The view from the upper deck of Dodger Stadium was awe-inspiring and powerful at the same time. I was sitting in the same arena where thousands witnessed Kirk Gibson’s famous crippled trot around the bases after launching his famous walk-off home run in the 1988 World Series; where Sandy Koufax dominated the majors in his period of absolute brilliance between 1961-1965; where, in 2008, Manny Ramirez turned in one of the greatest postseason hitting performances of all time. The utter silence of the stadium at 3:10 p.m., when no fans had yet shown up, allowed me to take in all of the history.
However, I was quickly brought out of my reverie when a media relations employee, our handler for the evening, announced to the reporters and TV crews in attendance that the inaugural College Media Night at Dodger Stadium was about to begin.
Although I’m not a Dodger fan—and perhaps an enemy of the team after my Phillies beat them in the NL Championship Series this past year), when I received an e-mail from the team offering access to players and coaches to give college reporters the chance to see what pro journalists do for a living, I jumped at the chance. As a kid, I played baseball, and although I was terrible at the plate (but possessed a great glove in the field!), I always dreamed of playing pro ball. If I wasn’t going to make it onto a major league field through athletic ability, I figured I would have to do it through my journalistic talents.
I wasn’t sure what was going to happen at the event, and by the looks of the other students in attendance, they didn’t either. Some carried expensive-looking equipment with them, some were dressed in suits (but with white sneakers…don’t get me started on that), while I carried a simple notebook. However, once we were on the field, the actual field of Dodger Stadium, we were all transformed into members of the Dodgers press corps. We were told that we would first meet Clayton Kershaw, then Joe Torre, and finally, a free player they could grab for us. When Kershaw and Torre’s names came up, we all gave each other a nudge. We’d really have the chance to interview the Dodgers’ top pitching phenom, one of the greatest managers of all time, and a player to be named later?
This initial disbelief at such a generous opportunity quickly dissipated as we descended the steps down to the field level, passing along the way the Dodgers team clubhouse, which unfortunately we weren’t allowed to enter, and a row of jerseys representing all of the numbers the organization has retired over the years. After this anxious walk, we emerged into the fading L.A. sunlight to behold Dodger Stadium in all of its glory. Even if I never considered it one of my favorite ballparks, it was still stunning to be on its surface for the first time. The field seemed to stretch on forever, with lush California foliage peeking over the outfield fence. I bent down to touch what seemed to be some of the softest, most well-manicured grass I have ever felt, much more comfortable than the itchy stuff you lie on in Marston Quad, just to make sure this was all real.
Kershaw soon met us for some questions. The whole experience was supposed to be about giving us the experience of covering the Dodgers, and some of the reporters accordingly asked questions about the team, his curveball, what he was working on in Spring Training, etc. What I found more interesting was Kershaw himself. For the most of you who don’t know him, Kershaw was drafted out of high school in 2006 as the seventh overall pick. He just turned 21—younger than half of the undergraduates here—and he entered pro ball with more expectations and pressure on him than most experience in a lifetime. Despite this, he still seemed very familiar—he seemed somewhat like a college student. Although he wouldn’t give us details about his 21st birthday party, he was pretty forthcoming about his favorite TV shows (“The Office” and “CSI: Miami”), his favorite L.A. beach (Manhattan), and what he misses about his home in Dallas (his dogs and Tex-Mex food). He also gave many of us future-obsessed students a laugh by responding to a question about his goals for the season with a simple “I don’t have goals…having expectations can be overrated.”
Next up was the anticipated meeting with Joe Torre, but as Torre was holding a media session with the real reporters, the college crew had the chance to watch batting practice for some time. It was interesting seeing the players up close, since most of the time I’ve watched the game from the nosebleed seats where all of the players are of the same size. For instance, I noticed that Guillermo Mota was huge, Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre were really tiny, and Manny Ramirez, despite being relatively short, had a magnetic presence about him no matter where he went. What also struck me was the dearth of players with girth. It seemed like the age of hefty ballplayers that could hit the ball a ton or throw pretty hard, such as Mo Vaughn and David Wells, seems to be on the decline, although Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, the Dodgers’ opponents for the game, certainly cast a sizeable shadow on any nearby player.
After hearing the sweet sound of ash connecting with rawhide enough times to make anyone’s day complete, we finally had the highlight of our day with the one and only Joe Torre. Baseball fans who hate the Yankees, and there are a lot of them, often have a similar hatred for Torre, as he and Derek Jeter’s smugness best represented the Yankees at their pinnacle of success in the 1990s.
Despite feeling some preliminary aversion to him, up close, Torre is one of the most compelling people I have ever met, with a presence that grabbed me from the first handshake. He spoke with absolute authority on whatever he talked about, such as the Dodgers’ toughest competition in the NL West this year (the Giants), dealing with personnel decisions, and the differences between New York and LA. So imagine what it was like for me when I asked him a question about managing in the beginning versus now as a superstar and he looked me right in the eye as he said, “When you think you know everything…that’s when you’re lost.” Hearing a life lesson from a man like Joseph Torre was an experience I’ll never forget.
The rest of my day went by in a blur. I finished with an interview with catcher Brad Ausmus and watching the exhibition game from a club suite. Highlights included thanking Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa for helping the Phillies win the 1980 World Series, seeing the famous announcer Bob Uecker and Torre hold a conversation that I would have given anything to listen to, and eating the Dodger Stadium garlic fries for the first time after our press conferences. But even with all that I’d done that day and the famous players and coaches I met, just being on the field of a major league stadium, soft grass and all, was enough to fulfill this reporter’s childhood dream.
Aaron Hosansky PO ’10 is a sports editor for The Student Life.