) and Frank Sinatra singing the national anthem, San Francisco’s Gary Thomasson hit a memorable home run on Don Sutton’s first pitch of the game.

Before the game, Sutton was told the first pitch was going to be sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Apparently nobody bothered to tell Thomasson, a left-handed hitting outfielder who later played for the Dodgers. After the game, team vice president Fred Clare told Sutton something along the lines of the Dodgers could’ve mailed the ball to Cooperstown instead of having Thomasson hitting the ball that far. The joke was possible because Sutton pitched brilliantly that afternoon in a complete-game 5-1 victory.

Turns out the ball was caught by a young Dodger fan named Todd Derrick. Many years later, Derrick was driving in his car after an evening MBA class at USC when he heard Scully mention the Sutton-Thomasson story and that the Dodgers were looking for the ball to give to the Hall of Fame. Derrick called his parents to see if they still had the baseball in storage. Derrick learned his younger brother took that home run baseball, along with a bag of other baseballs, to UC Irvine to play college ball. Derrick asked, “Where are the baseballs now?” and was told they likely were used during batting practice that first summer.

So the baseball destined for Cooperstown took an unexpected exit in Irvine.

The humor in the situation…

If you don’t just laugh at this point, you’d pull all your hair out!!

This from the satirical newspaper, The Onion…

WASHINGTON–After a series of closed-door talks, Scott Boras, the agent known for representing the highest-paid players in baseball, set another record for the game’s largest contract when he finalized Manny Ramirez’s $20 billion agreement with the United States federal government on Thursday. “Manny’s .396 batting average last season with the Dodgers, as well as his playoff performance, proved that he is as important to this country as infrastructure projects, health care, and renewable energy development,” Boras said during an interview, adding that Ramirez is especially satisfied with the indefinite length of the contract. “He’s promised to cut 47 hours of antics this year and to make necessary attitude adjustments in order to remain solvent. Any criticism Manny receives for this contract is simply what comes with getting a huge amount of money from the government during a time of crisis.” A clause in the contract states Ramirez could receive an additional $6 billion if he successfully saves the American auto industry

Slice open the grapefruit…er…cactus

The Cactus League is upon us. Been having internet issues, so I hadn’t posted the lineup until now and I’m guessing you already have it. Pierre, Ausmus, Ethier, Loney, Blake, Kemp, DeWitt, Young and Abreu.

Birthday wishes go out to the Cubs’ Ron Santo and Dodger assistant trainer Rick Lembo. And get well wishes to Rick Monday, who is sick with the flu and that’s why you’re hearing Charley Steiner with Josh Suchon right now on KABC, if you’re listening. Ken Levine will pop in the booth for three innings as well and hopefully Mo will be back by Saturday’s game.

Other than that, just the usual day of Manny rumors and excitement. ESPN is here at Mesa to cover the story in 24-hour fashion but I don’t really have any update to offer. Keeping my fingers crossed, as are all of you.

Good times…

The Cactus League games start tomorrow at Mesa and a rematch against the Cubs. We’re all itching to see how things will turn out this spring and you can definitely feel the excitement around the offices here in Arizona.

Another thing that starts tomorrow night is DodgerTalk on KABC 790 back in Los Angeles. The first edition of the spring is at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. here in Arizona and Joe Torre will be on the air with Ken Levine and Josh Suchon. Every night from Camelback Ranch, you can hear an hour long edition of the show so be sure to tune in, call in and hear the latest on a nightly basis.

And yet a third place to get your fill of Dodgers is for those of you with Time Warner cable, as our Dodgers on Demand crew is back at it again. Well, they never really stopped putting stuff up during the winter, but they’re doing video reports on a regular basis so if you have On Demand (it’s free for those with TWC), you can pull it up and watch at your leisue (same goes for Inside Dodgertown on the front of the site).

And finally, for any of you who happen to have been hit hard by recent economic times or who have always wanted to work at Dodger Stadium, we have a job fair going on this weekend for more than 500 seasonal part-time positions, which is pretty amazing if you consider all that’s going on in the world right now. Many of you have a passion for the team that simply can’t be taught, so perhaps this is a way to get paid to work at the stadium.

That’s all I’ve got for you for tonight…more tomorrow from Mesa

The first lineups of the year!

For those who have been missing the lineups that are posted here first, we’re back in business.

