I spent some time again this morning at the Dodgers’ workouts on the back fields of their Spring Training complex at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. Two of the more amusing moments for me both involved Dodger rookie Joc Pederson, who is playing left field in today’s game against the Cubs in Mesa but looks poised to win the starting center field job.
Although Pederson is quite young — he turns 23 next month — he strikes me as a true fan who is genuinely interested in the history of the game. He seems to really enjoy talking baseball, especially hitting, with Dodger hitting coach Mark McGwire, and McGwire seems very happy to have those conversations. But it made me laugh when Pederson, quite earnestly, said to McGwire: “Mark, I was looking at the stats, and you guys used to hit 40, 50 home runs every year. How did you hit so many home runs every year?” I expected McGwire to say he wasn’t there to talk about the past, but he was much smoother in his deflection. Pederson was born more than five years after McGwire’s MLB debut, and he was only six years old when McGwire and Sammy Sosa did their thing in 1998. But if Pederson was messing around, he has the best deadpan delivery I’ve seen in a while.
The other funny moment came in an exchange between Pederson and teammate Chris Heisey, who came over from the Reds in the offseason. Heisey was joking that he’s well on his way to catching up to McGwire in career homers. “I’m only 533 behind!” It was hard enough for Pederson to believe that Heisey has 50 career homers, but he absolutely refused to accept the idea that Heisey once hit three in one game! “You? YOU?!?” Heisey knew the date and everything — June 22, 2011, against the Yankees — but I don’t think Pederson’s mind was ever able to process the idea that Chris Heisey hit three dingers in a game. Oh how we love Spring Training.