Spectrum SportsNet LA held their annual blogger night, providing DodgerBlue.com with another look at the inner workings of the Los Angeles Dodgers exclusive network and unparalleled access to the personalities.
John Hartung was in his usual position as studio host on the night of the event, and he was joined by analysts Nomar Garciaparra and Jerry Hairston Jr. Garciaparra, Hairston and Orel Hershiser represent the group of former athletes who regularly appear on SportsNet LA’s programming.
It’s no coincidence that they’ve found a home at the network, aside from each having played for the Dodgers at one point in their respective careers. “The biggest thing I wanted after I was done playing is having an atmosphere that was similar to the clubhouse,” Hairston told DodgerBlue.com
“That’s probably the hardest thing for players, the camaraderie. Having guys like Nomar and Orel around, John Hartung was an athlete, we always get on each other. Everybody likes each other. And it’s genuine, it’s not fake.”
Garciaparra compared his experience in working at SportsNet LA to playing for the Dodgers. “To me, Dodger Stadium is the best place. It’s like a cathedral on a hill. I’d have a genuine smile every single day when I’d drove up when I was playing,” he explained.
“I have a smile when I come here. People here are awesome. I love going to work here. It says a lot about your workplace. We hang out away from here. It’s almost like family and friends getting together to go put on a great show.”
While Garciaparra and Hairston lived it as former Major Leaguers, Hartung is tasked with the challenge of anchor pre- and postgame shows that this season have come after a loss more times than not.
“Last year felt like a party every single night because they were winning all the time,” Hartung said. “There was a stretch where we hadn’t done a losing postgame show in what seemed like forever. But we also remember they did lose 16 out of 17 games.
“That was really our first taste of that. This year is kind of an extension of that.”
Hartung’s approach is similar to that of Chris McGee for Spectrum SportsNet and their coverage of the Lakers. “You be positive,” Hartung added.
“You focus on the positive things because it is early in the season. You’re not going to go out there and be all doom and gloom and write the year off because it’s May. I realize there’s a long way to go. We just try to keep it all in perspective.”
Even though the 2018 season thus far has come with more losing than winning, it’s not impacted Hartung’s feeling and excitement in being part of the SportsNet LA family. “This has been beyond anything I could’ve expected,” he said.
“Baseball has always been my first love, so to be able to come here, work with such great people, like Nomar, Jerry, Orel, Ned Colletti and everybody behind the scenes as well, it’s been incredible. It’s been the best job I’ve ever had in my life. It doesn’t feel like work. It’s just great.”
As for matters on the field, some, including many players within the Dodgers clubhouse, have stressed how much of the season remains. They argue that because of that, there’s no need for much concern over the team being below .500.
“On the outside looking in, it’s weird how you go, ‘Let’s go.’ On the inside, you’re saying, ‘Let’s go,’ but you don’t really know your record,” Garciaparra said. “You just know you’re playing bad baseball.”
And although the idea of a World Series hangover lingering might more commonly be applied to a defending champion, Hairston believes there’s a greater impact on the team that fell short.
“There’s a lull after losing because you start thinking, ‘Man, we were so close to winning.’ You start dwelling on that and before you know it, it’s May 1,” he said. “I won a World Series in ’09 but I lost in 2011 with the Brewers. I think about that more than I did when we won.”
Justin Turner has been among those to admit the sting from losing Game 7 of the 2017 World Series will never fully subside. But if the Dodgers aren’t able to gain some traction in the coming weeks, the 2018 season may leave more of a bitter taste.