The impact the Los Angeles Dodgers organization has had on the local community over the years is immeasurable, and perhaps no one epitomizes that more than Steve Garvey.
The former 10-time All-Star and 1981 World Series Champion with the Dodgers has dedicated much of his post-playing career to giving back, contributing to a number of charities as well as doing motivational speaking and regularly conversing with fans at Dodger Stadium.
Garvey recently found yet another way to impact the Southern California community as his Garvey 6.0 Foundation has partnered with Lifeletics Baseball Academy to create a Dodgers youth travel baseball program, “So-Cal” Dodgers.
As a parent and grandparent, Garvey is very familiar with the various youth baseball programs that are available. He believes it is important for kids to have the proper values instilled in them at a young age if they want to have a future in baseball, which is why he decided to create this program.
“I’ve had good friends that have been in this much longer than I have; Cal Ripken and Nomar Garciaparra, but I always just want to give back,” Garvey told DodgerBlue.com.
“Baseball has been a blessing for me and it’s kind of a hotbed of youth baseball here. So all of our teams are going to be Dodgers and we’re going to carry the banner and it’s going to be important for us.
“As I told the parents, we are going to coach baseball, teach life skills and we want these young men to grow up as gentlemen and be respectful and honorable and be sportsmen of the game. You want to help them get to the next level, whatever that is, but more importantly, teach them the value of competitive sports and being a good teammate.”
The program will be getting underway this fall after more than 100 kids recently tried out to form four teams of 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds. It will be run by Ruben Corral, who is the owner of the Lifeletics Baseball Facility in Huntington Beach.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years now and had a couple friends that I give lessons to, kids that were tied in with Steve on business,” Corral said.
“Steve told them to get your kids a little extra pump, that next-level training in order to be more competitive in high school and beyond and you guys need to get a travel ball team together with some professional coaching.
“Both of the dads said that they know just the guy and came over to me and said that Steve Garvey wants to start a Dodgers organization here in Huntington Beach, and I’m like ‘how do I turn that down?'”
Corral grew up as a Dodgers fan in the Los Angeles area, but ended up playing professionally for the Toronto Blue Jays. Getting a chance to run the program and continue teaching the sport of baseball to young children is bringing his career full-circle.
“It’s really kind of a dream come true. I get to wear the blue again and the whole thing, it’s awesome,” Corral said. “It’s almost a full circle because I played for the Dodgers scout ball team back in the day in Los Angeles when I was in high school.
“So I got to wear Darryl Strawberry’s pants and Ramon Martinez’s jersey and be on the field with all of the Dodgers scouts and stuff. Now I’m back.”
Corral will be running the program with the help of many other qualified coaches, one of which is Ryan Garvey, Steve’s son who recently played professionally in the Colorado Rockies organization.
Travel baseball can be grueling, so the tentative plan is for all of the players to go through at least two days of training per week with Corral at the Lifeletics facility in addition to two on-field practices per week and then eventually, around three tournaments per month.
Garvey said that the goal is to lay a good foundation of the fundamentals of the game, which was always the “Dodger Way.”
“We’re going to allow them to compete for positions, everything is earned. Attitude is important. Of course, execution is important. We believe in the family element of our 6.0 baseball,” he added.
“We asked the parents to sign an agreement of what we expect from them and what they should expect of us. It’s always important to sign your name on something as a commitment. We want them to honor the game and respect it. Most of all, we want these young players to really develop as young men and hopefully young ladies as well if they’re interested.”
Additionally, Garvey and his foundation plan to award scholarships to players that are worthy of being in the program but may not be able to afford it.
“Ultimately we’re going to make this a journey, it’s not going to be a sprint. It will be a marathon. But we hope to lay a great foundation for a program that will be admired throughout the southland and around the country for many years to come,” he explained.
In addition to Garvey, fellow Dodgers legend, Mickey Hatcher, also got involved with the program by heading out to a recent practice to speak to the players. His message was a simple, but important, one for the kids as they get set to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“You don’t quit. You don’t quit on your team, you don’t quit on your teammates,” Hatcher said.
“Every day is not going to be a good day for you, Steve and myself will tell you. I have dropped balls and lost a game, I’ve struck out when runners were in scoring position. You learn from it and put it behind you so you can become a better ballplayer and person.”
For parents and kids that are serious about their future in baseball and want to learn more about the “So-Cal” Dodgers, visit the www.SOCALDODGERS.com for additional details.