Dodgers utility infielder Nick Punto may be quick to first base with his trademark (and insanely risky) head-first slides, but even the speedy veteran infielder couldn’t outrun heavy holiday traffic on Saturday morning getting to one of Southern California’s busiest shopping malls, the Westfield Valencia Town Center Mall in Santa Clarita, California.
Punto, a 35-year-old native of San Diego, was warmly welcomed by the crowd of over 200 to the familiar chant “Let’s-Go-Dod-gers!” and wasted no time getting to work greeting Dodger fans and signing autographs on everything including baseballs, photographs, T-shirts, bats, baseball cards, jerseys, hats and even a beautiful (and huge) painting of Dodger Stadium.
Former Dodger pitcher Tim Leary arrived for the second shift to relieve Punto at Saturday’s meet and greet. Leary is best remembered for relieving another famous Dodger – starting pitcher Tim Belcher in game-1 of the 1988 World Series after Belcher gave up a second inning grand slam to Oakland slugger Jose Canseco. Leary pitched 3 scoreless innings holding the score at 4-2 in the game that was eventually won on Kirk Gibson’s historic walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th, thus setting the stage for the last World Championship enjoyed by the Dodgers in 24 (very long) years.
Even though Punto and Leary may not be the biggest names among current and former Dodgers, they have one very big thing in common – they both have World Series rings; Leary with the 1988 Dodgers and Punto with the incredible 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. Ironically, they each played in a World Series game that are considered by many to be the two greatest World Series games of all time – Leary in the Gibson home run game in 1988 against the Oakland Athletics and Punto in game-6 of the 2011 World Series in which the Cardinals were one strike away from losing the series to the Texas Rangers – twice.
When all was said and done, everyone left happy – especially the many kids in attendance who enjoyed carnival games and arts and crafts activities.
The final stop on the Dodgers 2013 Holiday Tour will be next Saturday, December 22 at the Del Amo Fashion Center located at 3525 W. Carson Street in Torrance.
(Photo credit – Ron Cervenka)
December 16, 2012 at 4:55 PM – Scott Andes from Lasorda’s Lair was also at the Punto/Leary event at the Westfield Valencia Town Center Mall this past Saturday. Check out his great post.