Category: Dailies

Minor League memories…

With Manny Ramirez beginning his minor league stint prepping for his return to the Dodgers, it got me thinking about my time as a minor league broadcaster.  

I spent four years in minor league baseball, one in Rochester, NY with the Red Wings of the International League … and three with the Schaumburg Flyers of the independent Northern League.

I got a chance to see a no-hitter thrown, a four-home run game, and a player play all nine positions in a nine inning game.   I saw a veteran player hit a homer, round the bases, rip off his shirt and retire at home plate.  I saw a manager order that an opposing player be hit by a pitch for three consecutive at-bats because the offending batter had accidentally fouled a ball off the manager’s daughter the night before.

I’ve heard John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” quite possibly thousands of time and every version of rain delay music you can think of (Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, Here Comes the Rain Again, Can You Stand the Rain?, Singing in the Rain, Rain in the Summertime etc …).

I’ve seen the Zooperstars perform too many times to count … and Myron Noodleman’s act TOO MANY TIMES.

I’ve seen nuns giving massages in the grandstands, pigs delivering balls to the umpires and Ila Borders, the first female pitcher in pro ball, throw back-to-back no-hit innings.

I’ve been on bus trips from Chicago to Winnipeg where players have boarded without a book, magazine, computer or cellphone and looked out the window for an entire 16-hour trip.  Let me tell you, the view doesn’t change much on that trip.  Cornfields and more cornfields.  I’ve also had some of the best baseball conversations in my life over $8 steaks in Sioux Falls.

And that’s what I’ll always remember.

My first year with the Schaumburg Flyers was in 1999.  The Flyers were an expansion team that year.  An expansion team in an unaffiliated independent league.  It doesn’t get any lower than that in pro ball.  The roster is made up exclusively of undrafted college players and players that have been released from the lower levels of big league organizations.  

Back then in was 22 players splitting each team’s salary-capped $82,000.  Meal money was $15 a day.   But you had a chance.  A chance to play pro ball for the summer and hope against hope that you could catch the eye of a scout working for a team in affiliated ball.  Once you got signed … well then you could really dream.

Of those 22 players on the 1999 Schaumburg Flyers, two of them have made the big leagues.  Jim Rushford making it to Milwaukee Brewers in 2002.  And just last year, Alberto Castillo getting a chance with the Baltimore Orioles.  The fact that two guys made it to The Show is astounding.

I’ve had a lot of good times in the world or baseball.  But the moments that make me proudest are the moments I spent in the minors.  You’ve got to earn your way in baseball.   That’s the way its always been.  That’s the way it always should be.

— Eric Collins

Hall of Fame Legends Game

When the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association told me about the “Legends Game” that they were putting together in place of the tired out Hall of Fame Game, I was pretty impressed. Hall of Famers like Paul Molitor, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Feller were going to be there — playing in a game. But I have to admit, there was a lot of dead air on my end of the conversation. Why were they telling ME about this game? I started thinking that maybe they needed an announcer. Nope. They wanted me to PLAY too!

We all know that I’m nothing close to being a legend, but they needed a few guys that were young enough to still run around a little.

So there I was, with guys like Steve Finley—who still wants to play and is in good enough shape to pull it off, Mike Pagliarulo, a happy and smiling Jeff Kent—who won the HR hitting competition, and pitchers Anthony Telford and Ron Robinson.

The Spaceman, Bill Lee was there, and Bobby Grich. I got my first major league hit on a ball that glanced off of Grich’s glove and into center field in 1985.

Mike Timlin got a lot of cheers from all the Red Sox fans in Cooperstown and former Yankee first baseman Kevin Maas was there.

About 8 thousand people lined the streets for a pregame parade through the town and into Doubleday Field and then jammed themselves into a stadium that only seats 7 thousand.
My personal highlight was playing catch with Brooks Robinson and then playing Shortstop next to him on my team.

I played catch with freaking Brooks Robinson!!

90-year-old Bob Feller threw an inning! He and Bobby Doerr are the oldest living HOFers.

I got three hits in the game—one off of Hall of Famer Phill Neikro. I also drove in the tying run and scored the winning run.

Jim Kaat almost drilled me…twice, and our team came from 4 runs down to win it in the 7th and final inning.

Geoff Hixon, the Director of the MLBPAA told us that they wanted the game to be more interactive and more fun for the fans. They didn’t have to tell me twice.

