By Jon Weisman
The debate over Frankie Montas’ Dodger future began the day he arrived: starter or reliever.
In just under the wire before an expected Sunday rainstorm, it was a whale of a day at Dodgers FanFest (presented by State Farm), with activities and athletes galore.
As usual, no one set the tone better than Vin Scully, who took the FanFest stage and told the story above.
Here’s a taste of what else was happening with your favorites …
By Jon Weisman
This week of the Dodgers Love L.A. tour (presented by Bank of America) is all about the community … almost.
There’s one other tiny aspect of it, largely unnoticed and not all that important, but meaningful just the same.
For the first time in the new year, a Dodger player puts on his uniform.
That moment, just a few days before Punxsutawney Phil reveals himself, turns on the pilot light for the coming season.
“It was a long season last year, had some ups and downs,” Dodger reliever Chris Hatcher said. “As I’ve gotten longer into baseball, the shorter the offseason gets. This year, I’m raring and ready to go. Putting the jersey on, it pushes it a little closer and in your mind, you’re tightening it up a little bit.”
Putting on the Dodger whites today was particularly special for some players, such as 24-year-old right-hander Jharel Cotton, who did so for the first time as an official Major League member of the 40-man roster.
“It’s coming up really quick,” Cotton said. “I just got done playing ball in November, and it’s already Spring Training. I’m ready to go — I’m excited.”
Added to the thrill for Cotton was getting the opportunity to hang with his teammates, before the season starts.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s my first time seeing them. It’s been a long offseason for them. I’m just ready to be in the clubhouse and share (moments) with them.”
If this was admittedly just one moment in time for Hatcher, Cotton and the Dodgers, it was a moment of a lifetime for the people they met, including those members of the Wounded Warriors Project who previously wore uniforms of an entirely different kind.
Sporting an Andre Ethier jersey, East Los Angeles native Jonathan Nunez was effusive about the lunch he shared with the Dodgers at City Hall, after joining the team in attending today’s Vin Scully Avenue vote.
“It’s a great honor and a great privilege to not only be associated with the Wounded Warrior Project, but to be alongside these great gentlemen from the Dodgers organization,” said Nunez, who was most thrilled to see past Dodgers including Maury Wills, Eric Karros and Orel Hershiser. “It means the world because it feels they haven’t forgotten about us, and they recognize what we have done for our country.”
Nunez has been involved with Wounded Warriors for six months, as he aims to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder after serving separate tours for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I have seen progress, not only in the way I cope but how I cope,” Nunez said. “I’ve been introduced to veterans with similar problems, and we’ve picked our brains for lack of better words as far as how to deal with our various disorders. We’ve built a network, and because of that I’ve seen a growth in how I act, how I not only deal with my disorders but how I move forward with them.”
And at the end of the day, meeting men and women like Nunez is what meant the most to Hatcher.
“We go out there and play 81 games in front of all of these people,” Hatcher said. “Not very often do we get a chance to get out in the community and socialize with people.”
By Jon Weisman
Ultimately, when the big moment came, it came in an instant.
By a 12-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approves a motion to change the name of Elysian Park Avenue to Vin Scully Avenue.
Then, we are silent, because as we have been taught, there are times when it just makes the best sense to let the crowd speak for itself.
@Dodgers hooray! A great honor for a great man!
— Anne Casanave (@annecasa) January 29, 2016
When we return, we simply hear these words.
“I am overwhelmed. I was raised in the streets of New York, and to have a street named after me in Los Angeles is almost too much to comprehend. I am eternally grateful to the Los Angeles City Council and especially councilman Gil Cedillo. A path to Dodger Stadium is a pathway to my heart. For 55 years, it has been an honor to walk that road to one of the greatest entertainment centers in the world, a place that has brought so much joy to all of us. I thank God for this great honor.”
And like that, Vin Scully has touched home, just as he has touched our souls. Forever.
Within 30 days, given the expected blessing of local residents, the existing street signs will be lowered and new ones raised.
“How do you get to the game?” offered Cedillo, who introduced the motion. “Go up Sunset and turn on Vin Scully Avenue.”
I’ll say this much, and don’t misunderstand this as opposition to today’s events: I love the words “Elysian Park.” They’re a melody in four beats, and their long association with my home away from home evokes a Proustian sensation. It had to be something special, something transcendent, to justify replacing them as the address of Blue Heaven on Earth.
