SPORTS DIGEST: All-Star Game back in Los Angeles after 42 years

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By Don Wanlass

Contributing Writer

Dodger Stadium is 60 years old this year.

In that time, it has become one of the crown jewels of baseball stadiums. Year in and year out, more people attend games at Dodger Stadium than any other ballpark in the country.

But in 60 years, Dodger Stadium has played host to exactly one All-Star Game and that was 42 years ago. Heck, the Angels have hosted the All-Star Game three times.

The Dodgers hosted one of two All-Star Games held in 1959 when they played at the Coliseum.

God knows Los Angeles is an all-star city. It has championship teams in multiple leagues, has all the glitzy trappings of Hollywood right next door and plenty of places to host all the activities that go along with an All-Star Game.

So, 42 years after hosting its last All-Star Game, the city of Angels gets another chance.

The 2022 All-Star Game will be played July 19 at Dodger Stadium with the Home Run Derby contest taking place July 18. But there are other activities being held in conjunction with the game.

The Los Angeles Convention Center will host a four-day event July 16-19 that will offer baseball fans a chance to meet former and current players, test their arms against a speed gun and other baseball-related displays and activities.

A similar event will be held at the Santa Monica Pier July 16 and 17.

On July 17, Dodger Stadium will host the Futures Game, which features the top minor league players. That will be followed by the All Star Celebrity Softball Game.

Fans can buy tickets to watch the players work out July 18 before the Home Run Derby starts at 5 p.m. and then the All-Star Game itself is the featured attraction at 4:30 p.m. July 19.

The Dodgers have four players on the National League All-Star team. Shortstop Trea Turner and outfielder Mookie Betts were both voted onto the starting lineups by the fans and pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin were named to the team July 10.

There has been much debate as to who should be the National League’s starting pitcher: Gonsolin, the surprise of the 2022 season with his 11-0 record and 1.62 earned run average or Kershaw, a career achievement reward for a nine-time all-star who has never started the game before.

The sentimental choice would be Kershaw, who, despite missing a month due to back problems is 6-2 this year in 11 starts with a 2.40 ERA. Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker gets to make the final decision, which may not be announced until July 18.

Some fans are clamoring for Kershaw to face the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in a matchup of Southern California all stars. Ohtani was named to the American League All-Star team as both the starting designated hitter and a pitcher.

Babe Ruth was never a two-way all-star. Of course, the first All-Star Game wasn’t held until 1933, two years before Ruth retired and long after his pitching career ended.

Angels Outfielder Mike Trout also was elected to the starting lineup.

Hopefully, Los Angeles will put on its best face for Major League Baseball and the city won’t have to go 42 years before another All-Star Game is held here.

HALFWAY POINT: The Dodgers and Angels both reached the halfway point in their seasons last week.

Two months ago, the Angels were one of the surprises in all of baseball. On May 16, the Angels were tied for first place in the American League West with a 24-14.

Unfortunately, the last two months have not been kind and the Angels now find themselves in fourth place in the American League West with a 38-50 record.

Along the way, the Angels fired their manager (Joe Maddon), saw his replacement (Phil Nevin) get suspended for 10 games after a beanball war with the Seattle Mariners led to a vicious fight and have watched the Angels slide from the pennant race into another season of mediocrity.

The Angels have two of the best players in the game — Trout and Ohtani — surrounded by a bunch of journeyman players. It is no surprise that they are where they are.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, have the best record in the National League (the third best record in baseball overall) and lead the San Diego Padres by 7-1/2 games. They have done it despite a wave of injuries that would have stymied most other teams.

But team President Andrew Friedman prides himself in the Dodgers’ organizational depth and the Dodgers always find a way to plug somebody in to fill a hole that needs filling.

In March, Friedman signed Tyler Anderson, a journeyman pitcher with a 29-28 career record in six seasons, hoping he could provide depth in either the starting rotation or the bullpen.

After pitching in the bullpen his first two games, Anderson was thrust into the starting rotation when Andrew Heaney went on the injured list with a shoulder injury after only two starts in April.

All Anderson has done is go 9-1 with a 3.15 ERA. Somehow, that wasn’t good enough to get him named to the All-Star team.

Then there is Evan Phillips. Phillips first reached the Major Leagues with the Atlanta Braves in 2018. Later that season he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles.

Last August, the Orioles released him. Two days later he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, but they released him less than two weeks later.

The Dodgers claimed him off waivers last Aug. 16. Since then he has pitched in 41 games, given up 10 earned runs, struck out 48 batters and yielded 28 hits in 40-1/3 innings and become a valuable piece in the Dodgers bullpen.

