June 2009

Kompei!

 

Toast.JPGYesterday I was honored at the 2009 Jokun Recognition Luncheon that was held by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  I was on the dais with Acey Kohrogi, our Director of Asian Operations, as well as the other Jokun award winners.

What is the Jokun award?  Well you might remember that last December I was awarded with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by the Emperor of Japan.  That is the Jokun, and it was a pleasure and honor to be amongst such distinguished guests.

The Dodgers have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Japan and a rich history of friendship that has helped the development of Japanese baseball. 

- Three postseason tours of Japan by Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers teams following the 1956, 1966 and 1993 seasons led to return visits by the Tokyo Giants during Spring Training in Vero Beach on five occasions (1961, 67, 71, 75 and 80)

-After the 1956 Japan tour, the Dodgers invited Shigeru Mizuhara, manager of the Yomiuri Giants, along with pitcher Sho Horiuchi and catcher Shigeru Fujio to train in Vero Beach with the Dodgers in 1957

-In 1962, Japanese baseball coach Kaoru Betto traveled the entire season with the Dodgers, studying the Dodger way of training

-Dodger minor league manager Pete Reiser visited Japan in the fall of 1963 to coach the Tokoy Flyers

-In 1964 and ’65, the Dodgers conducted coaching clinics in Japan.  Al Campanis visited Kawasaki to conduct the 1964 clinic for the Tokyo Whalers and Kenny Myers and myself conducted the 1965 clinic in Tokyo and Miyazaki for the Tokyo Giants

-In 1966, the Dodgers received a 10-foot tall, two-ton stone lanternas a gift from Japanese Hall of Famer Sotaro Suzuki as a token of friendship between the Dodgers and Japan

-In 1979, I managed the National League All-Star Team in a seven-game series in Japan.
I hosted a week-long baseball clinic in Japan with Senichi Hoshino in 1981

-After the 1993 season, the Dodgers played five exhibition games in Asia as part of the Friendship Series tour, three in Taipei, Taiwan and two in the Fukuoka Dome in Fukuoka, Japan

-In 2000, I signed a Friendship Agreement on behalf of the Dodgers with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and visited the team more than 15 times in three years to help with baseball instruction and scouting

-In June 2005, I was asked by President George W. Bush to serve as a delegate to the U.S. National Day at the World Exposition in Aichi, Japan, one of more than 15 visits he has made to Japan

-In June 2007, Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato, Consul General Kazuo Kodama and Executive Director of the Japan America Society Doug Erber met with Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt at Dodger Stadium

-The Waseda University baseball team from Tokyo visited Dodgertown for two weeks in 1994, and the Dodgers continue their working relationship with the school. Each year, the Dodgers host interns from Waseda University for several weeks and teach them about American culture and baseball.

 

 

Preaching at Pepperdine

 

Pepperdine.JPGYesterday I had the honor and privilage of being a featured speaker at Pepperdine University’s Youth Citizenship Seminar.  This was my 15th year in a row speaking at this week-long seminar, and it is always one of my favorite engagements of the year.

Chancellor Charles Runnels, who has been a long-time friend, invites me every year as they invite about 300 of California’s top high school juniors to learn how to be better leaders.  A student will only be invited if they are already top of their class, and Chancellor Runnels invites motivational speakers to the seminar to help those youngsters improve thier skills.

Yesterday I sopke after George Foreman, who is an outstanding speaker himself.  I tried to impress upon them what it will take for them to succeed in life.  Of course they are young leaders, and I told them how much I admire them already because they are the future leaders of this country, but I also tried to relay that in order to be a great leader you have to be out in front of your people, but not too far out as to lose touch with them.

Three other characteristics that are very important to leadership, in my opinion, are vision, courage and service to others.  I told them they have to set their goals in life high and go after them with all the drive and determination they have within themselves.  And they can only do it with a tremendous sense of self confidence.  I have said it many times before, and I said it again yesterday, that self confidence is the first step towards success.

If you believe it, you can achieve it.

I love getting the hundreds of letters from the YCSers, and I am already looking forward to next year’s speech.

I would like to thank the chancellor, and his wonderful daughter Susan, for including me in the YCS, and for giving those kids such a wonderful opportunity to learn from the best, and to grow into being the best.

Champions!

 

LSU 1.jpgHow sweet it is; the fruits of victory!

