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Dodgers great Orel Hershiser explains how he understands baseball




Orel Hershiser at the Dodgers home opener on April 12, 2016.
Orel Hershiser at the Dodgers home opener on April 12, 2016.
Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

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Orel Hershiser is a former Dodgers  pitcher with not just one, but two Wikipedia pages. One for his biography, and a second for his record-setting 59-inning streak without allowing a single run. Today, he's a commentator on Time Warner's SportsNet LA, and a regular fixture at Dodgers home openers. He talked with us about his time pitching back in the day and how he gets ready for opening day now that he's a veteran broadcaster.

On pitching opening day

It’s not my favorite thing — it’s my favorite thing to be announced on the third base line, or the first base line. It’s my favorite thing to watch the flyover. It’s my favorite thing to see the great national anthem. It’s my favorite thing to watch the fans go nuts. It’s not always my favorite thing to slightly be delayed as a starting pitcher - to have some things kind of get in the way. It really turns out to be a playoff game when a lot of the time your body and your soul aren’t ready for it. You don’t have the 162 games of the regular season to kind of get into the whole flow of everything, to be ready for the moment. When all of the sudden they just thrust the moment on you. 

As a veteran, I didn’t really get nervous. I got excited. As a young player, the nerves were energy — but you just had to make sure that you had a plan with it. Like the nerves couldn’t end up being the thing that takes over you. So it was great to be nervous — but you had to use it as energy.

On the Dodgers’ pitching going into 2016

Before they had a few rough outings, [the Dodgers] had the lowest ERA in the National League at 1.83. And then, all of the sudden, a couple rough ones and it’s not number one. I think you might be talking a little bit about also some of the bullpen at times this year. It’s a very early sample, though, and I think the arms down there are fine. 

This roster is never finished — they’re always going to look to improve it. They have the assets to improve it, because of what goes on with the revenues from the ticket sales, the fans that support us, the television — all of it. It’s a fantastic place to play baseball, and it’s always going to be a roster that’s improving.

On broadcasting versus pitching

I think the hardest thing is, as a pitcher, you have to order your thoughts. That’s because you might be on natural grass, you might be on artificial turf, you might have a five-run lead in the fifth, you might have a one-run lead in third. You might be in the eighth inning and there’s a pinch hitter on deck and you’re wondering how to get this guy out, you’re wondering where your defense is, what pitch to get this hitter out, you got lots of things. But you have to prioritize them. And then you also have to kind of sift it down to exactly what you want to concentrate on at the moment. I think that’s the thing about being an analyst. 

I see so many things go on in one play of baseball, or what’s coming up as a possibility, or a strategy. And sifting it down to saying “what is the most important thing? What’s the most entertaining thing? And what’s the ‘aha!’ moment for the fans?” Something maybe they haven’t heard or they haven’t really taken a look at. And that’s what’s kind of like pitching.