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Players excited to have Magic on board

Players excited to have Magic on board

Players excited to have Magic on board
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There were so many smiling faces in the Dodgers' clubhouse Wednesday, you'd have thought Magic Johnson had just bought the club.

"I think it's tight, man," said Matt Kemp, the richest Dodger with a new $160 million contract. "For Magic to be one of our owners, he knows what the Dodgers mean to L.A. Magic is real important to L.A. The fans love him. To get him to be part of the organization, it's a pretty good day for the Dodgers."

Kemp was so excited that he said he'd even be able to take Magic on the court.

"I could now. Not in the day, but definitely now, one-on-one," Kemp said. "He's wearing suits now. He's writing my checks. I thought what I got was pretty good money, but $2 billion is a lot of dough. Do I feel underpaid? I feel broke."

Manager Don Mattingly wasn't so quick to endorse Kemp's bold proclamation.

"That's a whole different league -- Matt played high school, Magic the NBA," Mattingly said. "You ought to hear all their stories of basketball prowess. It's sad."

The skipper didn't mince words when transitioning from jest to the big picture, though.

"There's been a little bit of excitement," Mattingly said at the end of a wild day. "The fact of Magic is one thing. The guys are fans of hoops. On top of that, we're moving forward to give the organization direction. We're not in limbo anymore."

Kemp said he learned of the news Tuesday night that Johnson, Guggenheim Partners and Stan Kasten were part of a group buying the Dodgers from Frank McCourt for $2 billion. Kemp was at a Phoenix Suns game when his phone "started blowing up."

"I thought everybody was playing around," said Kemp. "I didn't know if it was real until I got texts from important people."

Kemp said he'd never met Johnson, but wore his Converse shoes to training camp in honor of the new part-owner.

"All I could think about was being in the on-deck circle and seeing Magic in one of the owners' seats," he said. "It will be fun to have him around."

Kemp said he's heard Johnson in interviews say the Dodgers should be the team that owns Los Angeles.

"Right now it's the Lakers," Kemp said. "He knows how important the Dodgers are to L.A. He'll do whatever it takes to get us back where we need to be."

Defending National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, however, downplayed the impact a front office can have on the field.

"I don't think it makes a lot of difference in winning," he said of an ownership change. "We have the same team and we should win no matter who the owner is."

Southern California product Adam Kennedy couldn't overstate the impact of the announcement had on the local sports community.

"I can't really describe how big it is and what [Magic] means to the community of L.A. and the sports world," said the former Angels infielder. "You know how much pride he has in his business aspects, you know he'll bring that here."

Pitcher Chris Capuano, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract, said the $2 billion price incorporated intangibles.

"The brand of the Dodgers, it's hard to put a price tag on it," he said. "You know that's pretty subjective. I can't speak to the financial side. I do know a lot of people in Magic's group get it. Magic is such an iconic figure. It's fitting. I think it feels right."

James Loney said he met Johnson in January at the Dodgers' developmental camp.

"He was a real nice guy," said Loney. "He brings the dynamics of a guy who played professional sports and the business side, that's a pretty good dynamic."

Whether that translates into instant success on the field for the team, however, Loney wasn't sure.

"You can't put an exact formula on it," he said. "Obviously there's excitement for the city, for the fans and for everybody. But you can never put an exact thing on what that translates to."

Finally, the best of the current Dodgers on a basketball court, shortstop Dee Gordon, said he's ready to go one-on-one with Johnson.

"Definitely," he said of his new boss. "He has no chance."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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