Astros and Dodgers players have Oklahoma roots
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — While battening down the hatches on one of the big cameras at The Brick before a summer storm a few years back, Dave Sousa noticed a player walk out the tunnel and up the steps of the dugout.
George Springer, then one of the best young prospects in baseball, was checking the weather.
When it started to hail, he didn’t move.
“You know,” Sousa finally said, “I don’t think that’s smart for you to be up here getting hailed on if you’re the Astros’ next superstar.”
Springer looked at Sousa and chuckled, then retreated to clubhouse.
Sousa has been reminded lately of that moment and many moments like it. For a decade, he has operated one of the in-house cameras at the ballpark, most often manning the spot next to the home team’s dugout. That means he’s seen hundreds of up-and-coming players, first in the Rangers’ organization, then in the Astros’ and now in the Dodgers.′
When the World Series between the Astros and the Dodgers got under way on Oct. 24, nearly half of the players on the active rosters have spent time playing in Oklahoma City, The Oklahoman reported.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Sousa marveled. “How many cities can say . that you got the opportunity to see all these great young stars before they go to the biggest platform in baseball?”
Oklahoma City can because of a nearly unheard-of confluence of events.
The Astros only had their Triple-A team here for four years, but those turned out to be very formative seasons for a franchise rebuilding from the ground up. Five of their current players, including Game 1 starter Dallas Keuchel and All-Star lead-off man Springer, spent time in Oklahoma City.
Then, when the Astros left town after the 2014 season, the Dodgers moved in. Their top farm club has become a continual pipeline of talent to the big-league team in Los Angeles, which has 14 players on the World Series roster who spent time in Oklahoma City.
Some were here as little as a game, while some spent the better part of two seasons.
Either way, with the Astros and the Dodgers squaring off, this World Series was made in Oklahoma City.
“It’s just an incredible number of folks who have come through here who are going to get their first opportunity to go play in the World Series,” Sousa said.
“I think that’s phenomenal.”
Sousa is a lifelong baseball fan, having grown up in Boston during the time of Ted Williams and some of those great Red Sox teams. When Sousa and his wife, Jolanta, first moved to Oklahoma in the late ’90s, they became RedHawks fans, enjoying the new ballpark and relishing the young talent that came to town.
Then in 2008, after retiring from the military, Dave went to work as one of the camera operators at The Brick. He’s worked all the cameras except for the one that roves around the ballpark, but he most often mans the camera on the third-base line right next to the home dugout.
He prefers that spot for several reasons. In 2010, he and Jolanta bought season tickets right behind the home dugout, so operating the camera there gives Sousa a chance to be near family or whoever has their tickets on any given night. Often, it’s another military family.
But Sousa also likes the spot next to the home dugout because it gives him the chance to talk to the players. See them interact. Watch them evolve.
Sousa acknowledges that seeing someone like Clayton Kershaw pitch earlier this year while on a rehab assignment was amazing. The crowd was huge, the atmosphere was electric, and Kershaw was as dominant that night as he’s been throughout the playoffs.
Seeing Yasiel Puig come through last summer was special, too. Even though he was working through a hitting slump, the animated slugger still enjoyed himself. During one game, he playfully tossed sunflower seeds at Sousa’s granddaughter as she sat behind the dugout.
“It’s so fun to have guys like that who will interact with fans,” Sousa said, “but then are really good at what they do.”
Superstars are great, but every bit as special to Sousa are the players who have come through town as works in progress. He relishes the fact that Austin Barnes, who spent the better part of two seasons in OKC, has been the Dodgers’ starting catcher in eight postseason games, including all of the NLCS games.
Sousa is tickled, too, that Charlie Culberson is in the playoffs. The infielder played 108 games in Oklahoma City this summer and wasn’t really expected to be on the Dodgers’ postseason roster.
“Knowing how nice a guy he was when he was here in Oklahoma” makes seeing Culberson in the World Series even cooler for Sousa.
He has loved watching the Dodgers and the Astros in the playoffs. He knew Houston was going to be good this year, picking them to win it all before the season began, and he has marveled at the way Los Angeles has put the pedal to the metal after a swoon late in the regular season.
But now that the two teams with so many Oklahoma City ties have both made it to the World Series, Sousa admits he’s torn about who to cheer.
“I really like both organizations,” he said. “I hope they make it a seven-game series.”
Whatever they make it remains to be seen — but where the groundwork was done is not in doubt.
This World Series was made in Oklahoma City.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com