Nomar Garciaparra has been paid more than $60 million to play baseball, yet he views himself as an L.A. everyman, a middle-class product of a large Latino family who made good by putting his sizable nose to the grindstone.
The image is fueled every time he walks to the plate with War’s “Low Rider” playing on the P.A. system. And it will get a boost June 10 when he is host of the first Carne Asada Sunday after a game at Dodger Stadium. He will hang out with fans, share soft tacos and listen to mariachi music.
“I’m no different than the people who come to Dodger games,” he said. “People relate to me, I think, because they recognize that. They see that I go to work, I have a routine, I get there, have some coffee, give it my all, go home to my family and do it again the next day.
“I want people to know that’s how I feel. I’m no better than anybody else.”
The promotion will be held periodically throughout the season. It costs $50 to attend, and proceeds go to the Dodgers Dream Foundation. Giving back to the community is important to Garciaparra, whose “5 Fund” when he played for the Boston Red Sox from 1996 to 2004 was considered a model of ballplayer philanthropy. The fund started a literacy program, developed an inner-city playground and made significant improvements to several orphanages.
“It was a Johnny Appleseed attitude,” he said. “I wanted the people to see tangible accomplishments, and we made them happen. I’m still attached to Boston because of all the stuff we did.”
Last year, Garciaparra was reluctant to immerse himself in the L.A. community despite the fact that he grew up in Whittier. He had only a one-year contract and didn’t want to start programs he would have to abandon if he re-signed elsewhere.
The Dodgers gave him a two-year deal, and he began thinking of ways to give back.
“In Boston we refurbished junior high school libraries, made them into little Fenway Parks where kids wanted to come and read,” he said. “I want to do something along those lines here.”
He has grander visions as well. Garciaparra’s wife, former soccer star Mia Hamm, launched a foundation that raises money for bone marrow transplant patients. Hamm’s brother, Garrett, died 10 years ago from complications related to aplastic anemia.
The foundation holds all-star exhibition soccer matches and golf tournaments, and marrow donors met their recipients for the first time during a halftime ceremony at one of the soccer games.
“I was so lucky not to have to get passionate about a cause because I had a tragedy associated with it,” Garciaparra said. “I want to make a lasting impact. For me, I just appreciate that sense of being home.
“The people in L.A. feel like family. They’ve embraced me and I don’t take it for granted. It’s about doing good things. It’s not easy given the time demands of this game. But it’s important.”
Shortstop Rafael Furcal’s batting average has risen from .218 to .306 during his 11-game hitting streak. He has 24 hits in his last 44 at-bats. ... Russell Martin’s 32 runs batted in are second among major league catchers to Cleveland’s Victor Martinez, who has 35. Martin is on pace for 110 RBIs, which would be the most by a Dodgers catcher since Mike Piazza had 124 in 1997. ... With 24 consecutive saves, Takashi Saito has the third-longest active streak behind Atlanta’s Mike Gonzalez and the New York Mets’ Billy Wagner, who have 29 in a row. ... Brad Penny and Randy Wolf are two of nine pitchers tied for second in the National League with six victories. Atlanta’s John Smoltz has seven. ... The Dodgers are 9-4 in one-run games and 22-0 when they lead after seven innings.