In the aftermath of the greatest moment I’ve experienced as a baseball fan – a rare moment of pure joy – there existed a subtle nagging, something not quite right. My beloved Los Angeles Dodgers had just won the ultimate crown. They captured that elusive World Series title… but Justin Turner wasn’t on the field.
We now know why, but the only thing that didn’t make the early morning hours of October 28, 2020, absolutely perfect (reminder, I’m in Canada) was the fact that the man who came to this team seven seasons ago as a utility player – and quickly evolved into its heart and soul – didn’t get to experience the ultimate high of celebrating on the field with his teammates.
At least not in the way he deserved.
It occurs to me sometime afterward that a celebration without him was so jarring to me because I had never known the Dodgers without Justin Turner. We both started with the Dodgers in the same season, Justin and I. Back in late 2013, unbeknownst to this lifelong fan of his at the time, then Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach had a conversation with the player who would come to be known as “JT” at a Cal State Fullerton alumni event which eventually led to his being invited to Dodgers Spring Training the following February.
And the rest, as they say, is good times.
As a lifelong baseball fan, I’m well aware that nothing in the sport is designed to ever stay the same – nothing gold can stay, as the saying goes. No MLB team has ever brought the same 40 men back year after year. That’s just the way the game works. But one of the reasons this World Series was so special – a sentiment echoed by many members of this very core – is that it was won by largely the same core who had had the 2017 crown stolen from them, who had managed to get back to the World Series and lose again in 2018, and had had their hearts ripped out of their chests in the 2019 NLDS… and so not keeping the leader of this band together with that very core as long as it exists just wouldn’t feel right.
It occurs to me as I watched a replay of Josh Beckett’s May 2014 no-hitter last weekend, a game in which JT hit only his second home run in a Dodgers uniform, batting low in the order, that so much can change in seven years.
Since that first season with the club, he has evolved into a clubhouse leader and in all likelihood would have been wearing a C on his jersey many years ago if baseball did such a thing. Over these seven years, he got married, started a charitable foundation, even had a day (January 22) named after him in Los Angeles.
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) January 22, 2021
And on the field, well, he was outstanding. After a few seasons, I argue that we as fans may have started taking him for granted as a player, but the numbers alone speak for themselves. And the playoffs are a story all on their own.
Some may never know what they have until it’s gone, but as fans, we know what we have in JT, and we don’t want to lose him.
It’s no secret that Clayton Kershaw has been and will always be “it” for me as a baseball fan, but I also recognize that the Dodgers as I know them simply wouldn’t be the Dodgers – and most certainly wouldn’t be World Champions – without Justin Turner. Moreover, I believe that he has earned the honour of finishing his playing career in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform.
So please don’t leave us just yet, Justin. It’s been a thrilling seven years of victories, defeats, ups, downs, exciting hellos and sad farewells, but you and I have both come a long way during this time, and our story is far from over. As the brilliant Neil Young once wrote, there are “trunks of memories still to come”…both on and off the field.
So come back, JT, please.
We’re not done just yet.