Dodgers pay tribute to Navy personnel

Dodgers pay tribute to Navy personnel

LOS ANGELES -- Sonny Masso grew up in the Los Angeles area as a diehard Dodgers fan attending games in the left-field pavilion, never leaving a contest early.

Masso, a San Clemente, Calif., native who now serves as a Navy rear admiral, got a thrill stepping onto the same mound many of his favorite Dodgers threw their best games on and hurling the ceremonial first pitch Monday during a pregame ceremony in which the Dodgers honored the Navy.

"It was an extraordinary dream," Masso said. "To come out to the same mound that [Sandy] Koufax and Johnny Podres and [Don] Drysdale and [Don] Sutton and Bill Singer and all those guys was just a tremendous thrill for me, so there was no scenario that I was going to put that ball in the dirt because I had all those ghosts behind me."

Masso hurled a pitch that popped the glove of Dodgers catcher Danny Ardoin.

The National Navy Week festivities also included a Navy enlistment ceremony for 40 recruits from the Los Angeles area, the presenting of the colors and a special appearance by the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, who jumped into the stadium bearing the American and Dodgers flags.

Shawn Tufts, the leading petty officer for the team, said from about 1,000-1,200 feet up he could hear the cheering from previous jumpers funneled up on his chest, which is "a rush."

"The ability for everybody to cheer us on when we land is phenomenal," Tufts said. "We see them when we walk off the field. They clap for you when you land, and then they don't even stop clapping for you until you're off the field. The amount of pride that the Americans have all across the country is absolutely amazing."

The Dodgers have a long history with the Navy, as former organization members who served in the Navy include Podres, Al Campanis, Hugh Casey, Cliff Dapper, Herman Franks, Lawrence French, Joe Hatten, Billy Herman, Harry "Cookie" Lavagetto, Eddie Miksis, Don Padgett, Pee Wee Reese, John Rizzo and Joseph Soskovic as well as current Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully.

Former manager Tommy Lasorda congratulated the future troops on the field during the ceremony and spent about an hour with them before the game.

"Tommy Lasorda is the ambassador for all the things that are good about baseball and really Dodger baseball," Masso said. "He loves our country, loves our sailors and all service personnel."

Masso, who shook hands with players as he walked off the field and even said a few words in Korean to Chan Ho Park, said the association between baseball and the Navy goes both ways, as troops deployed overseas often keep track of the standings and who has a 10-game hitting steak.

"We have such a wonderful country, and the Dodgers were so generous in their support of the Navy, and the fact that they're honoring us today we deeply appreciate," Masso said. "It's just a great thrill what the Dodgers have done and Major League Baseball. America supports our troops, and we're just delighted with Major League Baseball and so thankful."

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.