Orel Hershiser was not in on the secret. His wife was hinting at something.
The something involved Justin Turner. That was no surprise. Turner affectionately calls Hershiser “Dad.”
Turns out Hershiser’s wife, Dana, had once gone wine tasting with Turner’s longtime girlfriend, Kourtney. The guide had asked if the outing had been a mother-daughter trip, and since then Dana has been “Mom” and Orel has been “Dad.”
“If Justin and Kourtney asked you to do something special, what would you think?” Dana asked Orel.
“What is it? Do they need a loan?” Orel said. “What’s going on?”
“When Justin and Kourtney come to you, just say yes,” Dana said.
On a Thursday night last June, Justin and Kourtney came to him, on the field at Dodger Stadium. The two couples were all dressed up, lounging on couches at the Dodgers’ annual charity gala. Maroon 5 was playing, live.
Justin and Kourtney had been engaged three months, time enough to envision a dream wedding.
And Kourtney asked: Orel, will you marry us?
“Justin was sitting right there,” Hershiser said. “So I figured he agreed.”
“We thought it would be cool,” Turner said. “He is someone we have a lot of respect for. We knew he would take it seriously. It just made sense for us.”
Dana had dropped enough hints by then that Orel was not totally surprised.
He said yes.
And so it came to pass, last December, that the most valuable pitcher on the Dodgers’ last World Series championship team officiated the wedding of the most valuable hitter on the Dodgers’ last National League championship team.
Hershiser met with Justin and Kourtney to learn how they wished to organize the ceremony, what Bible verses they wished to include, what friends and family members they wished to recognize.
He also met separately with Justin and Kourtney, so he could surprise each one during the ceremony, with words each half of the couple had used to describe the other.
The wedding was a three-day affair, at a beachfront resort in Mexico. Hershiser said he barely got to enjoy the activities because he was so nervous. He had stared down Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire before 56,000 screaming fans in the 1988 World Series, but he was anxious about delivering for close to 200 guests at the wedding.
Mess up one pitch, he figured, and you get another. Mess up one wedding, and it’s game over.
The night before the wedding, Bob Geren gave him a pep talk. Geren is the Dodgers’ bench coach. The odds of this must border on astronomical, but Geren had officiated a wedding a few weeks earlier.
He was a mentor for Travis d’Arnaud, a catcher with the New York Mets. In June, two weeks after Justin and Kourtney had asked Hershiser to officiate their wedding, d’Arnaud had asked Geren to conduct his.
“You have a really good chance to go to the World Series,” d’Arnaud told Geren. “So we planned it for the week after the World Series.”
Geren rehearsed so intensely that he called his sisters on FaceTime and had them critique his presentation. He even dressed in a suit for the video call, to make it all seem real.
Hershiser might have had butterflies on the eve of the ceremony. Geren had faith, and comfort in the knowledge that Hershiser is a Dodgers broadcaster these days.
“Orel’s a pro,” Geren said. “He speaks like that for a living.”
Justin and Kourtney had not announced that Hershiser would be the officiant. Many of the guests did not know. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen wondered if Hershiser might be some sort of opening act.
“The more they kept going, I found out he was really going to be the guy,” Jansen said.
Hershiser opened with a comedic bit perfectly appropriate for friends and family and perfectly inappropriate to share with the public, according to everyone interviewed for this story.
He also drew rave reviews from pretty much everyone interviewed, best presented as if they were film reviews.
“The perfect balance of sentimentality and humor.” – Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of baseball operations.
“If I renew my vows, he’ll be one of the first names I look for.” – Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager.
Hershiser dismissed that thought with a laugh. He has not found a new calling, or even a side hustle.
The wedding was held at a resort called “The One and Only.”
“That,” he said, “was my one and only.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin