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01/20/09 7:16 PM EST
Dodgers enjoy visit to Lakers practice
Prospects get chance to mingle with Bryant, Abdul-Jabbar
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- If the Dodgers are unable to sign Manny Ramirez to play left field next season, there's always a Plan B. And this plan doesn't have to include free agents Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu. Instead, another superstar stated his interest in playing left field and batting third for the Dodgers -- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. "Put me in left field and I'd run it all down. I'm faster than Manny," Bryant said before adding he'd like to bat third. "I want the clutch situations. Put me in that pressure spot." And if the Dodgers are still looking for help in the bullpen, Lakers forward Lamar Odom said he could be the team's closer. "I'm a big, tall lefty that can get it about 80 to 85 mph with a mean hook," said Odom, who stands 6 feet, 10 inches. "I've got a natural curveball." But Bryant wasn't so sure that Odom has what it takes to be a closer in the big leagues. "Close what?" Bryant said with a chuckle. "With that bum shoulder there's no way. I'd smack his ball so far out of the park." All joking aside, it was a fun day Tuesday for several Dodgers prospects and general manager Ned Colletti to attend Lakers practice at the Toyota Sports Center. The Dodgers players, which included James McDonald, Clayton Kershaw, Ramon Troncoso, Tony Abreu, Chin-lung Hu and Blake DeWitt, had the chance to watch how the Lakers practice while also getting a chance to meet with Lakers players, coach Phil Jackson and former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "It's great any time you get a chance to interact with these guys that are at the top of their sport," DeWitt said. "We're trying to get there so it's great to see what it takes to get to that point." The visit was part of a two-week training program for Dodgers prospects that began on Jan. 11 and runs through this Saturday. Earlier in the day, the Minor Leaguers also had a chance to meet with Dodgers manager Joe Torre and former Louisiana State baseball coach Skip Bertman. But watching the first-place Lakers practice up close was the highlight of the day for many of the young players. "It's incredible," said Kershaw, who is a big fan of the NBA. "I don't know how they look at baseball, but I can't believe how good they are. Just about every shot goes in and they're so big and athletic." McDonald, who grew up in Long Beach and roots for the Lakers, said he saw similarities in the practice styles of both the Lakers and the Dodgers. "The Lakers do the same thing we do with practice," McDonald said. "You come to play and practice to be a winner. You can joke around but it also has to be about business and working hard."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.