Dodgers partake in Ping-Pong to unwind
Much as on the mound, Kershaw dominates on the table
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In the middle of the Dodgers' clubhouse at Camelback Ranch-Glendale is a Ping-Pong table.
Since a Ping-Pong table helped thaw Cold War relations with China 40 years ago, don't dismiss what a Ping-Pong table can do for the Dodgers.
One thing it has already done is reaffirm the competitiveness of Clayton Kershaw. This spring, he's not only unbeaten on the mound, but also with a paddle.
"I used to play a lot when I was younger," the 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner said. "I had twin friends who had a table at their house and we played all the time."
As trivial as it might sound, the newest Dodgers toy has been a welcome addition. Clubhouse manager Mitch Poole bought it.
"It wasn't my idea," said Poole. "The boss, [manager] Donnie [Mattingly], told me to get it."
"I can't take credit for it," Mattingly said. "It was James [Loney], in one of his wild moments. He texts me out of the blue and asks, 'Can we get a Ping-Pong table for Spring Training?' I thought it was a great idea.
"Over time, it gets boring. Ping-Pong is a good game. It's competitive, good for hand-eye coordination and it's reasonably safe. You don't get a lot of turned ankles in Ping-Pong. It's just something fun for the guys to have."
Loney had a table in his Los Angeles home last year, and he found himself playing during a visit to the RBI Urban Youth Academy in Compton. He said it was in November when he texted the manager.
"I just figured it would help keep things loose for the guys," Loney said. "I know the guys like to play. Why not? And it's been great. Guys really enjoy it. And if somebody needs to take a break during the day, it's there."
While Kershaw is indisputably the master, young pitchers Chris Withrow and Josh Wall made early impressions. Relievers Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario seem to be at the table the most, while Juan Uribe draws the loudest laughter with his lack of polish. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have their only off-day of the Grapefruit League season on Thursday. Mattingly said the club was ready for it.
"This time of spring is a tough time," said Mattingly. "You have to push yourself a little to not get lazy. The only thing I worry about is that they start looking forward to getting out of here and get in lazy habits."
Mattingly pointed to Wednesday's game against the Padres, when the Dodgers were shut out.
"I think [the offense] took the day off a day early," he said. "We didn't even have a lot of chances."
The Dodgers resume play on Friday with split-squad games: a charity game in Tucson against the White Sox benefitting the Christina-Taylor Green Foundation, and another game at Camelback Ranch-Glendale against Kansas City.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.