Leaving the 35 degree cold weather of Draper, Utah behind us, 3 generations of Ken Shulsen’s, my father Ken, my son Luke Kenneth, and I hit the road destined for Glendale Arizona and Dodgers Spring Training at Camelback Ranch, Wednesday evening.
After a stop and quick sleep in Page Arizona, where we enjoyed the end of Lake Powell or the beginning depending on how you look at it. We then headed off to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and finally Thursday evening arrived at the Holiday Inn Express just 5 short miles away from “Blue Heaven” on Earth the home of the Dodgers Spring Training Complex, Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
Early this morning I had the privilege of making my way into the Dodgers MLB building to pick up my press credentials and promptly bumped into the legendary Sandy Koufax in the PR Office, what a great way to start off my visit. (Koufax was later hit by an errant foul ball off the bat of Andre Ethier but thankfully all appears to be okay, check out the story from Dylan Hernandez at the LA Times)
After obtaining my “creds” from Dodgers PR man Garrett Thomas (thank you very much BTW Garrett) I walked into the hall to next literally bump into my 1pm appt, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who unfortunately had to reschedule until tomorrow morning asking me “Do you mind if we meet around 10 tomorrow morning instead?” Umm let’s see, you’re the GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I’m a no name wanna be blogger hack from Utah who just drove to camp on my own dime just so I could soak up the atmosphere and hopefully sit down with you for a few minutes, of course that would be just fine Mr. Colletti. (Special thanks to Joe Jareck Dodgers Director of PR for helping me arrange my pending “chat” with Ned)
I had about 5 minutes to catch up with some of the other great Dodgers writers I’ve dealt with in the past Eric Stephen the fabulous Dodgers Blogger from True Blue LA, as well as Ken Gurnick from MLB.com and the aforementioned Dylan Hernandez from the Times, before it was time for Manager Don Mattingly to address the 10 or so media members in attendance. There we learned what you all know by now, Matt Kemp hasn’t been ruled out but is doubtful for the Opener in Australia, Paul Maholm will throw off of a mound for the first time tomorrow, making his prognosis to begin the season doubtful, and Zach Lee responded well after his first Bull Pen Session being slowed by a lat strain, among other things.
As the real writers made a mad dash to the media work room to produce content, I finally found and watched the 1st period of the USA/Canada Olympic Men’s Hockey game, thankfully I didn’t suffer by seeing the whole game, as I had to make it back to my hotel. I picked up the other 2 ‘Kenny Shulsen’s', as I knew they wanted to see reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw throw Batting Practice to Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, and Juan Uribe.
Kershaw did not disappoint. See his first live session below. He gave up a single to Uribe, retiring the other 7 hitters he faced and nearly spun Hanley in a circle with his new Changeup a pitch mattingly told me Kershaw has “Been messing around with” this Spring.
Here is a link to the video if you cannot view it on your browser
His second session which he threw exclusively from the stretch is now live on the site below with the link here if you cannot view it using your browser
Adrian Gonzalez then proceeded to become my son’s new favorite Dodger, as he literally stood outside signing autographs for everyone who wanted one, including my 10 year old. I thanked Adrian later in the Clubhouse as me asking for an autograph would result in a loss of my credential privileges, try explaining that to your 10 year old who still doesn’t think it’s fair that he didn’t get to join me in the clubhouse, insisting that he would “follow all of the rules, not ask for autographs or take any pictures, but just wanted to say hi to Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig,” because “We didn’t come this far for him not to be able to.” Adrian could not have been nicer as I thanked him “I’m glad to do it,” he said, as I awkwardly tried explaining just how happy he had made my 10 yr old without me having to cross any lines.
Next I said hello to one of my favorite former Ogden Raptor’s, Ross Stripling who is now my favorite prospect and a co-member of the “nicest guy in the world club” tied with Nashville Sounds (Brewers AAA) Pitching Coach Fred Dabney, who we met at our Hotel Pool and who proceeded to talk baseball with me for nearly an hour. He also introduced me to Ned Yost Jr and his wife, Reid Nichols Brewers Director of Player Development, and last but not least former Dodger player and coach “T-Bone” John Shelby who is the Brewers OF coach and was sporting his Dodgers 1988 World Series Ring, which he proudly showed off.
