Friday, March 23, 2012
The Green family, one year later
By Tony Jackson
TUCSON -- A year later, John and Roxana Green mostly wore smiles as they addressed a small media gathering in the press box at the Kino Sports Complex on Friday. For the second spring training in a row, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom John works in the amateur scouting department as a national crosschecker, had traveled to the city where the Greens live to play a benefit Cactus League game for the Christina Taylor Green Foundation, which the Greens formed to honor the memory of their 9-year-old daughter, who was killed in a mass shooting in a supermarket parking lot here more than 14 months ago.
Those smiles may come a little easier now, the hurt never goes away.
"There is still pain every day in losing our daughter, but it is healing to get involved in things we know she would be proud of," John Green said. "Just like starting a business, starting a new foundation has a lot of growing pains. Everybody has different ideas. It takes time, and it takes patience."
But the rewards make it all worthwhile. The Christina Taylor Green Foundation raises funds to provide financial assistance to schools for various programs.
"It has been very therapeutic as well," Roxana Green said. "We know she is looking down on us and very proud of what everyone is doing."
Last year, when the Dodgers played the Arizona Diamondbacks here, the Green family maintained a low profile, appearing on the field before the game and then doing a brief, impromptu media session in a tunnel behind home plate before watching the game from a private suite upstairs. This year, John, Roxana and their son Dallas -- named after John's father, longtime big league manager Dallas Green -- were highly visible, standing on the field before the game as John addressed the sold-out ballpark over the public-address system to explain the mission of the foundation.
The Dodgers split squad won the game, defeating a Chicago White Sox split squad 17-4 before 10,894. The rest of the team lost, 2-0 to the Kansas City Royals before 6,769 in Surprise.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who got his start in baseball when Dallas Green, then the Chicago Cubs GM, hired him to work in the team's publicity department in 1982, also took part in the media session and made a promise to the Green family.
"As long as I am in Arizona training with a team in this part of the country, any time John and Roxana want us here for a game, we'll be here," Colletti said.
On an afternoon when the Dodgers pounded out 23 hits against four White Sox pitchers, the top half of their batting order continued to shine. Shortstop and leadoff man Dee Gordon reached base four times in four plate appearances, following up his leadoff triple in the first inning with two singles and a walk. He also scored three times. Meanwhile, center fielder Matt Kemp went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run and drove in four runs.
Andre Ethier also had a hit in three at-bats, just his second single of the spring to go with 10 extra-base hits. He now is hitting .429 in the Cactus League, while Gordon is at .395 and Kemp .333.
"I don't get too excited about spring training,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the performance of a trio of players who will be critical to the team's hope of competing for a playoff spot this season. "It's the same thing as [why] I don't get too worried about losing a few in a row [in spring training]. This is now just about trying to get guys ready and coming out of the gate healthy. It's really just about preparation down here."
Mattingly also got his first look at several of the organization's most highly touted pitching prospects, most notably 2010 first-round pick Zach Lee, who pitched a perfect bottom of the seventh inning without allowing a ball to be hit out of the infield against a White Sox lineup that by that time consisted mostly of minor league campers like himself.
"Any time you can go out there in front of people and in front of this great atmosphere, especially knowing it was for a great cause, it's great," Lee said. "My approach was really to just go out there and do what I can do. Honestly, I wasn't really nervous. I don't know if that's because it was 17-4 when I came in, but I felt good in the pen. I felt like I had good stuff and I threw the ball well."
Lee, who went 9-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 24 starts at low Single-A Great Lakes last season and struck out 91 batters while walking just 32, said he has never looked back on his decision to sign with the Dodgers, accepting a $5.25 million bonus spread over five years, and spurn a football scholarship to Louisiana State University, where he would have played quarterback.
"No, that was one of the biggest things, I wanted to make sure I had no regrets," he said. "I just wanted to keep looking forward and really go after my dreams and goals."
Also pitching an inning each against the White Sox were such top prospects as Allen Webster (two runs, one earned); 2008 first-rounder Ethan Martin (two earned runs); Angel Sanchez (one inning, one hit); 2011 first-rounder Chris Reed (one inning, one walk); and Shawn Tolleson (perfect inning to close out the game).
Colletti said the reason the team designated reliever Ramon Troncoso for assignment on Thursday was that it had become clear he wasn't going to make the club. Troncoso was out of minor league options and stands at least some chance of being claimed off waivers. ... Aaron Harang gave up a run and five hits and three walks against the Royals, who also stranded a runner on third in three of those innings. ... The Dodgers (10-7-4) host the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, with Chris Capuano scheduled to make his fourth start against former Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe.