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Dodgers Pitcher Ted Lilly Talks Life & Baseball

Yosemite High School graduate Ted Lilly gives back to local baseball.

AHWAHNEE – I grew up on Dodger baseball. Dad used to get seats along the third base line and I spent my youth rooting for the likes of Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey and Ron Cey … well, mostly Ron Cey.

So when my friend Noella asked me to cover the Ted Lilly Golf Tournament last Saturday at the Sierra Meadow Golf Course, I jumped at the idea, especially the opportunity to interview Ted.For those of you who don’t know, Ted Lilly is a starting pitcher for the Dodgers and a graduate of Yosemite High School.

Now in its second year, the annual Ted Lilly Golf Tournament raises much-needed funds for area baseball. This year, as last, Sierra Mountain Little League in Oakhurst and Yosemite Little League in Coarsegold will get a portion of the funds, with the remaining going to the baseball program at Yosemite High School.

Ted Lilly Golf Tournament at Sierra Meadows 2012The tournament attracts about a hundred golfers and last year raised $50,000, mostly through silent and live auctions, as well as raffle items.

Dan Roberts, who coached the YHS baseball team from 1989 to 2004, along with current coach John McMillen, help organize the event.

Roberts is proud of the school’s baseball program, a program that has produced stars, in addition to Ted, such as Corey Miller, Jay Spurgeon, Dayton Buller, Daniel Buller, Ryan Olson and Eric Stolts.

The funds raised from the event are put to good use.

“The Little Leagues each received about $12,000 last year and were able to use that money to improve their fields,” says YHS Baseball Boosters President, Susan Steinmetz. “At the high school, we were able to provide new fencing for each of the two fields. The school just doesn’t have the budget to provide those types of improvements.

Roberts says that the greatest need is for lights at the stadium. The cost is about $110,000 for both fields, and the project is ready to move forward. The challenge is getting the approval of the school, the neighbors and the county.

“Stadium lights will be good for the YHS baseball program and the community,” says Roberts. “Lights will allow us to host tournaments throughout the summer, bringing in ten to twelve teams at a time along with their families. That’s good for area businesses like hotels and restaurants, as teams would arrive from all over the western states.”

When the time came to interview Ted Lilly, I must admit I was a little nervous. For a girl who had a poster of the entire Dodger lineup on her bedroom wall as a kid, this was a dream come true.

I understood that Dodger starter, Clayton Kershaw would also be at the tournament, which added to my nervousness. But Dan told me that Kershaw was unable to attend because he was busy accepting the Roberto Clemente award, a distinguished award that recognizes one major league player each year who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement. At only 24, Kershaw is easily the youngest player ever to receive the honor. Lilly received the award in 2009 as a player for the Chicago Cubs.

Ted Lilly gives Susan Madden an autograph at the Ted Lilly Golf Tournament 2012SNO: Ted, you and I have at least two things in common. We are both from Torrance and we both graduated from Yosemite High School. Who was your greatest influence during your high school years?

Ted Lilly: I’d have to say that my friends influenced me the most. We were a close friendly baseball team and worked and played together well.

SNO: I understand you wife is a veterinarian. Are you involved in animal causes? Or where is your heart when it comes to charitable causes?

Lilly: My heart is in helping kids. I’m involved in community events like this golf tournament to improve the lives of kids.

SNO: You now have children of your own. What values do you want to hand down to them?

Lilly: Yes I have a three-year-old son and an eight-month-old daughter. I want to tell them to set their goals high. To believe they can make a difference. To believe they can change the world.

SNO: As a baseball fan, I have a favorite stadium (other than Dodger Stadium). As a player, what is your favorite stadium?

Lilly: That would be Wrigley Field, for its passionate fans and for the history. Wrigley (Chicago Cubs) and Fenway (Boston Red Sox) are the only historic stadiums left.

SNO: When did you first know you wanted to be a major league player and when did you first realize it was a possibility?

Lilly: Ever since I can remember, I wanted to play in the majors. It was in the minor leagues that I realized it was possible.

SNO: When you’re no longer playing ball professionally, how do you want to spend your time?

Lilly: Productively. Working hard is my responsibility to my kids.

SNO: One final question. How do you want people to remember you?

Lilly: I’d like to be remembered as someone who cares about other people.

And that, Ted Lilly, is how I will always think of you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to this baseball fan.

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