Dodgertown, Utah; The Route of Champions
In 1968, the Dodgers had what many people considered one of the best draft classes ever. We had players like Tom Paciorek, Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine, Billy Buckner and Sandy Vance come into our organization. It was very important to teach these youngsters the Dodger way of playing baseball from the minute they set foot on the field.
That year also marked my fourth year as a minor league manager, and third in Ogden. I was very excited to get these young ballplayers, these future Dodgers in and show them what it would take to make it to the big leagues, what they would have to do to get their mail at Dodger Stadium.
I have said it before, and will say it again; self confidence is the first step towards success. When I got my hands on these guys that is exactly what I tried to instill. You have to remember that most of these your players were right out of high school and away from home for the first time. Plus, they weren’t the best of the best anymore. This wasn’t high school baseball. They would be playing against their real peers now, so I wanted them to be as mentally tough as they were physically.
One day we were witting by the pool and I told Billy Buckner to come over and get a pen and piece of paper. He wanted to know why, and I told him to just do it. I told him he was going to sit down and write a letter that would go like this:
Dear Wes Parker,
You don’t know me, but my name is Billy Buckner and I play for the Ogden Dodgers. I want you to know that I am going to take your job away from you. Tommy Lasorda is my manager, and he said he is a friend of yours, and that you are a great guy, but that I am going to play first base for the Dodgers.
I had Valentine do the same thing, and I had Garvey do the same thing and so on.
Because I wanted them to believe in themselves.
And you know who took Parker’s job at first base?
Valentine eventually made it to the Dodgers, Garvey eventually made it to the Dodgers, and you know, I’m talking about Rookie League level players who were so determined to succeed that they would stop at nothing.
It was a lot of fun, as we worked our tails off. Through endless hours of hard work and determination we won the Pioneer League in 1968, which marked our third Pioneer League championship in a row.
Billy Buckner hit .344, Garvey hit .338 with 20 home runs, Valentine hit .281 with a .460 slugging percentage.
We finished 14 games above .500 with a 39-25 record and took home the league title. The following season most of my players were promoted, and so was I as the Dodgers sent me to manage in Spokane where our triple-A affiliate played.
But I loved my days in Ogden. I am so happy to be back, and also happy that the Dodgers are affiliated here again.
So I say Thank You to all the fans who supported the Ogden Dodgers of the 60′s, and Thank You to all the Ogden fans who support the Raptors now. I hope you all have fun tonight at Lindquist Field, as I am truly humbled to be honored there tonight with the retirement of my jersey.