More recently, Friedman brought Trayce Thompson back to the team.

Thompson, the son of former Laker Mychal Thompson and the brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson, hit 13 home runs in 80 games for the Dodgers in 2016, before a back injury sidelined him.

The Dodgers released him at the end of spring training in 2018 and he bounced around to the New York Yankees, Oakland, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Arizona, Chicago Cubs, San Diego and Detroit, before Friedman bought him from Detroit June 20.

Since rejoining the Dodgers, he has hit .279 with 2 home runs and 9 runs batted in, replacing Chris Taylor, out with a broken foot, in the outfield.

It’s why the Dodgers have won 18 more games than the Angels. They have someone ready to plug in when one of their players goes down.

The Angels will face the second half of the season for the second year in a row without third baseman Anthony Rendon, their third best player behind Trout and Ohtani.

They recently signed Jonathan Villar, a 31-year-old journeyman with a .255 career batting average, to take Rendon’s place in the lineup. The Angels would be wise to follow the Dodgers’ example in building organizational depth.

It’s the only way to survive the injuries that are sure to come along in a 162-game season.

RIVALRY GAME: It’s always a battle when the Los Angeles Football Club and the Los Angeles Galaxy meet, but until July 8 that rivalry had been sort of one-sided recently.

LAFC changed that with a 3-2 win at Banc of California Stadium, snapping a four-game winless streak against their biggest rival.

Jose Cifuentes scored the first two goals of the game for LAFC and Carlos Vela set up Cristian Arango for the deciding goal in the 72nd minute. LAFC withstood a late Galaxy goal to hold on for the win.

LAFC is second in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer with a 12-4-3 record and 39 points.

The Galaxy are in fifth place with an 8-7-3 record and 26 points.

LAFC next plays Nashville July 17, a game that will be shown on KCOP at 5:30 p.m.

The Galaxy face Colorado July 16 at Dignity Health Sports Center at 6 p.m.

BACK HOME: Andy Stankiewicz was born in Inglewood and grew up in Cerritos.

He was a two-sports high school star at St. Paul High in Santa Fe Springs and played college baseball at Pepperdine before embarking on a professional baseball career that saw him play for four teams over seven seasons.

On July 3, he was named the new baseball coach at USC.

Stankiewicz has spent the last 11 years at Grand Canyon — former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon went to Grand Canyon — in the Phoenix area. In those 11 years, he won five Western Athletic Conference championships, including four of the last six seasons.

He was hired at USC to restore the baseball program to its past glory. The Trojans have won 12 NCAA baseball titles, but none since 1998.

Stankiewicz replaces Jason Gill, who posted a record of 60-59 over the last three seasons.

“I am thrilled to be the next head coach of the most prestigious baseball program in the country, the University of Southern California,” Stankiewicz said in a statement released by USC announcing his hiring. “I want to thank Mike Bohn and (sport administrator) Lindsay Jaffe for entrusting me with the development of our young men to be champions on and off the field.

“Our program will be one that represents the Trojan Family well and makes our alumni proud.”

“We are excited to welcome Andy Stankiewicz to the Trojan Family as our new baseball head coach,” Bohn said in announcing the hiring. “Andy has a proven record of success in building a winning program. Playing seven seasons in the MLB, he understands what it takes to compete at the highest level. Andy’s leadership, relationship-building abilities, and player development make him a terrific fit to lead our program.

“Furthermore, his integrity and commitment to student-athletes align perfectly with our vision and guiding principles. He arrives at USC strongly recommended and respected by members of the baseball community, and we have the utmost confidence that he will elevate our baseball program back to national prominence,” Bohn added.

Stankiewicz was an under-sized wide receiver who helped lead St. Paul to the 1981 CIF football championship. His father, known as Al Stankie, was a one-time professional boxer who became a Los Angeles police officer.

He later became the manager and trainer of Paul Gonzalez, who won the Gold Medal in the flyweight division at the 1984 Olympic Games here in Los Angeles.

Stankiewicz has a tough job restoring USC baseball to the prominence it once had. Scholarship limitations and the high cost of tuition make it harder for USC to recruit the top players who once gravitated to the school.

He managed to win at Grand Canyon, playing in the shadow of Arizona State, another one of the top all-time collegiate baseball programs. USC is expected to get a new baseball facility in the next few years.

It will be interesting to see if Stankiewicz is still leading the program when that happens.

 

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