ANAHEIM, Calif. – Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has yet to meet the newest owner of the Dodgers, Magic Johnson.
Not just since Johnson’s group bought the Dodgers last week but ever. Despite watching almost every game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics in the 1980s, Mattingly has never met Johnson before.
When the two finally do sit down and chat in the near future, however, Mattingly has a confession to make to his new boss. The Indiana native always rooted for Larry Bird’s Celtics to beat Johnson’s Lakers.
“We’ve never crossed paths, other than just watching him play a ton,” Mattingly said. “He was always killing me. I was a Larry Bird guy…Indiana, man. I’ve met Larry a few times. He’s an Indiana legend. Growing up as a kid you always heard his name and how can you ever forget a name like Larry Bird? It was fun watching them. I’m obviously a basketball fan so even though he’s been killing me for a long time you have a lot of respect for him because the things you saw him do were cool to watch.”
Mattingly has already spoken to new Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten and said he’s sure he’ll talk with Johnson and the other members of the Guggenheim Baseball Management soon. He said he didn't need to talk to them to know how much their presence will change the team this season and in the future.
“It’s brought a ton of good energy,” Mattingly said. “Just the feeling you get and hear from fans, even at the ballpark that first day, there was a different energy in the people that are coming to see you play. For the players, I’m sure they’re happy knowing who’s running the show and who’s taking us where we want to go. That’s really been missing over the last couple of years.
As much as Mattingly tried to say the divorce and bankruptcy proceedings Frank McCourt dragged the team through didn’t change what he and his players did on the field, he admitted Monday, baseball clearly was not a priority for McCourt and that was felt throughout the clubhouse.
“Mr. McCourt had a lot to deal with and it seemed like the baseball team was second,” Mattingly said. We just had to keep going and doing our thing and now you see Guggenheim partners and Magic and Stan, we know who’s running the show and they’re going to be the ones making the decisions on where we’re going and how we’re getting there.
“That doesn’t really change our jobs because you’re still trying to play the best baseball you can possibly play every day. It doesn’t really change that part of it but just knowing you have someone up above you that is a driving force is a good thing for this organization and is good for us."
Mattingly shrugged his shoulders when he was asked who he'd like to meet next after he finally meets Johnson.
"I don’t know, when I was younger I kind of liked that stuff but now I’m old and I don’t care," Mattingly said. "Maybe Jack Nicholson. I haven’t met Jack yet, maybe I’ll be able to meet him now."
That should be one introduction that shouldn't be too hard for the new Dodgers owner to facilitate.