In the first inning I ran out to right field and grabbed a 12-year-old kid with a glove and told him he was coming out to play short with me. He was scared to death but hung right in there.

After giving up a couple runs, with one out and a runner on first, Mike Timlin hit a hot shot to short. My little buddy snagged it, made a perfect feed to Kent at second and then Jeff threw on to first for a double play. The place went nuts!!

I get a little emotional re-living that moment. All I ever wanted to do was extend my 12-year-old days into an entire Major League career, for as long as they’d let me.

Later, the tour of the Hall of Fame was so cool. Now I know why baseball freaks from everywhere make that pilgrimage to Cooperstown.

I got to hold a Babe Ruth bat. It had 28 notches grooved in the bat, around the label to mark the 28 home runs he hit with that bat. One of only two known bats in existence that he notched.

The plaques, and balls and bats—and photos that send you back in time through the history of baseball humbled me.

I even saw my print and photographic file. So yes, I am in the Hall of Fame—along with every other of the nearly 17,000 players all time.

I’m not a Hall of Famer. But with all that happend that day—playing catch with Brooksy, the parade, a few hits, making a kids day and holding Babe’s bat…I felt like one.    

— Steve Lyons

Deep in the Heart

The say that everything is bigger in Texas … well, maybe not everything.  While waiting for the bus after Friday’s game, I caught the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington fireworks display.  They were ok, but by Dodger Stadium standards it was like kids shooting off bottle rockets.  No comparison.
Talked with Andre Ethier and Brent Leach about their former schools heading to the College World Series.  Andre is a former Arizona State Sun Devil and Brent played at Southern Miss for two years before finishing up at Delta State.  Andre never made it to a CWS while at ASU, losing in the Super Regional round to Cal State Fullerton twice.  In 2002 as a sophomore, Andre’s teammates included Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler and Jeff Larish…yet they didn’t make it to Omaha.  Crazy game. 
Southern Miss is making it’s first trip to the CWS.  In case you’re ever in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, eat at Leatha’s BBQ.  World-class barbeque in a shack off the side of the road.  World-class.  If you call ahead, sometimes they have possum on the menu.  I won’t go that far, but the beef and pork ribs are some of the best I’ve ever had.
The current member of the Dodger Family with the best CWS experience?  Rick Monday.  Rick was an All-CWS pick on Arizona State’s 1965 National Championship team.  On the ASU freshman team that year?  Reggie Jackson.  Arizona State won national titles in 1965 and 1967 but Reggie Jackson only played varsity baseball in 1966.  That means no rings for Mr. October as a collegian.  Crazy game.
Not too many college players are on this year’s edition of the Dodgers.  Logan White, the Dodgers Assistant GM – Scouting, has made a habit out of taking high-ceilinged high schoolers in the draft in years past.  You can’t question the strategy.  Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Blake DeWitt … all high school players that the Dodgers scouted, drafted and developed in a hurry.
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington doesn’t get discussed much when people are talking about some of the best ballparks in the game, but it’s got some real plusses.  I like the deep green of the seats and the overhang.  I like the grassy ramp (don’t say grassy knoll here in Dallas) beyond the center field wall.  I even like all of the signage on the outfield walls.  It reminds me of ballparks of days gone by.  But the real treat in the ballpark is the turkey legs. I think it’s one of the best concessions in baseball.  These things are huge.  I’ve just decided that’s my goal for this weekend.  I’m going to talk with the camera guys and see if we can find some people eating these things.  It’s impossible to not feel like King HenryVIII when you’re gnawing on these things.  There you go … that’s my goal. 

— Eric Collins

Remembering the draft of 1981…

Back in the good old days of the MLB amateur draft, nobody paid any attention at all.
It wasn’t on TV, very few, if any players had agents, and the process was much simpler.
Yesterday, as expected Stephen Strasburg was the #1 overall pick of the Washington Nationals. It was a no-brainer—- 13-1 with an ERA less than 1.50 and he even threw a no-hitter. Oh, and by the way he throws 100MPH routinely.

So this is where I’m supposed to point out how the draft is not an exact science and have numbers and facts about how #1 picks rarely make it to the big leagues. And guys like Bill Russell of the Dodgers was a 42nd round pick and never played high school baseball– but had a great career. Or maybe the most famous Dodger draft story, the great Mike Piazza who was drafted in the 63rd round out of courtesy to his father.

But I’m not going to do it.

I hope Strasburg makes it big. In fact, the number two pick in the draft, Dustin Ackley, is the son of a guy I played with in the minor leagues way back when. I hope he makes it, too.
I have no problem with the kids and the talent level they posess, I have a problem with the agents and the system that’s created so much pressure for the teams to sign these guys—and for BIG BUCKS.

Strasburg is represented by Scott Boras (big surprise) and he’s not just going to get a big signing bonus and a plane ticket to “A” ball the way it used to be. Oh, no. Boras will be involved in intense negotiations to get Strasburg a package in the area of $15 to $50 Million.

Yes, 50 Million!

Of course that deal will be a long-term contract that will contain bonuses and guaranteed call ups to the big leagues– before he’s ready and major salary increases at every level he pitches at etc, etc. But still, $50 Million?

It was always well known that the top players in the draft we’re going to get a nice bonus. “Bonus Babies” was the term used for the Nuke Laloosh’s of the baseball world. But the money and the pressure on the organizations to sign these guys is incredible. And I always wonder why?

What’s Strasburg going to do if Washington says, “no”?

What would any of them do?

It may sound like sour grapes on my part and I promise it’s not—but I do have a point of reference. In 1981 I was the Number 1 daft pick by the Boston Red Sox.

I got $55,000.

One day later I was sent to “A” ball in Winston-Salem NC where I began my Pro baseball career.

My salary was $600.00 per month and meal money on the road was 9 bucks.

I played 13 years of professional baseball, 9 in the Major Leagues and felt like the luckiest guy in the world for the entire time.

I made 2.1 Million in my whole career.

50 Million wouldn’t have made me a better player or any happier.

— Steve Lyons

Unwinding in the Windy City

For all the beauty and history of Wrigley Field … it really has a lot in common with the much-maligned Candlestick Park in San Francisco.  Wrigley always looks like a the Midwest’s biggest beer garden when you see the shirtless fans basking in the bleacher sun.  But when you look at other parts of the ballpark you can usually find people shivering.  At Wrigley you can always identify the veteran fans.  They’re the ones that dress in layers … and bring a blanket.

Maybe I’m the last of a dying breed, but I still love the sound of an organ at the ballpark.  I hope the organ never gets phased out completely.  Would that make me a Vital Organist?  I had a chance to chat with Gary Pressey the long-time organist at Wrigley and all he wanted to talk about was Dodger organist Nancy Bea and what a treasure she is.  Agreed.

I asked former Cub Juan Pierre if he ever took the EL train to and from Wrigley.  He laughed and said the only way you would ever consider riding the train after a game is if you went 4-4 and the Cubs won … and were on an 8-game winning streak.  Other than that, Cub fans would make it a long ride.  For a team that hasn’t won the World Series in over 100 years their fans always have lofty expectations. 

Chalk this one up to crazy things you learn at the ballpark.  Friday the origin of former Brooklyn Dodger player and manager Casey Stengel’s name came up in a pre-game conversation.  I had no idea.  Charles Dillon Stengel was born in Kansas City, MO.  Thus the nickname KC…that eventually morphed into Casey.  Who knew?

Speaking of former managers and names, many-time Yankee manager Billy Martin was born Alfred Manuel Martin, but his Italian mother always called him “Bello”, handsome in Italian … and that’s how he became Billy.

And speaking of former Yankees, for years Joe Dimaggio insisted that he be introduced as “the greatest living ballplayer”.  I always thought that was odd (and not accurate).  Anyway, with Joe D. and Ted Williams (arguably the greatest hitter ever) both passing away in the last ten years … no one has been anointed as the new “greatest living player”.  My guess is that you’d have to give the nod to either Willie Mays or Hank Aaron.  But the real question is, who is next in line?  Hopefully Mays and Aaron live forever … but if they don’t … of the next generation … who will inherit the title of “greatest living player”? 
With virtually all of the recent generation of players under the Steroid Cloud (fairly or unfairly) that brings some interesting names into the discussion.  Does Sandy Koufax get some votes?  What about 70’s stars like Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench or Reggie Jackson?  It’s an arbitrary title … but an interesting debate nonetheless.
While looking up Joe DiMaggio’s numbers on … the closest career comparables that the web-site lists to DiMaggio’s production are Vladimir Guerrero and Larry Walker.  In the top eight are Moises Alou and Ellis Burks.  I realize that DiMaggio missed three years in his prime to military service, but its still surprising to see those names in the same conversation.
That’s it for today.  How about another winning streak for the Dodgers?

