Thursday, June 5, 2003
Updated: June 6, 3:15 PM ET
Valenzuela to be Spanish-language radio commentator
LOS ANGELES -- Fernando Valenzuela is about to begin a new
career -- at the same place his last one started so memorably.
Valenzuela was back at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, returning to
the home of his former team to launch his career as a
Spanish-language radio commentator.
The media-shy former star left-hander, who has turned down
interview requests for several years, spoke to reporters about his
unlikely career change at a festive press conference where a
mariachi band warmed up the crowd.
"Today is a big day for me because it is a long time since I
have been out of this ballpark,'' the 42-year-old Valenzuela said.
"It's great for me, because this is the park where I started my
career. I am very happy to be back.''
He called himself a "rookie'' and admitted to feeling daunted
by the prospect of having his commentary broadcast to millions of
"I am so excited to see what happens,'' he said.
In 1981, at age 20, Fernando was an emergency starter on opening
day when he blanked the Houston Astros 2-0 -- one of five shutouts
in his first eight starts that season.
The startling beginning to Valenzuela's career sparked
"Fernandomania,'' which remains one of the most memorable periods
in Dodgers history. He won each of his first eight starts en route
to winning the NL Rookie of the Year award and Cy Young Award.
Now, Valenzuela will be a color commentator, working with Hall
of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin and Pepe Yniguez during all home
games and road games against NL West opponents.
Jarrin, who served as Valenzuela's interpreter in the early days
of his career, said the native of Mexico will succeed because he
will give his new job his "very, very best.''
"He will be a good analyst because he knows the game, he loves
the Dodgers and he is very well-respected and very well-liked by
the people,'' Jarrin said.
Lost in the excitement over the announcement Thursday was any
trace of the long-standing rift that had once existed between the
baseball star and his former team.
Valenzuela became upset in 1991 when he was suddenly cut by the
Dodgers. He later resumed his career with the Angels and pitched in
the major leagues until 1997.
"We've been trying to get him back to the organization for so
long,'' said Derrick Hall, Dodgers vice president for
communications, before introducing Valenzuela.
He credited Dodgers chairman and CEO Bob Daly, "who on his
first day here said, 'Get Fernando. Get Fernando.'''
Valenzuela begins his new job Friday. Before stepping up to the
microphone, he'll make an appearance at the mound, throwing the
ceremonial first pitch in the team's game against the Chicago White
"I believe that Fernando Valenzuela is the prodigal son. He
decided to come back to the Dodgers,'' Jarrin said.