Some players just make an impact on a city and franchise. You can’t describe it, but just be thankful for them.
For the Dodgers, one of those players is Fernando Valenzuela. Valenzuela is one of the most historic Dodgers in franchise history and deserves all the praise being thrown at him this weekend.
The team is finally retiring his jersey number, a decision that was made despite a policy in place where the team doesn’t retire numbers of players who aren’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, an exception was made for Valenzuela.
The legendary pitcher was surprised that LA made the exception and gave his thoughts on it all.
“What do you want me to say? Of course I was surprised,” Valenzuela recently told ESPN.com with a laugh. “I never expected this to happen. You’ve got to be in Cooperstown. … It was a surprise.
Dodger fans have been calling for Valenzuela to get his famous No. 34 retired for some time now, but only this offseason was it given any thought. Dodgers President Stan Kasten said that the team reviewed the policy after a citywide call from the fans.
“What he accomplished during his playing career, not only on the field but in the community, is extraordinary,” Kasten said at the team’s FanFest. “He truly lit up the imaginations of baseball fans everywhere. It’s hard to envision a player having a greater impact on a fan base than the one Fernando has had.”
His impact on the Dodgers can’t be overstated. He is one of the most influential and celebrated players in Dodgers history.
Valenzuela was a member of two World Series-winning teams and he won the 1981 National League Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards.
He helped take the city of Los Angeles by storm, as he was loved by the fanbase. His connection to the large Mexican population in Los Angeles was special, and he helped give more representation to them.
“Fernandomania” was born from his excellence, and his number retirement is well deserved.
Dodgers Hall of Fame Spanish language broadcaster Jamie Jarrin spoke about Valenzuela as well.
“With my respects to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Willie Mays, all of the major leaguers, Fernando is the one that created more new baseball followers,” Jarrin said. “People from Mexico, from Central America, from South America, they didn’t care at all about baseball, but they fell in love with the game. It was unbelievable.”
He will forever be a legend in both the Dodgers and baseball world. His jersey number retirement this weekend is just a culmination of all his accomplishments.
Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
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