January 2009

Rocky Mountain Baseball

 

Friends_of_Basball__09.jpgThis Saturday morning I will be in Denver to be the keynote speaker at the Friend’s of Colorado Baseball’s Breakfast of Champions.  I am excited to go because I love the Rocky Mountains, the people of Denver are great, but most importantly because I’ll have a chance to see my boy Billy Buckner who will be on hand to speak too.

Billy Buck will only be remembered for one play.  But there is so much more to the man and to the player he was.  I managed Billy Buck for many years in the Dodger minor league system.  When you talk about hard-nosed, competitive players, look no further than Billy Buck.

He didn’t just come to the ballpark to play.  He came to whoop your tail.

I can remember one time when we were playing in Hawaii.  Billy Buck and I were standing up for the National Anthem and Buck had this horrible look on his face.  He leaned over to me and told me he was going to hit the pitcher, Lloyd Allen, with a line drive.

I laughed.

A lot of guys will say that sort of thing, but you could tell theat Buck really meant it.

Well in the first inning, up comes Billy Buck and he hits a screamer right back up the middle and hits Lloyd Allen in the head.

Buckner is running down the first base line screaming at him.

I never would have believed it, but I was there and saw it happen.

It’ll be good to see him though, as he was the type of player I loved to manage.  He wanted to win at all costs and played the game with every bit of drive and determination he had in his heart.

Junior Olympians

 

005.jpgTonight I spoke to the Irvine Novaquatics Swim Club.  It is a group of about 150 youth swimmers who are training to be Olympians.

It was a pleasure to speak to them, as I love to motivate youngsters, athletes and anyone who’s goal it is to represent our country.

I managed the 2000 US Olympic baseball team to its first and only Gold Medal.  It was an honor and privilege to do something for my country.  I hope each of these youngsters has the same chance one day.

I told them that in order to succeed, to reach their goals, they have to believe in themselves, and to outwork their opponents.

Self confidence is the first step towards success, and success can only come down the avenue of hard work.

Making the US Olympic Swim Team is a very hard thing to do.  Some think it is impossible, but the difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.

How bad do you want it Nova?

Only you can answer that question.

Bellevue Community College

 

Seattle 012.jpgI used to go around during the offseason and speak to about 10-15 college baseball programs to help them raise money for their program.  It’s a pleasure to help, and an honor to be asked.  I love talking to the young players, and I hope that something I say will help them further their career in baseball and help them achieve their goals in life.

I just spoke to Bellevue Community College in Bellevue, Washington.  It was a tremendous night.  The dinner was sold out, which is flattering, but unfortunate that the school couldn’t sell extra tickets and raise more money.

College baseball coaches have the same responsibilities as college football and basketball coaches do.  They have to win, but they also have to help raise the young men they coach and make them better students and better citizens.

However, they don’t have the same resources. Many times they have to chalk their own fields, wash the uniforms, prepare the travel and find ways to reuse equipment.

But when is the last time you’ve seen a school be put on probation because of NCAA violations from a baseball program?

Well, coach Mark Yoshino is a good man and his team, and school, is lucky to have him at the helm.

It was a pleasure to speak at the dinner, and I wish them the best of luck this season.

 

Seattle 001.jpgWhile in Seattle I went around town to local media outlets spreading the word about the excitement and importance of the World Baseball Classic.

When I managed Team USA to its first and only Gold Medal in baseball, I felt that it was bigger than my 50+ years with the Dodgers, bigger than my All-Star victory, bigger than my two World Series titles, and people thought I was crazy.

You see, when the Dodgers win, Dodger fans are happy, but Giants fans and Padres fans aren’t.  But when you win the Gold Medal, all of America is happy.

What a feeling it is to represent your country, to do something for your country.

When baseball was eliminated from the Olympics, Commissioner Selig and his staff thought this was the perfect answer to the loss.  An international tournament that will (a) show everybody how international baseball is and (b) prove to the world who has the best baseball players.

The Dominican Republic is stacked.  Cuba has historically been good, but nobody really knows what they are working with down there.  Japan is technically sound.  Korea can surprise everybody.

And then there is the USA.  Nobody should beet us.  Nobody should beat America.  Baseball is our game, and we shouldn’t let anyone beat us.

But in order for the US to win, the players have to want it.  You see, it’s not always the fastest man who wins the race, or the strongest man who wins the fight; it’s the one who wants it more than the other guy.

Team USA has to want it.

So I was at a local TV station and who comes in after me but two members of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Many years ago, I actually refereed a Globetrotters game.  They knew that I had refereed a game in the Eastern Pro League, and when I moved to Los Angeles, they asked me to do it.

