GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even from a distance, the rangy old man in gray uniform pants and a blue hoodie clearly is no ordinary coach. Players pay uncommonly close attention to his advice, and fans crane their necks as he moves easily around the Los Angeles Dodgers’ spring training complex.
Up close, it’s unmistakably Sandy Koufax, maybe the greatest left-hander ever to step on a mound.
On another sparkling day in Arizona, the 77-year-old Hall of Famer is in his element — teaching, joking around and relishing baseball’s camaraderie during another spring in the sunshine.
“I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed it,” Koufax said. “I like talking pitching. It may be the only thing I’ve ever known, or been good at.”
Koufax hadn’t worn a major league uniform for more than two decades until the Dodgers got him back in blue this spring as a special adviser to owner Mark Walter. After years of arm’s-length relationships with the Dodgers’ various owners and a few springs working with the Mets, Koufax has accepted the embrace of the big-money ownership group that’s eager to restore the beloved franchise’s connection with its past while moving into a promising future.
“If everybody stays healthy and everybody lives up to their expectations here, this is a great ballclub,” Koufax said. “There’s a lot of talented people in this camp. The best money can buy.”
Koufax works with Dodgers pitchers and their regular coaches in the mornings, making small adjustments and suggestions — a change in arm angle out of the windup, or maybe a different foot placement on the rubber out of the stretch.
“There’s no one way to do this,” Koufax said. “There’s just so many ways to pitch to get people out. There’s the best way to throw, and then there’s another way. That’s pitching. Sometimes people get people out because they don’t do everything right. Ball movement is still the most important thing.”