Chris Taylor saw the green light Tuesday night as he rounded third base from the lively man standing a few dozen feet down the baseline. Dino Ebel, the Dodgers’ first-year third-base coach, was frantically waving Taylor home with two outs in the first inning. By the time Taylor approached the plate, Ebel was right behind him, hovering over the action from a few feet away. He fist-pumped three times as Taylor slid headfirst to narrowly beat Dansby Swanson’s throw from shallow right field. The Dodger Stadium crowd erupted. Another notch on Ebel’s belt, another Dodgers run en route to a 9-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.
There’s an art to his aggressiveness, Ebel said. The 53-year-old spent the previous nine seasons on the job for the Angels after stints in the minors, instructional leagues, and winter ball. He studies video. He observes where outfielders are positioned. He makes note of who’s on deck. Those are added to the calculus he executes with unbridled enthusiasm.
“He told us in spring training he’s going to be following us, pretty much, all the way down the line,” Justin Turner said. “He’s passionate about what he does. He takes a lot of pride in what he does. And he’s really good for us.”
Ebel said he’s never interfered with a play when he dashes down the line to instruct his baserunner. It comes with experience, with learning whether a particular baserunner takes wide turns or prefers to hug the line. Which was why this spring training was crucial for Ebel. He had a new roster to learn. That was his time to study and blunder.
“That’s when you should get a guy thrown out,” Ebel said. “In spring training.”
Ebel’s energy isn’t limited to his work. He said he’s run almost every day for 26 years. He used to run up to 12 miles a day but he’s reduced the distance to four in recent years. He’s in the gym by 8 a.m. every day with his wife to run the four miles after dropping off their sons at school. He ran at 4:30 a.m. during spring training. He doesn’t eat red meat or processed foods, and doesn’t consume dairy. He credits the changes for newfound vigor.
“He’s kind of like the Energizer bunny,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“That dude’s always happy,” said Alex Verdugo, who also scored on a close play at the plate Tuesday. “Happy as hell. It’s cool. It’s refreshing. He’s one of those, every time I talk to him, you’re like ‘Damn, man, he’s always in a good mood.’
This season is a homecoming for Ebel, who signed with the Dodgers out of college before becoming a coach and manager in their minor league system. He joined the Angels in 2005 and spent three seasons as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach before moving to third base. He said he appreciated his time in Anaheim, but returning to the Dodgers organization was different. His energy has already made an impact.
“I just try to bring it every day,” Ebel said. “That’s the goal.”