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For Dodgers' stoic Mark Ellis, it's a game of concentration

In the Dodgers' dizzying array of emotion through their success this season, Mark Ellis brings The Stare: solid, expressionless, powerful in its confident calm.

July 25, 2013|Bill Plaschke
  • Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis throws to first to put out Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion to end the sixth inning of L.A.'s 10-9 victory over Toronto on July 23.
Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis throws to first to put out Blue Jays'… (Jon Blacker/ Associated…)

As the sports world is learning with every jaw-dropping win, these suddenly delightful Dodgers are a team of many faces.

They include Yasiel Puig's giant look of wonder, Juan Uribe's impish grin, A.J. Ellis' grimace, Clayton Kershaw's scowl, and occasionally even Don Mattingly's smile.

Then there is The Stare. It's solid, expressionless, powerful in its confident calm, a constant in the Dodgers' dizzying array of emotion.

It's also apparently really cute when Mark Ellis' 6-year-old son, Briggs, imitates it while playing tee ball in the middle of his living room.

"Yeah, he taps the bat on the ground and then goes into that look,'' said Ellis with a laugh. "I'm thinking, you know, he's really got it down."

Dodgers fans know The Stare. They see it on Ellis from the moment he steps on to the field, as endemic to his appearance as the blue lettering across his chest. He stares at the hitter from the field, the pitcher from the plate, the game from the dugout, the giant season from his small spot.

"Oh, c'mon, sometimes I laugh at Puig and Uribe; the cameras just don't catch that,'' he said.

Guess not.

You could see The Stare in high definition Wednesday night in Toronto when Ellis calmly strolled to the plate in the 10th inning with no hits in his previous four at-bats to face a pitcher he had never seen.

Stare. Strike one. Stare. Strike two. Stare. Boom.

Ellis launched a rocket off Juan Perez into the Rogers Centre second deck for a two-run, tiebreaking home run, then quickly rounded the bases as if hurrying back to work after a long lunch break. His teammates surrounded him in giddiness, but The Stare remained for another half-inning until the Dodgers had finished off an improbable 8-3 victory.

"We still had work to do," Ellis said. "I have always been taught, this is only three hours of your life, and if you can't give it your full concentration for three hours, then maybe you should do something else."

Ellis, who is the oldest member of the regular lineup at age 36, did not start in Thursday's homecoming loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium because he was batting a career .091 against Reds starter Mat Latos.

Too bad, because the Dodgers are 37-23 when he starts, and that doesn't begin to measure his solid-as-South-Dakota impact on this year's team.

Oh yeah, he learned The Stare while growing up in Rapid City, S.D., a place where the good people wear their stoicism like overcoats, a place where he didn't play high school baseball because it was too cold for a high school baseball season.

"That's the way we are up there, we never get too high or low,'' Ellis said. "Like those NFL players and those touchdown dances? We're not too high on that.''

It is this attitude that helped Ellis endure an injury last season that nearly cost him his leg after he was hit by the St. Louis Cardinals' Tyler Greene while attempting to turn a double play. It is also an attitude that has helped him thrive this year in connecting when it counts.

Two bold stats: With a runner on third and fewer than two out, he is hitting .727 with 19 RBIs in 17 plate appearance. In tie games, he is .329 with three of his five home runs.

"This game takes all kinds, and Mark is one of those kinds," said Mattingly, the Dodgers' manager. "He's solid … bread and butter … nothing flashy, just gets it done."

While the hitting stars such as Puig and Hanley Ramirez get the headlines, it is the guys paddling furiously below who have fueled this Dodgers uprising, guys such as the Ellis duo, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr.

The Stare symbolizes those guys. The Stare is what makes you think this hot streak can endure.

Ellis eventually played Thursday, batting in the ninth inning, knocking a pinch single into right field against a zillion-mile-a-hour fastball from Aroldis Chapman. He was stranded on third base as the game ended, but at least he was there. He's pretty much always there.

"This is what we do, this is our job," Ellis said. "You just get it done."

Three hours, and one stare, at a time.

Twitter: @billplaschke

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