August 23, 2014

Sandy Koufax and Chan Ho Park: An Unlikely Pair

Not only was Sandy Koufax a legend on the field, but he’s quietly been an ongoing inspiration to the team’s younger pitchers for more years than I can remember, and this year is no exception (well, Sandy did take a few years off during the FOX ownership era, but all is now well with his relationship with the Club). Today, Josh Rawitch’s blog, Inside the Dodgers, notes his work with Scott Proctor and Chan Ho Park.

A really interesting note about Sandy’s continued influence with the Club and Park in particular comes from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com, which makes Josh’s blog entry all the more interesting (note that this was written the day before Josh’s comments). Here’s an excerpt from Gurnick’s post:

“One player disappointed to hear he missed Koufax was Chan Ho Park. Koufax was a surrogate mentor to Park through his friendship with then-pitching coach Dave Wallace when Park blazed the modern trail for Asian players to the Major Leagues.”

That’s a fascinating insight into both Sandy and Chan Ho. Park’s got a long way to go to make the team this year, but I wish him all the luck in the world. I remember seeing him years ago when, after getting sent down by the Dodgers, he was pitching for the Albuquerque Dukes and the team was in the Northwest to play the Tacoma Rainiers (the Mariners’ AAA Club). I remember that the guy had blazing speed, but with a real control problem. Still, I remember being very impressed and was shocked to see Park’s name when I looked him up in the program. He’s obviously a fighter, so I’m glad to see him back for another drink of water at Spring Training.

But I digress; back to Sandy. I am curious to see what happens next year at this time. According to Gurnick, the noted recluse splits time between Vero Beach and somewhere in the Caribbean. Will he still spend quality time with the Club in Glendale? I certainly hope so. The guy’s a living legend and I’m glad to see the younger (and older) pitchers giving him the respect he obviously deserves.

Lastly, for those of you interested in learning more about Koufax, I highly recommend Sandy Koufax, A Lefty’s Legacy by Jane Lear. The book was written back in 2002, but it’s a great story of the writer searching Sandy out and the friendship and trust that developed between the two, while also giving you a unique insight into one of the most interesting players of all time (both from a baseball perspective, but also from a human perspective). It’s a beautiful read, and a great way to get psyched about not only the current season, but about the Dodgers’ 50th Anniversary celebrations to come.