On a cool, crisp, party cloudy Wednesday at historic Dodger Stadium, Wednesday was the day that the city of Los Angeles and Dodger fans across the globe could breathe alot easier, thanks to new ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The three main faces of the new ownership group, Guggenheim CEO and Chairman Mark Walter, new Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten, and part owner & CEO Earvin “Magic” Johnson sat before reporters, city officials, and fans watching on the internet to unveil their plans to revive the Dodger spirit.
The press conference was held in center field. Lots of classic Dodger superstars and ex-teammates were in attendance such as the great Maury Wills, Don Newcombe, Steve Garvey, Tommy Lasorda, and others. It was only fitting that the golden voice of baseball and the Dodgers Vin Scully was the master of ceremonies. The crowd heard from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and councilman Ed Reyes both were excited about the new ownership group taking over the Dodgers.
The sale of the team, Dodger stadium and land surrounding Chavez Revine became official on Tuesday as the group closed its $2 billion purchase, finally ending the McCourts’ terrible eight-year ownership run.
Vin Scully introduced the three main owners in a fashion only he could express “it’s time to meet the group that will bring the Dodgers higher than the Sistine Chapel.”
Magic Johnson graced the podium as only he could with the larger than life personality and bright billion dollar smile, opening with “God is so good, and I know that because, I’m standing here a Dodger owner, wow.” An excited Johnson continued to say that he spoke to the employees, and informed them that it starts with you, excellence travels all the way to the players on the field. He also stressed to the media and the public that this will be a very safe and family friendly environment, and he reminded us all that that this group is totally committed to winning. Johnson was so eager he expressed that he would start working today, but his office won’t be ready until Monday. “Mr. O’Malley, you put pride in the Dodgers,” Johnson said, as he asked the former owner to stand. “What we want to do is bring the pride back to the city and organization. We want to win on the field and make sure the fans have the best experience they’ve ever had.
Johnson also announced that the parking will be cut from $15 to $10 starting with the next home stand on Monday against the San Francisco Giants.
Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley who took over the team for his late father Walter owned the team until he sold it in 1998.
A very elated Stan Kasten former president of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks, Thrashers, and Washington Nationals reassured the crowd, “we’re in a market where fans expect to contend now. There’s this real thing called Dodger pride. As someone who has competed 3,000 miles away, it’s a feeling that doesn’t exist with other franchises. Players feel it the first time they put on their uniforms.” He also stressed that they weren’t going to wait two years, if they have the opportunity to win now, that’s what is going to happen.
“We commented the other day when we spoke to the team that we would build a winning way, a culture of winning from top to bottom. For me, it begins with player development. It was pioneered by the Dodgers in Brooklyn. That’s the tradition we’re going to continue.”
Kasten will be working along side of current GM Ned Colletti with player personnel and other moves to restore the Dodgers to greatness.
A very tall and smiling CEO Mark Walter approached the podium and said he grew up not far from the “Field of Dreams” an Iowa based baseball movie starting Kevin Costner, and called this an incredible happy day. Along with that he thanked his parents for teaching him the value of hard work and love.
Announced March 27 the purchase, was the key element in the Dodgers’ emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Frank McCourt was force to file for bankruptcy last June when he couldn’t meet player payroll, after MLB Commissioner Bud Selig declined to approve a $3 billion agreement between FOX Sports and the Dodgers to extend their television rights. One of the best things Selig did to aid in the process of turning the franchise around.
Scully recognized Dodgers greats Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Tommy Davis, all wearing Dodgers jerseys. Bill Russell, Maury Wills and a collection of stars from the past appeared also.
Jim Hill questioned Magic about how much it meant for his involvement in such a ground breaking franchise like Dodgers, when they brought in Jackie Robinson, and now to break that cycle in ownership. Johnson fixed his Dodger hat, fighting to hold back tears responded “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jackie Robinson and also all the other unbelievable players we have here.” As he continued maintaining his composer “it’s very emotional. I can’t even put into words how it is. … It’s a great time — loving this community, loving the Dodgers, loving baseball — to be part of this. My wife Cookie is here, my son Andre. My staff is here. We’re going to get it done.”
Mark Walter added “As much as this is a big day for us, we’re very, very happy to be here, this is not about us. This is about the Dodgers, one of the most honored and storied franchises in history. We are passionate about making this organization the best that it can be from every respect, from winning, from its relationship with the community, from all the philanthropic and other things that it can be a platform to help with.
And as always there were a few dumb questions by a couple of reporters, and a very stern Magic Johnson spoke after the questions had already been answered by Kasten and Walter in regards to the involvement of McCourt. “We own it 100 percent, he won’t get a dime for the parking. Now we don’t need to even mention Frank McCourt, we’re here, we should be clapping about that!”
Walter continued to stress that McCourt can profit only from future development, “We don’t have any current plans for development. Nothing can be developed unless we think it’s good for us.”
Following that, a message from Dodger superstars Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp played on the jumbotron expressed how elated they were about the new ownership taking over the Dodgers. Kemp, also reminded Magic he could take him one-on-one in a scoreboard video message, received a response from the great point guard.
“Matt Kemp challenged me, Matt we’ve got to win the World Series first. Ad after that then you’ll get the chance to play me.”
Vin Scully concluded the press conference by saying that this would be the last ownership exchange that would have his involvement.
On that note this was a great day for baseball, Dodger fans, and sports enthusiast alike as we witnessed history, and I trust we will experience more history and ground breaking moves withing the coming days, weeks and years.
*The Guggenheim Baseball Management is the third owner of the team since 1998.