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The Dodgers get a great catch in A.J. Ellis

T.J. SIMERS

The catcher who spent the better parts of nine seasons in the minor leagues has been a surprise.

August 06, 2012|T.J. Simers

I have an apology to make to Dwyre and kudos for the Dodgers, but I've never done this sort of thing before.

I worry my computer will think it's not me writing and maybe crash.

Dwyre, of course, is Bill Dwyre, the former grand poobah of the Sports section who stepped down to write about things no one really cares about.

That brought me to A.J. Ellis. Dwyre wrote about him in spring training, apparently no jockeys available to interview, settling instead on a 30-year-old catcher who spent the better part of nine years in the minors.

Everyone else writes about Kemp, Kershaw and Ethier, but Dwyre picks Ellis. I figure Dwyre's an old man and just picked the guy closest to the door so he wouldn't have to walk far.

Or maybe he thought he was talking to Mark Ellis.

I ask A.J. whether he's ever been interviewed by a man older than Dwyre? There can't be many.

"Actually yes, there was an old beat man named Rex in Jacksonville who wrote for a community newsletter," Ellis said. "A nice old man, but I'd be shocked if he's still living."

Dwyre's not only going strong, but was spot on when writing about Ellis, although I referred to it as "slobber."

I thought Ellis was one more reason why the Dodgers were going to struggle.

Now I owe both an apology, so I begin with Ellis, who is hitting .285, like a real major leaguer.

"How do you explain this miracle?" I ask.

"Patience," Ellis says. "I had to understand who I was. For the longest time I kept trying to make myself better and better instead of just making sure I was the best I could be."

Dwyre saw something in him that apparently no one wearing a baseball uniform noticed. I'd like to think Dwyre has always had an eye for talent since he hired the Page 2 columnist at The Times, although he prefers to remain humble and not take credit.

Dwyre was sold on Ellis, maybe only Manager Don Mattingly in agreement.

"There is something to be said for someone who works as hard as A.J.," Mattingly says. "You can't give up on something like that."

Now I'm going heavy on the slobber as well, and I'd like to see the look on Dwyre's face when someone tells him we write similarly.

"I know who I am," continues Ellis, while thanking fans for their encouragement. "There are six or seven awesome National League catchers, but only one catcher is going to win the World Series."

I didn't hug him, although reading Dwyre I suspect he did. But Ellis is so contained, the rare athlete who doesn't lead with his ego. I thought we wouldn't be talking this season since I had no plans to go to Albuquerque.

But Ellis has not only made it, he belongs, his presence in the clubhouse as big as the 10 home runs he's hit this year. And I guess you'd have to say Dwyre is still on his game.

That's great news for the jockeys Dwyre will interview next.

BRAVO to Dodgers ownership for putting a claim on Cliff Lee and for letting our servicemen really hear it from the crowd.

The team is moving its pregame introduction of the "veteran of the game" to the third inning on most nights so more people will be in the stadium to pay their respects.

As for Lee, who won't be here as a Dodger, it doesn't matter if it was a smart baseball move or whether they had a legitimate chance of getting him.

Dodgers fans have been burned, their faith lost. To regain such loyalty, the Guggenheim guys are going to have to do things other owners might not consider.

The claim for Lee made a statement. It said ownership is intent on winning, and though there will be time later to criticize or praise the brain trust for baseball decisions made, this goes a long way in establishing credibility.

THE UMPIRES reversed a call Monday night, Colorado Manager Jim Tracy screaming and Vin Scully reading his lips.

"Blinking unbelievable," Scully said. "No way. No blinking way. No bloody way."

And they threw him out of the game for that?

THE O'MALLEY Group has bought the Padres, and in contrast to the Spanos Goofs' ownership interest in the Chargers, San Diego is going to just love a classyPeter O'Malley.

No idea if the O'Malley Group will be successful; O'Malley was not in his final years here, but if it brings him great joy it will be a nice reward for a man who deserves as much.

Phil Mickelson will be the O'Malley Group's Magic; the way he's been playing, he really can be at the park every day.

I'M AN advocate for arresting parents who allow their children to seriously pursue gymnastics.

Forget about all the hours of practice, often a childhood stolen. Fast forward to Sunday night, Bob Costas telling millions that 16 year-old McKayla Maroney was about as sure a bet to win a gold medal in the vault as there was in women's gymnastics.

Shouldn't it be called kids gymnastics?

Maroney failed to win, and how would you like everyone in the world to know that when it came time for the biggest moment in your life, already at age 16 — you blew it?

The only positive: NBC's showing events like this so late at night that most youngsters are asleep and therefore not inspired to take up gymnastics.

THE GUY who threw a plastic bottle onto the Olympic track before the fastest men ran stood before a local magistrate wearing a T-shirt that will undoubtedly also stand as his defense: "Veni, Vidi, Vino." Or, I came, I saw, I drank.

He's the father of two, and I'm guessing he was probably driven to drink because his kids aren't gymnasts.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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