But, back to Stripling, who was warming up in the bullpen under the watchful eye of Koufax when he was hit by Ethier’s foul ball today. As I introduced myself and told him I really enjoyed watching him as a Raptor he proceeded to talk to me for about 10 minutes and seriously couldn’t have been more genuine or nice. I was also able to set up a sit down interview with him for tomorrow saying I don’t expect you to want to talk too much being all iced up and having thrown today. But, based on how cool he was he would have. So more good stuff for the Lasorda’s Lair nation to look forward to. I can’t wait to ask him what it was like watching his college roommate and close friend Michael Wacha pitch against the Dodgers in the playoffs last year.
The remainder of my time at CBR was spent absorbing as much of the “Clubhouse Environment” as possible. Although I could only understand a small portion of their conversation Juan Uribe is clearly in charge of keeping Yasiel Puig in line. When Puig, who looks like he was carved directly out of Granite, (this being my first time seeing him up close) walked in drenched with sweat after working out, including hitting in the cages but not taking part in “live BP,” Uribe proceeded to give him the business claiming he was faking his leg being hurt. Puig tried firing back at Uribe, but unfortunately all that did was lead to Uribe getting Hanley Ramirez’s opinion on the matter, and needless to say the vets let young Puig have it.
The hilarious encounter reinforced my opinion that resigning Uribe was huge for the Dodgers, as he clearly is a Clubhouse leader and looks like he is in charge of keeping Puig’s head where it belongs. Speaking of “looking like,” Hanley Ramirez is absolutely ripped and looks like he put on 10 lbs of pure muscle this off-season. He swung the bat well and looked great in the limited drills I saw but I could not get over how strong he looked. While Matt Kemp looked like he had slimmed down from last year, Hanley clearly worked hard this off-season to get in tip top shape and all Dodgers fans hope that translates into good health and a huge season.
Another hot topic has been Alexander Guerrero and whether or not he will start the season as the Dodgers second baseman. I have some excellent footage of him from 4 at-bats today during live batting practice off of Seth Rosin and Jose Dominguez. He had a sharp single up the middle off of Dominguez and another ball hit to left-center that most likely would have been a hit.
Clearly he has work to do, it’s highly unlikely and it should not be expected that the Dodgers catch lightning in a bottle twice and Guerrero produces anything close to what Puig did last year. But if we have learned anything the last couple of years it’s this, the Dodgers scouts know exactly what they are doing, as I like to say “Trust in Ned & Logan.” The so-called MLB experts who blasted the Dodgers for the Puig and Ryu signings learned the mistake of not doing so the hard way. The Dodgers know much much more about Guerrero than any baseball expert who is now questioning whether he will hit or can defend at the MLB level. He may not be ready to play right away, Puig wasn’t, but the Dodgers scouting braintrust would not have signed him unless they are very confident he will succeed. Let’s all take a deep breath, let camp play out and we can answer the critics and judge Guerrero once he actually plays in some games, not jump to the conclusion that he won’t succeed before a single game has been played like so many others have.
There is so much more to add, and I will do so, but for now I hope you enjoy this glimpse behind the scenes from Dodgers Camp today and keep an eye on my Twitter account or check back on the site if you are interested in watching Kershaw throw today or Guerrero hit. I sure enjoyed it and can’t wait for what day 2 at Camelback Ranch will bring for Lasorda’s Lair, and all of us Dodgers fans. Thanks again to Joe, Garrett, and Jon Chapper from the Dodgers PR Dept for taking such good care of me today. It just reinforces how fortunate I am that somehow after nearly 18 months of running Lasorda’s Lair by myself that it survived and somehow grew, and we are all so much better off with Scott and Stacie running the show. Adrian & Aaron are also fantastic additions and talented writers and we are all truly lucky to be able to cover such a great organization who has made me in particular feel like I am a part of the Dodgers family, and what a great family it is!