Congratulations to coach Paul Mainieri and the LSU Tigers for winning the 2009 College World Series. 

Omaha is a special place for baseball lovers, as the top college baseball teams from around the country meet there every June and play to decide the National Champsionship.  This year the Tigers won it all, and I couldn’t be happier for those young men, their families and all the LSU fans and alumni across the country.

Coach Mainieri holds a special place in my heart.  I was great friends with his father.  I helped him get his first coaching job at the Air Force Academy.  I helped him get his last job at Notre Dame.  He honored me greatly by naming his son after me.  But besides all of that he is a warm-hearted person and he treats his players like fathers treat sons.  He cares about their education and off-field development as much as he does about how they play baseball.  He is a natural teacher, and a tremendous leader, and all of his hard work paid off.

Congratulations Paul, you have earned it!

 

Disaster, Averted

 

cell phone.JPGWe’ve all been there.

That awful feeling when your cell phone is falling from your hand and all you can do is watch as it bounces off the concrete.

Disastrous!

You feel your lifeline to the world shattering as the pieces of the phone fly all over the place.  And when you can’t put it back together because it’s just dead, you realize life just won’t be complete until you can replace it.

My phone went flying, and crashing, during the Prostate Cancer Foundation tour, and I can’t tell you how mad it made me.  I got a new phone, but not all of the number transferred because there were so many that they all couldn’t fit on the SIM card.  So I only had some of my numbers in the new phone, but not all of them.

I took the two phones to an AT&T Wireless store in New York.  At first, it didn’t look good as my old phone was just dead, and it didn’t look like they would be able to transfer all the numbers.

But David Fitzgerald and Steve Kushnir saved me, as they were able to get the job done.  There are three types of people, just like there are three types of ball players: the first makes it happen, the second watches it happen and the third wonders what has happened.  David and Steve made it happen, and they did so through endless effort and tremendous self confidence; they knew they could get the job done.

You see, 80% of the people you tell your problems to don’t care and the other 20% are glad that you have them.  But David and Steve cared, and took the time to make a difference and really help me out in a time of need.

David and Steve, thank you very much for your help.  You are both great assets to AT&T Wireless, as you represented the company to the highest degree of class, dignity and character.  I sincerely appreciate your help, and my last piece of advice to each of you is to remember this: If you don’t pull for the Dodgers there is a good chance you may not make it to heaven!

PCF in Philly

 

83149.jpgToday the Prostate Cancer Foundation tour has rolled into Philly.  We flew in this morning from Van Nuys, California. 

As much as I hate the Philly Phanatic, I still he think he should get himself checked because nobody should have to suffer from the disease.

If anybody is going to find a cure for prostate cancer, it will be through the efforts of Michael Milken who founded the PCF.  The money we raise on this tour, coupled with the money he personally donates to the PCF, go towards researching a cure.

And when the cure is found, Michael will get some credit, but the credit should also go to all the people like you who are kind enough to donate to the PCF.

Tomorrow’s stop: there are two actually, New York and Baltimore.

Prostate Cancer Research Foundation

 

Tommy and Milken.jpgThe thought of a prostate cancer exam for any man is not a pretty one.  Don’t worry though, because you don’t have to go the traditional route anymore.  Instead, you can get a PSA blood test. 

PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and released in very small amounts into the bloodstream. When there’s a problem with the prostate, such as when prostate cancer develops and grows, more and more PSA is released, until it reaches a level where it can be easily detected in the blood.

During a PSA test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm, and the level of PSA is measured. PSA levels under 4 ng/mL are usually considered “normal,” results over 10 ng/mL are usually considered “high,” and results between 4 and 10 ng/mL are usually considered “intermediate.”

But guys, did you know that up to 1 in 38 for ages 40 to 59, and 1 in 15 for ages 60 to 69 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer?

To me, that’s a bad statistic.

Last weekend, and all next week I will be traveling with Michael Milken and the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation.  We will be visiting numerous ballparks around the country to help raise funds that go to researching a cure for this devistating disease.

We would have been at the Yankees v Mets game on Saturday but it rained.  We also went to Cleveland where Cliff Lee threw an outstanding ball game and nearly threw a no-hitter.

Our tour will take us through Philadelphia, Yankee Stadium, Baltimore, Boston, Kansas City and we’ll end up in Anaheim when my beloved Dodgers play the Angels on Father’s Day.

