With 90’s nostalgia in what seems to be an all-time high, the Los Angeles Dodgers are yet another entity that appears to be turning back the clock.
No, I am not talking about throwback uniforms, even though the Dodgers have added a throwback jersey as an alternate in recent years. I am referring to the recent influx of the Dodgers young, homegrown talent. The emergence of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, among others, has led to Dodgers fans eager to see what this young crop of talent can achieve at the Major-League level.
The Dodgers have always been known as an organization with a top-notch development system. They started the trend of teams opening development camps internationally with the hopes of developing prospects. This all began March 21, 1987, with the opening of their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, Campo Las Palmas.
“Campo Las Palmas has set the standard for what a baseball academy should be and we’re extremely proud of the work done here, not only on the field, but in the community, as well,” then Dodgers owner Frank McCourt told dodgers.com, in March of 2006.
The academy was then celebrating its 20th anniversary and the dodgers had just announced a $20,000 donation to a school the team had adopted. Eleodoro Arias joined the Dodgers’ staff in 1985 and under his tutelage at Campo Las Palmas, the Dodger’s witnessed the emergence of Adrian Beltre, Pedro Martinez, Raul Mondesi, among others.
“Eleodoro Arias and his staff should take great pride in the accomplishments of the academy over the past two decades,” McCourt would go on to say in that 2006 article.
However, during his tenure as owner, McCourt’s Dodgers were not known to keep highly touted prospects. Instead, the front office would often use them as trade chips to try and bolster the club heading into the final stretches of the regular season. This was just a blip in time. The Dodgers throughout their history have always prided themselves in developing and nurturing their own homegrown talent, none more so than during the 1980’s and 1990’s, when Dodgers were awarded to rookie honor in four and five consecutive seasons, respectively.
For five consecutive seasons in the 1990’s, Dodgers were named National League Rookies of the Year. This would all get started in 1992 with first baseman Eric Karros. Dodger historian Mark Langill chronicled Karros’ emergence, who like Bellinger had to beat out incumbents to win the first base position. Karros would jump start a stretch where the Dodgers would call up the best prospect for the next five season. Mike Piazza would follow Karros in 1993. Piazza went on to have one of the greatest rookie seasons in baseball history, hitting 35 home runs which ended up being the most by any rookie catcher. However, Piazza was not a heavily touted player coming out of Miami-Dade North Community College. In fact, it is widely speculated that Tommy Lasorda only drafted Piazza as a favor to Piazza’s father, who was a close friend of Tommy’s.
“I got a Mail-gram from the Dodgers,” Piazza told the Los Angeles Times’ Maryann Hudson in May 1993.
“They didn’t even call me. It was more or less their way of saying good luck,” he said.
Tommy Lasorda, however, always believed in Piazza’s work ethic.
“Mike Piazza is one of the great success stories in this country. Here’s a guy that nobody wanted. That young man had to go through quite a lot. People told me that I was wasting my time,” Lasorda said in a Los Angeles Times article from 1994.
“But I know my business! He’s no fluke. He’s got the best batting mechanics around. I begged our people to draft him. Nobody wanted this guy,” he added.
Piazza would then be followed by Raul Mondesi in 1994, Hideo Nomo in 1995, and finally Todd Hollandsworth in 1996.
However, since then the Dodgers have been rather quiet in terms of Rookie of the Year awards. Of course, that was before Corey Seager emerged on the scene last year. Now with the recent success of rookie Cody Bellinger, fans are optimistic that a World Series trophy might soon be coming home to Los Angeles.
[Featured Image by David Zalubowski/AP Images]