A round of golf

Spent yesterday exploring Trump National Golf Club at the Dodgers Dream Foundation Charity Golf Invitational.  Our five-some headed up by Ken Smith didn’t win the thing … but we had a blast.  The course is tricked out and tough, with pin placements that were worthy of a Masters Sunday.  But I guess it wasn’t that hard for Ken Landreaux’s group.  They finished 17-under to come in first.  Mixed into that score was a hole-in-one … one of two aces posted on the day.  Hard to believe, but true.

A couple of thoughts from the day:  My partner Steve Lyons can talk the talk and walk the walk.  He’s a world-class chirper … but he can swing the sticks.  He’s got an impressive game.  I’m starting to think that he is just a real good athlete.  If there is anything on the line, I won’t even play him in darts.

A who’s who of Dodger legends showed up.  Billy Ashley (he can crush the ball), Rudy Law (no one has more fun), Eric Karros (a handshake like a vise grip), Bobby Castillo (he promised to teach me the screwball), Rick Monday (surprisingly plays right-handed), Bill Russell, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela and a bunch more.

Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf headed their groups.   I’m told that Randy just picked up the game but he’s going to be good pretty soon.  His swing looked smooth.  It’s my belief that pitchers are better golfers than hitters.    I don’t know why that is.  Actually taking it a step further … pitchers, hockey players and place-kickers seem to be at the top of the golfing heap.    Rick Rhoden, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are all elite golfers.  Maybe it’s all the time between starts.  Glavine also has the benefit of being a former high-level hockey player.  I wonder if he can place-kick?

On the subject of pitcher/golfers I’m reminded of one of the most stunning athletic feats I’ve ever witnessed.   Ten years ago this summer I played a round of golf with former Chicago White Sox and Cub pitcher Greg Hibbard.  Hibby was a couple of years removed from his playing days and had taken up golf to try and fill the athletic void.  We played a course in Sioux Falls, SD and Hibby shot an even-par round of 72 … without a birdie or eagle!  He parred all 18 holes.  It was amazing.  He really didn’t have too many makeable birdie looks.  He just drove the ball straight (and short), hit the green (anywhere) and two-putted.  Amazing consistency.   I should have learned something that day … but I didn’t.

Mail Bag from Psycho

When I started this blog along with Eric, I said that I would occasionally check in and maybe answer a question or two about what YOU have written in response to my posts. Today is the day. In case it is unclear what the question/statement was – you may have to refer back to the actual post to put an answer with a question, but if I answered yours, you know who you are.



Thanks to “fmontez” for giving us all a usable definition for what a “yellowhammer” is. (which is a nasty overhand curve ball that will buckle your knees)
The one we came up with in between innings in Houston had to do with new uniforms during the Civil War and was convoluted and boring.
Just for a point of reference, Randy Wolf has a pretty good yellowhammer at times.

32and53fan” wanted to know what happens to a guy if he gets called up and down two or three times a year.

He’s on his own. The team is responsible to pay for a hotel for 3 days after a call up and the player is expected to work out the terms of the lease he may have signed in “AAA”. If that player has a family he is also responsible for travel, lodging and all expenses that will be incurred moving and feeding them. And it all starts over again if he gets sent back down.
Glamorous, huh?

Nachotaco“–Said he liked my hair.

The hair is gone. Girlfriend likes it longer, I like it shorter. Got tired of taking too long make it look presentable.

32and53fan” – wondered about Matt Kemp and a 6th tool in baseball.

Excellent comments on the 6th tool in baseball.
The 5 tools are; hitting, hitting with power, running, fielding, and arm strength. 5 tool players don’t come around all that often.

You used the words “baseball brain” when you were referring to Kemp.  How about we call it “instincts”? I love the concept of a 6th tool and a great player has to have them all. Don’t be too hard on Kemp though—the only way to develop that 6th tool is repetition. Seeing every play over and over and over…



Oldbrooklynfan” – said, “isn’t 0 for 4 an off day?

Jeanie m” — Thanked me for helping her carry her camera lenses up the stairs in Houston when the elevator broke down.
My Mom taught me to at least try to be a gentleman.

“Jerry@graphicyte” – doesn’t sympathize with the Dodger schedule.

Relax. I was simply pointing out how many days in a row these guys have to play. And the reason they are “paid VERY well” is because they are the best in the world at what they do. So yes, they do have a few months off at the end of the season, but you, most likely have every weekend off—I hope you don’t miss that opportunity to kiss the wife and kids….

