I expect that it was back in 1984, as my son Jamie was only eight years old at the time. My family and I were planning a long trip to visit my parents in Lecanto, Florida during the March Break from school. I am a retired school teacher but was still working at the time. I say a long trip because we lived and still live in Nova Scotia, Canada.
As a longtime Dodger fan, it was no coincidence that I knew the Dodgers would be in Vero Beach for spring training during our trip. I also knew that Vero Beach was a relatively short distance (about a three-hour drive) from my parents summer home in Lecanto, so the wheels were already in motion long before we left our home in Nova Scotia on this trip.
A few days before our trip I decided to try something a little crazy; I decided to call Dodgertown hoping against hope that I might be able to speak with Tommy Lasorda on the phone. You can imagine my surprise when the operator put me through to his room and the next thing you know, Tommy Lasorda and I are having a phone conversation as if we were old friends.
After arriving in Tampa and then onto Lecanto, my Dad, Jamie and I decided to take a day trip to Vero Beach to check out spring training – Okay, I admit it, this was my plan all along. My Mom, my wife Elaine and my daughter Elanya didn’t want to come with us, so it was a “guys only” trip.
When we arrived at Dodgertown, we made our way over to Holman Stadium for the day’s game. While waiting for the game to start, Jamie and I wandered over behind the Dodger bench so he could take some pictures. I figured we were in a restricted area, probably reserved for player’s families. I looked back and saw an usher coming towards us, expecting to vacant the area very soon. As I turned back towards the field Tommy had finished his interview and was looking up into the stands. I said, “Tommy, I phoned you from Nova Scotia the other night.”
You can imagine my surprise when Tommy climbed over the rail and came to us, about eight rows up. He grabbed my hand and said enthusiastically, “I’m so glad you made it.” I asked if Jamie could take our picture. He replied “Yes, but wait a minute.” He went back down, sent Steve Sax to get a ball, and came back up to pose for the picture with both of our hands touching the ball. Unfortunately Jamie didn’t get that part in the photo but otherwise did a great job. Tommy waited patiently for an obviously nervous Jamie to take the picture, telling him “Take your time young man. You’re doing great.”
After taking the photo, Tommy dropped the ball into my hand. It took a while for me to figure out that he was giving me the ball. I finally said, “Would you sign the ball for me, please?” To this he said “I thought you would never ask.” He asked me what my name was and when I told him, he wrote: “To Harold – You and the Dodgers are both great. Tom Lasorda” on the ball. He shook my hand again and then Jamie’s, and then he thanked us. Can you imagine that? Tommy Lasorda thanked us. He then made his way back down to the field in preparation for the game.
So thankful and grateful was I that when we returned home to Nova Scotia, I sent Tommy a thank you letter addressed to Dodger Stadium. Included with the letter was a photograph of Jamie asleep in the back seat of the car still wearing his Dodger hat.
For a few brief moments Tommy Lasorda made us the most important people in his life.