When the Brooklyn Dodgers left Ebbets Field for Los Angeles 60 years ago, many of their fans stopped cheering for them and were pleased when in 1962 the Mets gave them another New York team besides the hated Yankees.
Nowadays, there are only scattered Dodgers fans left in the Northeast, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies to follow. In the Oneonta area, however, there is a new reason to root for the ol’ Dodger blue.
Cody Bellinger, the son of Clay Bellinger, the former Oneonta High School standout and holder of two New York Yankees World Series rings, has been torturing opposing pitchers since the Dodgers called him up from the minors a month ago.
Going into Sunday’s game against Miami, Cody had hit nine home runs, had 24 runs batted in and boasted a .300 batting average. He set a team record for hitting the nine homers in the fewest number of games (24).
I have been a diehard Dodgers fan since I was a kid watching Brooklyn’s Class A NY-P team in Hornell, so I was aware that Cody was one the top prospects coming up through the Dodgers’ system. And, of course, I also knew about his father’s local roots. Clay’s mother, Penny, still lives in Oneonta.
Penny said it was just amazing how phenomenal Cody was doing and she couldn’t be more proud of him.
“Clay has been quite an influence,” she said, in more ways than one. “Even the way Cody cocks his head when he bats, it’s just like Clay. And they both just love the game so much.”
She said she hoped to get to New York to see Cody when the Dodgers play the Mets, while other relations were planning a trip to Cleveland when LA is there for a series.
Cody, 21, was called up April 25 because of injuries to center fielder Joc Pederson and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Wearing No. 35 (his Dad’s number with the Yankees), his stay in the majors was expected to be brief, but Cody’s hot hitting, good fielding and strong arm have pretty much forced the Dodgers to keep him in the lineup.
Clay and his wife, Jennifer, settled in Arizona. Clay became a firefighter and now works in real estate. He coached Cody’s Little League team that made it to the World Series semi-finals in 2007. But Cody was a late bloomer, not making his high school varsity squad until he was a junior.
In fact, entering the baseball draft in 2013, Dodger scouts were not overly excited about Cody’s future, so the team didn’t pick him until the fourth round, the 124th player overall.
According to Los Angeles Times writer Andy McCullough, the Dodgers “did not project Bellinger to transform into a power hitter. But the organization felt entranced by his smoothness at first base and his athleticism. The team offered him a $700,000 signing bonus.”
And Cody kept growing, both in skill and size. He stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds. Now he is definitely a proven power hitter. Mom and Dad were in the stands when Cody made his Dodgers debut and also a week later when the lefty hit not only his first homer but also his second in the same game.
A week later, on May 8, Cody was named National League Player of the Week.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, McCullough wrote, “identified the formula that makes Bellinger unique. He combines elite talent with uncommon knowledge handed down by his father. Clay Bellinger scrapped for a decade in the minor leagues before the New York Yankees called him up as a utility man in 1999. He clung to the roster for three seasons. In Roberts’ eyes, Clay transferred that gritty ethos to his son.”
Tim Brown, of Yahoo Sports, wrote last week that two Dodgers coaches have come to the same conclusion about Cody: “the skills always looked good, that the ego always looked small, and that his game seems to have taken an even deeper breath in the big leagues. The place suits him. Beyond that, it is an admirable strategy to keep one’s head down and one’s words spare.”
And Cody does have a great attitude.
“Yeah, it’s kind of how I was raised, I guess,” he told Brown. “I just try to respect the game and respect people as much as I can, knowing if I do that, then I’ll get some back, even when I am young. You see young guys come up and you don’t get the same respect, just because they’re kind of an idiot. But, for me, show respect to the guys who deserve it, like everyone up here, and hope I get some back, get some respect as a young guy.”
Here in the East, we don’t often get a chance to see the Dodgers play on television. But ESPN is scheduled to televise the Dodgers at 10 tonight against the Cardinals. Might be a good chance to see Cody Bellinger in action.
Cary Brunswick, of Oneonta, is a freelance writer and editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.