Dodgers players optimistic about imminent sale


GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Los Angeles Dodgers players said they were happy and relieved Wednesday about the pending sale of the team to an ownership group including former Lakers star Magic Johnson.

"Great day for the Dodgers," said center fielder Matt Kemp, the runner-up for NL MVP last season. "As Magic used to say, the Dodgers were the team that used to run L.A. Definitely, we were going to have more fans out there this year anyway. Now, there's another reason to have the fans turn out."

The deal to sell the franchise for a record $2 billion was revealed Tuesday night, just hours after Major League Baseball owners approved three finalists for an intended auction. Besides Johnson, the ownership group includes longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten.

Mark Walter, chief executive officer of the financial services firm Guggenheim Partners, would become the controlling owner.

Players said they were relieved that the search for an owner had finally been resolved and that they were hopeful that the franchise can move forward amid newfound stability.

"If I'm a player, I'm excited," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before boarding a bus to Scottsdale for a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants. "Magic is coming in. They've been having to deal with all the negatives. As soon as you hear the name Magic Johnson, it turns into a positive. There's positive energy around the ball club, around the city."

In the clubhouse, the players welcomed Magic, who in the 1980s transformed the Lakers into Showtime when most of them were kids. Tony Gwynn Jr., who referred to himself as the biggest Lakers fan in the world, said he could still recall the day Johnson announced he had HIV.

"Other than my grandparents dying, the saddest day of my life was watching that press conference when he retired," Gwynn said. "So it's nice to have him as my boss."

Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, now a special adviser to the club, said he was confident that the new ownership group means the imminent return of fans who stayed away last season. "I think Dodger fans will be back," Lasorda said. "I believe that."