By Vincent Bonsignore
By most accounts Friday was just another day in spring training, and with the Dodgers stay in Arizona winding down next week the general feeling is guys can’t wait to pack their bags and head home.
Which made Magic Johnson’s appearance at Camelback Ranch so timely, the jolt of energy the Dodgers minority owner provided immediately evident the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse and made his way from locker to locker visiting with each player.
“He just brings life and energy to the clubhouse,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said.”He cares about how we do, and he had a lot of success in his career and he’s just trying to pass some of that information onto us. It was cool.”
Afterward Johnson conducted a Q&A with players during a team meeting that touched on everything from leadership to expectations to increased focus playing on the road.
“We got to ask a lot of questions, it was good,” Kershaw said.
The sessions was as informative for Johnson as the players, he said, and he came away confident a team leader will emerge this year from a group of six or seven candidates – including A.J. and Mark Ellis.
“I call them the Ellis brothers – and I just talked to them too about this same thing. The intensity they bring every night, they’re leaders,” Johnson said “That becomes infectious to the other guys.”
He left an impression on A.J. Ellis.
“Those are conversations that last a lifetime.” Ellis said.
Johnson also believes leadership comes in different forms, and that a low-key player like Adrian Gonzalez can lead just as effectively as a vocal player like Matt Kemp.
“Adrian can lead as a quiet guy; we don’t want anyone to change. Be who you are,” Johnson said. “We want Matt to bet that rah-rah guy, we need guys who will pick people up. Everybody has a role.”
Kemp, incidentally, challenged Johnson to a one-on-one basketball game. Magic promised him a game after the Dodgers win the World Series.
“Whenever that happens, he can have a piece of me,” Magic said.