Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Davey Lopes, Dodgers go back to basics
By Tony Jackson
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first full-squad workout of spring training for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and of the managerial career of Don Mattingly, included all the usual stuff: bunt-defense drills, infielders taking ground balls, even some live batting practice thrown by a handful of the pitchers in camp.
The highlight, though, was probably the final event: a baserunning primer by the team's new first-base coach Davey Lopes.
The 45-minute session dealt mostly with the basics. But Lopes delivered his message in a charismatic, entertaining way, with a lot of the no-nonsense language one might expect from a 65-year-old baseball lifer who believes in doing things the right way, mixed with a little bit of humor.
The audience appeared to include every non-pitcher the Dodgers have in camp, and that audience burst into laughter on a few occasions, usually when Lopes would get especially animated while demonstrating the wrong way to do something.
For those who were paying attention, though, there were a lot of lessons.
For one, Lopes isn't a fan of the headfirst slide. He also isn't a fan of the slide into first base.
"There are two reasons why you slide," Lopes told the assembly. "First, to slow your body down.
Second, to avoid a tag."
And thus, Lopes said, the only time a slide into first base is justified is to avoid a tag if the player covering has to come off the bag to take an off-line throw.
A couple of other tidbits:
• A good baserunner, Lopes said, always looks down at the bag as he is approaching, not only to make sure he touches it, but also to catch the right portion of it to minimize the angle of his turn.
• A good baserunner is always thinking a base ahead.
• When tagging from third on a fly ball, the runner has to watch the outfielder catch the ball and then take off on his own rather than waiting for the third-base coach to yell "go."
Hall of Famer
Third-base coach Tim Wallach was informed last week that he is part of this year's class of seven inductees into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas. Wallach, who was a first baseman for Cal State-Fullerton, capped his career by winning the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation's top collegiate player, in 1979, the year the Titans also won the College World Series.
Wallach was drafted 10th overall that summer by the Montreal Expos, made his big league debut just a year later and went on to play 17 seasons in the majors.
"It's a great honor," Wallach said. "It has a lot to do with the coaching I had and the players I played with. If we hadn't been as good a team as we were or been coached as well as we were, this probably wouldn't have happened."
At Fullerton, Wallach played for legendary head coach Augie Garrido.
Wallach will be joined in this year's class by six other inductees, including his close friend Terry Francona, manager of the Boston Red Sox and the guy who won the Golden Spikes one year before Wallach while playing for the University of Arizona. Francona also was a first-round draft pick of the Expos, and he and Wallach were teammates in Montreal for five years.
"We also played together in Alaska, and I just attended his daughter's wedding in January," Wallach said. "It makes it even more special to go in with Terry."
The induction ceremony is July 3. Wallach said he won't skip the Dodgers' game with the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim that day to attend.
Eugenio Velez, a non-roster invitee who probably has little shot at making the opening-day roster but stands a decent chance of seeing some big league time this year, finally arrived at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday afternoon and underwent his physical examination. Velez was a day late because of visa issues in his native Dominican Republic.
An outfielder and second baseman, Velez spent parts of each of the past four seasons in the majors with San Francisco before the Giants non-tendered him last fall.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on on Twitter.