The Check-In: Justin Turner unsettled at thought of not playing again for the Dodgers
The coronavirus outbreak has prevented Justin Turner from taking the field, but it hasn’t kept the Dodgers third baseman and his wife, Kourtney, from helping people off of it.
In March, they began a partnership through the Justin Turner Foundation with the Dream Center, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, and local restaurants to provide meals for people in need, including LAUSD students no longer able to receive free meals at school. Thursday was Day 53 of the collaboration, which has delivered more than 500,000 meals.
And May 16, the couple will serve as honorary hosts for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ fourth Walk and Play L.A. event for the second year in a row. The event will be held virtually and livestreamed on Facebook. All money raised will be donated to the hospital.
“Obviously, the season was postponed and that’s unfortunate, but we’re not just able to sit around and wait for the season to start,” Kourtney Turner said. “We want to jump in and give all the help we can to all the relief efforts.”
Baseball purists scoffed at Justin Turner’s idea decide tie games by a home run derby. But it’s already popular in a New England collegiate summer league.
The couple’s charitable work began long before the COVID-19 outbreak. They established their foundation in 2016 — two years after Turner signed with his hometown team — and focused efforts on supporting homeless veterans, children battling illnesses and youth baseball organizations. Their annual charity golf tournament has grown each year. In January, 140 people participated.
Turner, who was born in Long Beach and starred at Lakewood Mayfair High and Cal State Fullerton, has been entrenched in the community since joining the Dodgers. He’s one of the most recognizable — with help from his red mane and beard — and beloved professional athletes in Los Angeles. But there’s a chance he won’t play in L.A. much longer.
Turner, 35, is a slated to hit free agency after the 2020 season — if there is one. The chances of Major League Baseball holding a season have seemingly grown in recent weeks, but starting and completing a season still isn’t guaranteed. So Turner doesn’t know if he will ever play in a Dodger uniform again. The possibility is unsettling to him.
“It’s definitely something that I’ve thought about a few times and don’t want,” Turner said. “Obviously there’s a possibility that there’s no season and my Dodger career could’ve ended last year in the playoffs, which would be tough. It would be sad. Sad to think about.”
Turner said he hasn’t discussed a contract extension with the Dodgers. The focus is on figuring out how to play in 2020.
As the Dodgers’ union rep, Turner has more insight than most other players on discussions between MLB and the players association about resuming play. He finds media reports of various formats both promising and frustrating. Promising because it means the league is willing to think creatively to stage a season. Frustrating because none of the proposals, to his knowledge, have been formally presented to the union.
MLB, motivated by the billions of dollars at stake, is expected to send a proposal in the next few days targeting early July for opening day, according to reports.
“Now we’re just waiting on that proposal to come over to form a season and what that season looks like,” Turner said.
Turner isn’t on the union’s executive board, but he is close with Colorado Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy, a former teammate on the New York Mets who is one of the eight board members.
“I made myself available to him if he needed an outlet to kind of vent to,” Turner said, “but I don’t know if he’s going to take me up on that. “
While much of the world is under lockdown, baseball returned to South Korea on a day when the country reported just three new cases of COVID-19.
In the meantime, Turner’s baseball activities have been limited. He hits off a tee into a net in his backyard. Last week, he went to a local park to play catch with teammate Joc Pederson and Dodgers strength coach Brandon McDaniel.
He spends some spare time helping his wife host a podcast she started in March. She hosts the show and edits the audio. He sets up the equipment. Seven episodes of “Holding Kourt” have been released — another reminder of how long they’ve been without baseball.
Earlier this week, they stayed up late to watch the Korean Baseball Organizationopening day. They found the absence of fans odd, but any semblance of live sports was good enough. They were excited to watch.
If MLB has a 2020 season it’ll certainly be without fans, in locations to be determined. It’ll be a strange sight — and maybe Turner’s last chance to win a World Series for his city.
Register for free to help raise funds for Walk and Play L.A. at www.walkandplayla.org. Participants can direct contributions to any of the CHLA service areas or its COVID Emergency Response Fund.
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