Vin Scully Avenue meets that standard. One small street for Vin, one giant drive for fankind.
No name could be more worthy, except perhaps, as one citizen (a fellow Fordham grad, he told us) argued during his opportunity at City Hall for public comment, Jackie Robinson. But the groundbreaking Dodger is getting Dodger Stadium’s inaugural statue — no small honor, that.
I don’t feel Robinson has been done a disservice, and I do think it was worth showing Scully how much he has meant to all of us.
“I’d be okay if we named the whole damn city after him,” councilman Paul Koretz exulted. And who could argue?
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By Jon Weisman
Day 4 of the Dodgers Love L.A. Community Tour (presented by Bank of America) was comfortably comestible, with Dodgers Kiké Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Justin Turner giving away Dodger dogs and pretzels in downtown Los Angeles.
Pretzel man Justin Turner, by the way, was just labeled the fifth-best third baseman in MLB right now, by MLB Network.
While there, Pederson spoke to MLB.com about Dave Roberts and the upcoming season.
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For more images from the day, visit LA Photo Blog.
Earlier in the day, Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization (and, oh yeah, Dodger legend) Fernando Valenzuela was on a White House conference call to discuss the launch of the White House Regional Convenings on New Americans, aimed at assisting local immigrant and refugee efforts.
“It’s a great honor for me to be here, to be a citizen and a Presidential Ambassador,” said Valenzuela. “In this role, I want to share with the United States and the city of Los Angeles the many rights that come with being a citizen. I’m excited to get to vote in my first presidential election. It’s important for the Los Angeles community to know how important it is to vote.”
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The Dodgers Love L.A. Tour heads to City Hall this morning, to see if Vin Scully Avenue becomes officially official.
By Jon Weisman
Who’s ready for Vin Scully Avenue?
That could soon be the name for the stretch of road leading from Sunset Boulevard to Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles city councilman Gil Cedillo is scheduled to make a motion for a vote during the Friday City Council meeting at City Hall to change the name of Elysian Park Avenue to Vin Scully Avenue, in honor of the Dodgers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster.
“There’s no better way to recognize such an iconic Dodger as Hall of Famer Vin Scully than naming a street after him,” Dodger president and CEO Stan Kasten said. “We appreciate Gil Cedillo and city officials bringing this to the forefront, and we look forward to the day when everyone can drive on Vin Scully Avenue when they enter Dodger Stadium.”
Many members of the Dodger organization will be present Friday at City Hall, as part of the Dodgers Love L.A. Tour (presented by Bank of America). Scheduled to attend are Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Austin Barnes, Jharel Cotton, Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, Pedro Baez, Yasmani Grandal, Micah Johnson, Zach Lee, Adam Liberatore, Frankie Montas, Josh Ravin, Scott Van Slyke, Trayce Thompson and Ross Stripling, along with Dodger alumni Tommy Lasorda, Orel Hershiser, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Eric Karros, Maury Wills and SportsNet LA broadcaster Alanna Rizzo.
By Jon Weisman
A special part of the Dodgers Love L.A. community tour (presented by Bank of America) came Wednesday in San Bernardino. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com has more:
Andre Ethier has participated in countless community events supporting the military and law enforcement, but his appearance at one of Wednesday’s Dodgers “Love L.A.” tour stops was like no other.
Ethier, Tommy Lasorda and Steve Garvey headed a delegation that had lunch with victims and first responders from the Dec. 2 San Bernardino terrorist attack that killed 14 and seriously injured 22.
As Ethier saw and heard, the region is still reeling from the shocking tragedy. But the outfielder was moved by the long line of autograph seekers — some in uniform, some still nursing wounds — most with big smiles.
“It’s amazing to see,” Ethier said. “Being in Arizona, you know what happened, but you can’t realize the impact and the magnitude like when you come here and see it first hand, even two months after. You ask them how they’re doing and everyone says, ‘One day at a time.’ You hope you can brighten their day, even though you know they have a long, tough road to recovery.” …
Go to the LA Photog Blog to see Jon SooHoo’s photos from the event. The Dodgers Love L.A. Tour also made a visit to Ocean Park Community Center in Santa Monica, and prepared and served lunch to homeless residents in transitional housing.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 28, 2016
The Dodgers have outrighted pitcher Brandon Beachy to Triple-A, with the right-hander coming to big-league Spring Training at Camelback Ranch as the team’s 17th non-roster player (seven of them pitchers).
Beachy signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers on January 6. Los Angeles now has 39 players on its 40-man roster.
— Jon Weisman
By Jon Weisman
Neil Rampe, who has been the Arizona Diamondbacks’ manual and performance therapist since 2008, has been officially announced as the Dodgers’ new athletic trainer, replacing former vice president of medical services Stan Conte.
In addition, Nathan Lucero, who has been the Houston Astros’ head athletic trainer for seven seasons, and Thomas Albert, formerly with Cleveland, will be the Dodgers’ assistant athletic trainers.
Rampe will oversee all of the Dodgers’ medical programs, including athletic training, physical therapy, rehabilitation and strength and conditioning, as well as the training, strength and conditioning of Dodger minor league players.
He began his career as the assistant strength and conditioning coach in the University of Minnesota athletic department, then served as a certified athletic trainer at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado from 2002-03.
By Jon Weisman
It’s no exaggeration to say that Jackie Robinson is the pride of Muir High School, just as he is the pride of the Dodgers and, for that matter, the United States.
So it was a special day for everyone today when this week’s Dodgers Love L.A. community tour (presented by Bank of America) made a stop at Muir, with a screening of portions of Ken Burns’ upcoming “Jackie Robinson” documentary, followed by a Q&A featuring manager Dave Roberts and team historian Mark Langill, moderated by broadcaster Jorge Jarrin.
Many of the four score students in attendance today will graduate from Muir exactly 80 years after Robinson did. But not to worry — his story still resonates.
“I loved the documentary,” said Bryan Barrios, senior captain of the Muir baseball team. “It was very inspiring (and) emotional. I walk around this campus just thinking about Jackie Robinson all the time. Sometimes I can’t believe he came here.”
By Jon Weisman
This year’s Dodgers Love L.A. Tour (presented by Bank of America) kicked off today with two events, starting this morning with a day of literacy celebration at five local schools. Austin Laymance of MLB.com has more.
… At Gratts Learning Academy for Young Scholars, only a couple of Adrian Gonzalez home runs away from Dodger Stadium, former Dodgers outfielder Al Ferrara read “Curious George at the Baseball Game” to second- and third-grade students.
“This is as important as any hit I ever got,” Ferrara said after a busy day back in grade school. “There’s something about a child and the glint and the smile in their eyes that makes a big guy like me sort of fold a little bit.”
Ferrara also fielded a number of baseball-related questions from the kids, mixed in a story about Jackie Robinson, signed autographs and posed for pictures. …
Also today, the Dodger Stadium Lexus Dugout Club hosted a mentoring lunch for students from New Village Girls Academy, in which Stan Kasten, Cookie Johnson and several Dodger alumni and front-office staff gave the students counsel about their future.
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Vin Scully won two awards for best play-by-play — in radio and in television — at the 25th annual Southern California Sports Broadcaster Awards, announced today at the Lakeside Golf Club.
Jaime Jarrin was named best foreign-language play-by-play announcer, while Orel Hershiser was the winner in TV color analysis and Rick Monday in radio color commentary.
Scully, Jarin and Monday are all in the organization’s Hall of Fame.
Scully has won the radio award, named in honor of Chick Hearn, 18 times since its inception in 1991, and the TV award 13 times. (Winners of three consecutive awards in a category are not eligible to repeat for one year.)
Ann Meyers Drysdale also received a special award, the Chuck Benedict/Stu Nahan President’s Award, while former Dodger executive Tommy Hawkins won the Gil Stratton Lifetime Achievement Award.
By Jon Weisman
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More than 50 attendees (though not Groundskeeper Willie) are expected at this year’s event, which will also include a Field Maintenance Clinic with topics such as:
By Jon Weisman
The 19-year-old Urias is the No. 1 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, while DeLeon, 23, is the No. 5 righty. The 23-year-old Anderson, the Dodgers’ first-round draft choice in the 2013 draft, had a 4.05 ERA and 7.0 strikeouts per nine innings for Double-A Tulsa in 2015.
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Dodgers at home: 1,028-812 (.558695)
When Jon attended: 338-267 (.558677)*
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* includes road games attended
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Note: I got so busy working for the Dodgers that in 2014, I stopped keeping track, much to my regret.