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By Jon Weisman
Today is the 20th anniversary of Hideo Nomo’s first day in a Dodger uniform: March 3, at Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
Four months later, Nomo was throwing two scoreless innings in the National League All-Star Game (video above). In a press release from the good folks at Historic Dodgertown, Nomo shared his memories of how his Dodger life began, after signing as a free agent with the Dodgers on February 13, 1995.
“On the eve prior to the start of Spring Training in March of 1995, I arrived in Dodgertown for the first time,” Nomo said. “As it was dark, all I could see were the baseball fields and lodging facilities. I thought to myself ‘there is nothing to do here except to play baseball.’
“I did not know how they practiced in the U.S. I did not know anything about the culture and if I might do or say something that might offend people. All of my anxiety and concerns were put to ease by a staff led by my manager, Tommy Lasorda. Everyone would check up on me daily to make sure that I was comfortable and they always asked me if I needed anything. At that time, I could not speak English at all and I did not even know how to greet people, but I could really feel the kindness of everyone around me.”
“I arrived at the Dodgers coming off of a shoulder injury. During the month of Spring Training, the staff helped me rehabilitate my shoulder while having a trainer at my side daily. By the end of Spring Training, I was back on the mound pitching to my satisfaction. That experience has become a valuable life lesson for me, as I am now in a position where I am coaching and teaching young players.
“Every day after practice, (Dodger President) Mr. Peter O’Malley would sit down with me and ask how things were going and if everything was OK. Without his kindness, I would have emotionally struggled through Spring Training. I am still so grateful to Mr. O’Malley for the kindness and care that he gave me. I remember at the end of Spring Training, Mr. O’Malley would host a family barbeque party where there was a merry-go-round and animals. It felt like an amusement park. That atmosphere was one that I had never experienced in my life and, most importantly, that was the moment that it felt like the ‘Dodgers’.
“That was 20 years ago and every experience was new and, although I had feelings of anxiety, I am able to look back at the great memories and share them and genuinely say from the bottom of my heart that I am so glad that I chose to become a Dodger.”
A founding partner of Historic Dodgertown along with O’Malley, Terry O’Malley Seidler and former Dodger teammate Chan Ho Park, Nomo currently leads an industrial league team in the Osaka region of Japan that gives non-drafted players (semi-professional) an opportunity to compete.