It was a lot of fun, and guess what, the Globetrotters won.

Happy Anniversary

 

Billy, Laura and Emily.JPGMy wife, Jo, and I would like to wish our daughter Laura and her husband Bill the happiest of anniversaries.

I am so glad they found each other, and hope they enjoy many more years of health and happiness.

They have given Jo and I the greatest gift ever in our granddaughter, Emily.

She is the light of my life, and I am a happy man when I look at their beautiful family.

Congratulations, and happy anniversary.  May you have many more.

I Came Here to Deliver a Message

 

Sacred Heart.JPGI arrived in Seattle today and went to Sacred Heart Catholic School to speak to the kids.  There were about 1,000 youngsters there, and the message I delivered was what it would take for them to make it in life.

I told them that self confidence was the first step towards success.

I told them that the only person who could stop them from reaching their goals was themselves.

I told them that they owe their parents love and respect.

And I told them that there are three ways we learn in life:

C = conversation.  Just think how much we learn by talking to others.
O = observation.  Just think what you’ve learned by watching what goes on around you.
P = participation.  Just think what you’ve learned by doing.

It is always a pleasure to talk to students.  Investing in education is the most important investment we can make.  Education is something that nobody can take away from you once you’ve got it.

I went to catholic school as a kid and to this day I carry a picture of Sister Core Immaculate in my briefcase.  She was the only person who believed in me.  She would talk positively to me when everybody else around me would tell me how bad I was.

When I was named Manager I went to the World Series in 1977 in my first year. We lost the series, but when I went home to Norristown, PA they had a parade in my honor, and I had Sister Core Immaculate ride in the car with me.

Love and respect.

I will never forget how she treated me and how good she made me feel about myself.

On the Road Again

 

mileage.JPGI just returned from Florida where I returned to Vero Beach and was honored by the Senior Resource Association.  They awarded me with their first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award.

It was great to be back in Vero.  When I left last spring I thought I would never be back, but it was good to be there and be with the people.

So far this year I have traveled 5,480 miles.

Tomorrow I go to Seattle. 

I am going to speak at a fundraiser for Bellevue Community College for Mark Yoshino, the head coach of the baseball team.  I’ll also be up there to promote the World Baseball Classic. 

And who knows, maybe I’ll go back to Pike Place and catch another salmon.

Get Behind Your Nation

 

160x600_WBC_TIX_MLB_2.jpgToday is the day that single game tickets go on sale for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

I can’t wait to see the best ballplayers in the world compete for their countries.  Baseball should be an olympic sport, but since it isn’t, this tournament will let us all know who the best really is.

The best thing that ever happened in my baseball career was managing Team USA to its first and only Gold Medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.  It was great because I did something for my country. 

That’s what each of the players are thinking too; how great it will be to do something for their country.

I hope all baseball fans can enjoy the greatness of the Classic.

And I’ll see you at Dodger Stadium for the semi finals, and the finals.

Be Prepared

When I came to Los Angeles in 1963 as a scout for the Dodgers, the first speech I had to make was at the Huntington Hartford Hotel, which is now known as the Ritz in Pasadena.

 

It was a dinner like the one I attended last night, where eagle scouts would write a letter to a person in the profession they were pursuing, and in turn that professional would escort them to the dinner and act as a mentor.

 

I was a nervous wreck.  The first speaker on stage was a retired admiral in the U.S. Navy.  They read his bio about graduating from Annapolis and leading fleets throughout the world. 

 

The next speaker was a judge who graduated from Yale and enjoyed a successful legal career before joining the bench.

 

I was next, and all that was said abut me was, “And now, our featured speaker of the night, Tom Lasorda, a scout for the Dodgers.”

 

Needles to say I didn’t get the same reception that the previous two speakers enjoyed, but when I got up on stage, I immediately grabbed their attention by reciting the Scout Oath and the Scout Laws. 

 

I got a standing ovation, and from that point I had their attention.

 

Well, I did the same thing last night and it seemed to work well. 

 

I can honestly say that without the training I got from being a boy scout 67 years ago, I would not be the man I am today. 

Goodbye Preston

 

gomez preston 1.JPGYesterday we got word that Preston Gomez passed away.

Preston was a Dodger.  He wore the uniform with class, dignity and character.  When I became manager in 1977 he was on my coaching staff and was a tremendous help to me as I began my career.

The man spent his entire life in baseball. He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers. Al Campanais gave him an opporunity to be in professional bsaeball. He managed at least three major league teams and was a credit to the game.

We are very sorry to see him pass away. He wore the Dodger uniform with pride and dignity. He has helped a lot of people in our game and he will be missed.

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