Though I will not spend time on this page to answer personal requests, sorry to “Erika” for dropping your jacket. Hope you got the autograph OK.


Wallymoonman”  — wanted to know what “Tinkle Guy” meant.

The “Tinkle Guy” is what I like to call Matt Kemp because he is so talented and fun to watch. He still has some learning to do but I see a guy who is trying to get better every day. So I just figure you should not get caught “tinkling” while he is at the plate because you may miss something amazing….

Chillicat” – thinks I have a big ego.

Indeed you have been spoiled for 60 years listening to the greatest broadcaster of all time, Vin Scully. Think of how amazing it is that the most popular Dodger EVER is somebody that never actually PLAYED for the Dodgers!

But in case you missed it, I was hired to be an analyst. It is very much my job to tell you what I think, predict what may happen and tell you what should have happened during the game. Maybe you’re a bit confused because Vin is a play-by-play announcer and works alone, he does not analyze the game because that isn’t his job.

I believe that in our lives we all strive to become the best at something—-anything. For the last 40 years I have dedicated and devoted my life to the game of baseball and it is the one area of my life where I’m very confident and proud to call myself an expert. Ego? Maybe a wee bit.

I’m sure that there are many fans that agree with your opinion of me— I am energetic, passionate, and won’t miss an opportunity to have fun during a broadcast. That’s not for everybody, but I will continue to try to evoke opinions out of Dodger fans with my observations, comments, and opportunities to teach the game as they come up.

Oddly, I didn’t know that the Dodgers were such fierce rivals with the Red Sox, White Sox and Expos — the teams I played for.

Believe it or not, this has been my favorite response of all that I’ve read. I believe the only way to get better at what you do is if somebody points out what you’re doing wrong so you can correct it. Your comments and criticisms will never be deleted from this blog.

Thanks for having my back!

That’s it. Go Dodgers!


Thoughts on a successful weekend

As good as Clayton Kershaw was on Sunday in Miami, Joe Torre had to be sweating bullets.  How do you take out your prized 21-year-old when he has a no-hitter going?  Kershaw throwing 108 pitches in the first seven innings …. An average of 15 pitches an inning.  If he keeps his no-hitter alive … do you keep Kershaw in for could have been a 138-pitch complete game?  

Going back to the 2006 Draft …. Kershaw right now is clearly the third best player from that draft class in the big leagues.    Evan Longoria (3rd overall pick) and Tim Lincecum (10th) are ahead of Kershaw.  Maybe you can make the argument that Joba Chamberlain (41st) is in the conversation.  But that’s it.  The big difference?  The Dodgers drafted Kershaw out of Highland Park HS in Dallas while Longoria, Lincecum and Chamberlain were drafted after college careers.  As you probably know, high school picks are always a riskier proposition than college players with at least three years more playing experience.  The Dodgers did their due diligence, took a chance and right now, things looking great.

Just asking, but is there another team in baseball that has two young pitchers (25 and younger) that have higher ceilings than Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw? 

It’s really early … exceedingly early. But could Kershaw and Billingsley be a “poor man’s” version of Koufax and Drysdale?  Kershaw and Koufax … electric lefties with big fastballs and dynamic curves.  Billingsley and Drysdale … bulldog righties with moving fastballs and championship-level stamina.

On a side note, I just polished off Jon Weisman’s 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.  If there is a more erudite fan than Weisman I’d love to meet them.   I think Weisman is in Manny Mota territory as a unique Dodger treasure.

The Marlins are moving into a new retractable-roof stadium in 2012.  I hope that solves their attendance problems.  I’m not sold that it will.

And yes, I’m the one who spent 20 minutes of my life researching how many Eric’s have played for the Dodgers (Eric Milton makes 9).   But it was Dodger PR maven Josh Rawitch who came up with the number of Juan’s in Dodger history (5) Forty percent of the Juan’s (Pierre and Castro) in the line-up Sunday.

Too bad there haven’t been 10 Eric’s.  Eric Stuckenschneider, a Dodger farmhand in the 90’s.  If he had made it to the big leagues he would’ve had the longest name in MLB history.  Stuckenschneider and his 16 letters stalling at Triple-A Albuquerque in 1998.  He would’ve put Jarrod Saltalamacchia to shame.

And finally, shake hands with Juan Pierre at your own risk.  He’s scalding hot.  Eight hits in the last 22 innings that the Dodgers played in Miami.   Good for him and good for the Dodgers.