For the intrasquad game to be played here in about three hours, it’ll be:

Team Koufax

Furcal, SS

Martin, DH

Loney, 1B

Ethier, RF

DeWitt, 2B

Young, LF

Repko, CF

Maza, 3B

Ellis, C

Pitchers: Schmidt, Threets, Elbert, Castillo, Garate

Team Drysdale

Pierre, LF

Loretta, 2B

Blake, 3B

Kemp, CF

Ausmus, C

Hu, DH

Pascucci, 1B

Paul, RF

Abreu, SS

Pitchers: Broxton, Miller, Orenduff, Leach, Meque

**Diamond Leung of the Riverside Press Enterprise will be live blogging throughout.

Hudson News

If you’ve ever walked through the airport and seen the newstands I’m referring to, that headline makes sense to you. If not, just know that we’re officially official with Orlando Hudson. He passed a physical today here at Camelback Ranch – Glendale and will be on site to work out with the team in the morning. By all accounts, he’s a great player, teammate and should be a very welcome addition to the club.

Inside Dodgertown, the video on the front of the site, will have an exclusive first interview with him, so keep an eye out for it shortly when it posts.

Not much else to report today, though that’s certainly significant enough, I think.

UPDATE: Just got back from Ned talking to the beat writers still here on site and he said that the conversations with Scott Boras have become more frequent and longer regarding Manny. he said that while he couldn’t characterize it as progress or not progress, they are speaking more regularly, which we all hope will lead to getting something done.

 

Inside Dodgertown…hilarious

I’m not sure how many of you guys have been watching the four-minute webisodes each day called Inside Dodgertown but our multimedia department has done an awesome job so far and yesterday’s was my favorite. Lots of behind-the-scenes stuff you don’t get to see elsewhere, including Russell Martin and Delwyn Young giving a hilarious weather report. You can see that and all the archived ones here.

The first full workout at Camelback Ranch is about an hour and a half away. Joe Torre will address the team at 9:30 and then everyone hits the fields. The fans who have been showing up here have been rewarded nicely, as there’s tons of access to autographs and opportunities to talk to the players. The first game is 11 days away…

Also, one of the coolest things about this Camelback Ranch is the minor league complex, which officially opens today for “mini-camp,” where about 40 top prospects come in for early workouts. For those who have seen that facility in Vero Beach, it was the place where guys like Maury Wills spent eight-plus years trying to reach the Majors. It was quaint and served us very well over the years, but it was probably not quite up to modern day standards. Now, the minor leaguers are in an unbelievable facility that will only help their development into the future Dodgers you’ll watch at Dodger Stadium.

Back to work now for the rest of us…long day ahead.

Andre back in the saddle…

As you all know by now, Andre Ethier and the Dodgers settled, which is always a best-case scenario. I know that there are a ton of Ethier fans on Inside the Dodgers and you have been very vocal about wanting to avoid arbitration, which we all did. It looks like our favorite food critic will be making a great salary this year while still finding a way to find a middle ground with the club. Hopefully, he can send in a new review for Dining with Dre soon.

The rest of the day here was filled with more workouts, including some bunting practice for the pitchers. Team historian Mark Langill weighs in regarding one of the best bunters in baseball history, Maury Wills:

Fifty years ago, Maury Wills spent spring training in 1959 with the Detroit Tigers, which selected the journeyman infielder in the previous winter’s minor league draft. But the Tigers opted not to keep Wills for the $40,000 fee, so he returned to Triple-A Spokane to begin the regular season.

Wills received a surprise promotion to Los Angeles in June after general manager Buzzie Bavasi noticed a hole on the top of Don Zimmer’s baseball shoe while standing near the batting cage. Zimmer was hiding a broken toe. Wills batted .260 in 83 games for Los Angeles to help the Dodgers win their first championship on the West Coast.

Zimmer was long considered by Bavasi and other Dodger brass as the eventual replacement for longtime shortstop Pee Wee Reese, who retired after the 1958 season. But Spokane manager Bobby Bragan, who suggested Wills learn to switch-hit in 1958, thought the speedy Wills had the potential to be a star.

“(Wills) did a fairly good job wherever he was sent, but he was never spectacular,” Bavasi wrote of Wills’ first eight seasons in the Dodger minor league system from 1951 to 1958. “Nor did he figure in the Dodger plans. I once made the statement if I had someone offered me $11 and a bag of potato chips for Maury’s contract, I’d have sold him.”

