Ron Salisbury does his best to create an intimate setting for the Hot Stove League dinner series, now in its eighth year.
As owner of The Cannery in Newport Beach, he has good ideas of how to make it happen. But on Tuesday night, about 70 people dined at the Diamond Club in Angel Stadium. Still, no worries. Mike Scioscia, the guest speaker and the manger of the Angels, was there to oblige.
Less than five minutes into his stories Scioscia was already tugging at the heartstrings of the audience, especially the women.
Before speaking, Scioscia told me he was going to, "just wing it," for his speech. I can understand why he's been so successful as a player and manager.
He opened with a personal story that featured a description of his disappointed mother crying for his son's huge choice.
After being selected No. 19 by the Dodgers as a senior in high school in 1976, Scioscia said his mother told him to instead take a scholarship to play baseball at Clemson.
But after a long workout with Tommie Lasorda, then the Dodgers third-base coach, in Philadelphia, Scioscia wanted to sign with the Dodgers and begin at Walla Walla, Washington.
Scioscia returned from his workout and told his parents. His father hugged him, while his mother went to her room.
"All I remember is hearing my mom crying all night," Scioscia told the audience. "It's tearing me up. I'm 17. But there was no way I was going to Clemson. I was playing baseball for the Dodgers."
Scioscia said he went to the airport with an entourage, like most Italian families do. He hugged everyone good bye. His mother finally spoke before he left.
"If you want to be a leader the first person you have to lead is yourself," she told the young Scioscia.
It seemed to be a sign of approval that Scioscia was making his own decision and leading himself. Scioscia also took it to mean as a reminder that he is a role model where ever he goes.
Scioscia touched on the importance and responsibility of being a role model. The mentality helped him throughout a successful career as a catcher for the Dodgers that featured two World Series championships.
Being a leader has showed throughout his 12 seasons with the Angels. He is the winningest manager in Angels' history. He guided the team to a World Series championship in 2002.
Scioscia said he expects a World Series title with this team, a deep team.
"It'd be nice to get it this year," he told the audience.
Pujols has made the offseason thrilling for Angels fans. When Dennis Kuhl, the Angels chairman, introduced Scioscia, he said, "the manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Albertheim."
"There's obvious excitement when you have a player of Albert Pujols magnitude come into your organization," Scioscia told me during a brief interview. "But we're more than that. I think we are a multi-dimensional team. We're going to be deep."
Scioscia answered several questions about baseball, and even football. Someone asked him for his take on Tim Tebow, the popular quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
Scioscia called Tebow an inspiration and said he has great respect for the quarterback's sincerity.
Scioscia was also sincere with the audience. He told him that he was genuinely excited for the upcoming season.
He also said he was happy to speak on Tuesday. He didn't stay for dinner because he had to catch a flight to Arizona for the owners' meetings.
The dinners and the Angels Baseball Foundation raise money for charity, with a focus on the Urban Youth Academy in Compton.
It was Kuhl's idea to have this rare dinner at Angels Stadium.
Jamie Moyer concludes the dinner series Feb. 7 at The Cannery. Next year, Salisbury is expecting Nolan Ryan to speak.