A Wallach Family Reunion

 

draft 2009.JPGI really enjoyed being at the MLB Network studio for the draft.  I think they should hold it there every year.  For those of you who haven’t seen it alreay, you should go check it out, or at least tune in and get a feel for it.

With our third pick in the draft we drafted Brett Wallach.  Brett is the son of our triple-A manager, former Dodger first baseman, and former Dodger batting coach Tim Wallach.  We also have his older brother Matt Wallach in our farm system.

That’s three Wallachs in one organization!

It was a special pick for me though, as I have known Brett, and his older borther Matt, since they were babies.  Tim played for me for four seasons (1993-96).  He was a great Dodger then, did an outstanding job as our batting coach and is also doing an outstanding job in Albuquerque by teaching our youngsters about the game and showing them how to get to Dodger Stadium.

It was an honor to be able to select Brett, and I look forward to seeing him play professional baseball.  I just hope that one day Matt and Brett get their mail at Dodger Stadium like their father did.

Welcome to the Greatest Organization in Baseball

 

miller.jpgWith our first pick in the draft (36th overall) we selected Aaron Miller, a left-handed pitcher from Baylor University.

Aaron, welcome to the Dodgers.

Aaron was the captain of the Baylor team, and as a left-handed pitcher myself I am happy to see him in our organization.

There was no draft when I signed.  At age 16, I signed a professional contract with Philadelphia.  The scout who signed me, Jocko Collins, had to come to my house and have my parents agree to the contract.

He offered me $100 per month, which was a fortune to me.  I later told Jocko that I wanted to sign so badly that if he would have held out 15 more minutes I would have paid him to play.

My father wanted me to go to college, but all I wanted to do was play baseball.  He pulled me aside and told me that while this was my decision he didn’t want me to come to him later in life with hatred and regret for not making me go to college.  Well, I always listened to my parents, but I wanted to play baseball so badly.

I singed the contract, but I had no idea where I was going or what was going to happen to me.

Aaron knows one thing for sure, that he will get the absolute best training to prepare him for the big leagues.  I congratulate his family on the outstanding accomplishmet and wish him nothing but success.

Now I can’t wait to see him in a Dodger uniform.

Draft Day

 

68 ogden clipping.JPGToday is Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.  I am honored to represent the Dodgers at the draft as I will announce our picks today, with our first pick coming at number 36.

I love the draft because it is a culmination of all the hard work and effort of the scouts, who I have always said are the backbone of our game.  I also love it because it gives a new crop of young ballplayers the opportunity to realize their dreams.  The kids who are drafted today have been working towards this day for a long time, and I am very happy for them and their families.

Being draft day, I can remember the 1968 draft, which for the Dodgers was probably our best ever.  We drafted Bill Buckner, Bobby Valentine, Steve Garvey, Tom Paciorek, Joe Ferguson, Doyle Alexander, Sandy Vance, and the “Penguin” Ron Cey just to name a few.  Back then there were more than 70 rounds; today we’ll only draft about 50 players.

That draft was engineered by the great Al Campanis who at that time was our scouting director, and Buzzie Bavasi who was the general manager.  Both men were tremendous baseball men with knowledge, insight and instinct into what makes a great ballplayer. 

Think about all those years of big league service of the players I named above: Buckner (22), Garvey (19), Tom Paciorek (18), Joe Ferguson (14), Doyle Alexander (19), and Ron Cey (17). 

To produce that much big league talent in one draft is outstanding, and I really hope Logan White and his staff can duplicate 1968.  I have faith in our scouts, and I’ve seen how tirelessly they’ve worked to find the best talent in this year’s draft.

Smithsonian

 

tommy and Ray.jpgDuring spring training I got word that I have been approved to have my portrait hung in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute.  I was humbled and honored to recieve such great news.  If my mother and father were alive to see one of their sons being included in such an amazing group of Americans, they would be so very proud.

Today I had a sitting with the artist who is doing the portrait, Ray Kinstler.  Ray has over 80 pieces in the Smithsonian, and has done the likes of Tony Bennett, John Wayne, Gregory Peck and numerous presidents.

The sitting went very well, and I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Tonight I’ll be at the Yankees game, as it will be my first visit to their new stadium. 

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