Wills, the 1962 National League MVP, stole 586 bases during his 14-year career.

Calm day at Camelback

It was relatively quiet around here today, which is a good thing. We’re actually having a departmental BBQ tonight, as Spring Training is a great time for bonding within the team’s front office.

As of right now, we’re still scheduled to go to arbitration with Andre tomorrow and I know that everyone here is hoping that we don’t have to go. I’ve learned quite a bit about the process in the last couple weeks in talking to both Andre and my colleagues in the front office and I know that none one really wants to have a hearing. That said, we’ll see if they can somehow come to a middle ground beforehand and if not, I’m sure both sides will handle it professionally. We’ve seen a few cases in the past go to a hearing and fortunately, while it’s never fun, I don’t believe it has affected the Dodger player’s performance on the field that season.

In any event, regarding the question about the LA Times article that ran last week, I’m happy to clarify it. There has never been any doubt, nor have we tried to deny the fact that financially, it will be better for the team in Glendale than in Vero Beach. I think it’s safe to say that that is the case with any new facility, even if we had built a new one in Vero Beach. What we’ve repeatedly said, however, is that this move was made because of the fans’ ability to be a part of it. One is a cause and the other is the effect. If we thought it was better for the majority of our fans in Los Angeles to trek across the country, we would have surely stayed in Vero but I think we’ve learned over time that our fans simply weren’t doing that. In fact, I grew up in LA and I didn’t know a single person who had ever gone to Spring Training at Dodgertown, which is a shame.

The story did talk about how ticket sales and sponsorships are not what we expected them to be and yes, our very experienced COO Dennis Mannion did state that the economy is a major reason for that. We all believe this and we’re seeing it in every walk of life, not just baseball. However, just because projections aren’t where we thought they’d be in year one doesn’t mean that it was a bad decision. Our hope is to be at Camelback Ranch for 60-plus years, just like Vero Beach, and I know that if you take the chance to bring your family out here, you’re going to love the experience. Right now, fans are getting the chance to interact with players up close and personal and that’s very rare in baseball or any sport, for that matter. 

And finally, I truly do believe that the Dodgers have taken the economy into account. We had our best season on the field in 20 years and very easily could have utilized that success to raise ticket prices. But, we did not do so while several other teams did. 

We still have tickets that are very, very reasonably priced all over the stadium, both in LA and here in Arizona. Eight bucks for a Spring Training game or $10 for a regular season game is pretty darn cheap in today’s world. So is twenty-something dollars for seats that are between the bases and practically in the front row at Camelback. And five dollars for parking is hard to argue with (the same as Vero Beach).

I really think you’d be surprised how often ownership and the front office team talk about the issues that fans face and how we can help make the experience better. We’re far from perfect, but I know that we all come to work every day and try to accomplish the three goals that have been set forth by the McCourts – competing for a championship year in and year out, an unparallelled fan experience and dedication in the community. This blog is a great way for you to share your input and know that it’s being read, considered, and often acted upon by those of us who work for the team and who love the organization as much as you do.

 

"This is an historic day…"

Those were Joe Torre’s first words when he addressed the team yestserday and it certainly was an historic day yesterday, the first workout at Camelback Ranch – Glendale. Many of us in the front office were talking in an afternoon meeting about how cool it would be to have been at the first workout at Dodgertown in 1949 and we can only hope that 60 years from now, people look back on the history here like they do in Vero Beach.

I saw a comment from yesterday here about a Dylan Hernandez story and wondering why I didn’t respond to it. I’m not sure which article that was referring to, as Dylan writes every day, but please let me know what I can clarify for all of you…I’m happy to do so.

Speaking of Dylan and the LA Times, there’s a lengthy feature in today’s Travel section that really takes everything into account from the fan’s perspective. The best seats in the house, parking, hotels, etc.

Lots of position players are showing up early, as I just ran into Casey Blake and Juan Pierre on their way in the building. Juan’s a big NBA fan, so he was at yesterday’s Slam Dunk contest, as were Joe Torre, Rick Honeycutt, and Charley Steiner, among others. I even ran into Luis Gonzalez on the concourse and got to catch up with him. Still one of the nicest guys in all of baseball.

We’ll keep posting every day so check back early and often…

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