The Los Angeles Dodgers held their first full-squad workout of 2020 Spring Training on Tuesday, but before players filtered out of the clubhouse and onto the backfields at Camelback Ranch, they heard from manager Dave Roberts.
He addressed the team at the start of camp for a fifth time, but this year’s message was unlike any before. Not only do the Dodgers — and Major League Baseball as a hole — have the Houston Astros’ scandal hovering over their heads, but it’s only been three weeks since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers tragically passed away in a helicopter crash.
So as Roberts spoke to his players, he recalled a message Bryant shared on the night of playing his final game for the Lakers about the journey toward winning a championship. The point was further driven home by Roberts wearing the Nike Kobe Mamba Focus shoe.
A portion of his message was captured by SportsNet LA’s “Backstage Dodgers” cameras, and the footage will air when this season’s series premiers March 26.
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) February 19, 2020
Bryant’s passing resonated with several Dodgers, many of whom took to social media to share heartfelt messages the day of the tragic accident. The incident also was a bit of a backdrop to the fifth annual Justin Turner Golf Classic that was held a few miles away at Sherwood Country Club.
Per usual, the golf tournament festivities were scheduled to begin with a dinner the night prior, but there was some thought given to cancel due to it being the night of the tragedy. “We were trying to figure out whether to even do it or not,” Turner said.
“We ended up having a good showing, a lot of people came and we talked about it a little bit. The good part about it was everyone kind of sharing their stories about how Kobe impacted their lives or touched their lives.
“Everyone has their own unique image of Kobe and what he did for them when they were growing up. Obviously a very difficult day for Los Angeles, for the country, for the world. Losing a sports icon is tough. Don’t really have any words.
I was in there and it rang true with everyone! Dave Roberts is a man I would have trusted my career and team with!
The Dodgers are in great hands and I am proud that he is our leader! https://t.co/U6D84Hm06o
— Orel Hershiser (@OrelHershiser) February 19, 2020
“I think the hard part for everyone is he grew up in the living room with you. Watching him play for so many years, my generation, when you think sports in L.A., Kobe is the top of the top. Just really feeling for his family — Vanessa and the girls. It’s difficult to even wrap your head around. As much as he’s done on the court, the things he was doing and getting involved in after his career, are remarkable.
“You don’t find superstars of his caliber continue to be that influential in a community and for the game of basketball, especially fo women’s basketball. He’s a guy I always looked up to. Every time I had a water bottle or piece of trash or picking up balls in the cage, you grab it and shoot it towards the trash can or ball basket and yell, ‘Kobe!’ I’m just glad I got to grow up watching him and seeing everything he did and how amazing of a man he was. It’s pretty special.”
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