Handing the reins back to the greatest that ever lived.   Thanks for reading.

— Eric Collins

Random Road Trip Thoughts…

Tuesday night’s Dodger loss here in Philadelphia got me thinking:

In the first inning, Orlando Hudson’s knocks in the first run of the game with an RBI single to right.  Hudson is then thrown out at second.  The putout goes 9-2-6-4-7.  92647 is the zip code for Huntington Beach.  Hudson is taking over at second base for Jeff Kent.  Kent played high school baseball at Edison HS in Huntington Beach.  There’s got to be something connected there.

Jayson Werth steals four bases in the game including three in the 7th inning.  Werth played 191 games with the Dodgers in 2004-2005.  He steals a grand total of 15 bases in those 191 games.  That’s one steal every 12.7 games.  Since Tuesday’s game didn’t have a bottom half of a 9th … Werth averages a steal every two innings against the Dodgers.

Maybe even more amazing than Werth’s legwork is the steal by Ryan Howard.  Howard piggybacking on the back-end of a double-steal in the fourth.  Coming into the game Howard has 2 steals in 598 career games.  Howard was first called up to the big leagues in 2004 and makes it until 2007 before he steals his first base.  Before the 2007 steal, only 4 non-pitchers in the history of baseball have more career plate appearances than Howard without a swipe … three of them are catchers.

Potential history to be made by Shane Victorino in this series.  The former Dodger farmhand is just one home run away from tying Benny Agbayani for the 2nd most home runs by anyone born in the state of Hawaii.  Victorino has 38 career homers.  Mike Lum is tops in Hawaii homers with 90.
Former Dodgers who lead the states where they were born in homers include Eric Karros (New Jersey 284), Gil Hodges (Indiana 370), Kirk Gibson (Michigan 255), Todd Hundley (202 Virginia), and Mike Devereaux (Wyoming 105).

The American soft pretzel may have been invented in Philadelphia … but it hasn’t been perfected here.  Had a couple of them today.  Maybe I’m missing something?  

Jamie Moyer, the Phillies Wednesday starting pitcher, is a year and a month older that Clayton Kershaw and Xavier Paul … if you add Kershaw and Paul’s ages together.

Time to pick up a book and stop thinking about baseball for a while … my brain is turning to mush.

Until next time ….

On Manny

How does a team go from breaking a major league record—-13 straight home victories, a record that has stood since the days of the players wearing those “Flintstone” three fingered gloves……to sadness?

The news of Manny’s suspension hit the Dodgers and all our fans right out of left field, so to speak. And it wasn’t anger, or fear or even disappointment that I felt—after the shock. It was sadness.

Let’s say right up front that what Manny did is a big no-no it the world of pro sports. And the only person that has to live with those consequences is Manny, himself.

How will he be perceived? His career numbers, his legacy and place in the game—-the Hall of Fame. Is it all gone except the money?

I’m not mad. I’m not disappointed, because I’ve come to realize that this is a very common “mistake” that many players have made. And I will stand and cheer loudly on July 3rd when Manny steps into the batters box again for the first time after the suspension.

But now, I’m just sad.

Maybe it’s because I work for the Dodgers or because I got the chance to watch Manny play everyday and hang out with him occasionally, but like many of you, I love the guy. I like the enthusiasm he brought to the entire team. I like his carefree attitude combined with fierce concentration at the plate. I like that he got paid 25 million dollars to play the game but acted like he was 12 years old all day long.

In less than a year, Manny did things that Dodger fans had never seen before. He was finally a player that brought the kind of excitement when he came up to bat that had been reserved for Cardinal fans watching McGwire and Pujols. Or Giants fans with Bonds.

There hasn’t been a hitter to come close to compare to him in Dodger Blue since Piazza.
I’ve even heard the whispers that in this short period of time, Manny may be the most popular Dodger…..dare I say….ever!

Let me be sad. I know you all are too. We’re gonna miss him.

But only for one day, because there are 49 more games that have to be played without Manny and nothing will change that. And the team that is still on the field, led by O-Dog and Raffy, and the emerging stars that are “The Tinkle Guy” (Kemp), Loney, Ethier and Russell have learned how to play hard and have fun at the same time.

Billingsley is on the mound tonight. Your Ace is supposed to get a big win after a loss. Sure he’s pitched in playoff games but this will be one of the biggest starts of his career because tonight he’s going to be asked to go out there and begin the healing process….and make the sadness go away.

— Steve Lyons