Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers - especially the left-handers - are about to get the instruction of a lifetime.
Hall of Fame lefty Sandy Koufax will make an appearance at the Dodgers' spring training this week as a guest instructor.
Koufax has made few public appearances since his retirement in 1966, but the instructor role will cap a very public week for him. On Sunday, he was the headline guest at a fundraiser in Los Angeles for manager Joe Torre's personal charity.
Dodgers left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw also attended Torre's fundraiser, appearing onstage with Koufax. Kershaw and Koufax were then locked in conversation on the flight to Arizona late Sunday night.
"You feel really comfortable when you're with him," Kershaw said. "Some of the Hall of Fame players I've met - not that they aren't approachable - but you're in awe of them. He makes it really easy for you to talk to him. It's like he's another coach."
Torre has often made comparisons between Koufax and Kershaw, stopping himself on occasion when realizing it might put undue pressure his 21-year-old pitcher.
"Going back on the plane (Sunday) night, it did my heart some good because those two guys just talked the whole way back," Torre said.
Kershaw declined to be specific about what he discussed with Koufax, but it seemed to already have made an impact.
"It was pretty awesome," said Kershaw, who has had bouts of control problems in the early part of his career much like Koufax did. "To sit there and talk to him for an hour was unbelievable. I learned more on that plane trip than I have in a long time."
Kershaw wont make his spring debut until March 7, long after Koufax is expected to leave camp to return to his Florida home. The Dodgers' spring training opener is Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
Spring training visits aren't exactly uncommon for Koufax. When the Dodgers trained at Vero Beach, Fla., their longtime spring home until 2008, Koufax would make sporadic visits and be available for instruction. He was also a minor-league pitching coach for the club throughout the 1980s.
This time around, he's likely to take a more passive approach as coach.
"Sandy will always be there," Torre said. "He just doesn't like to go out and be conspicuous. But if somebody has a question he's certainly not shy about helping if he's asked to help."
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