Fernando Valenzuela's number retirement celebrated by Jaime Jarrín and Julio Urías

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 19: Fernando Valenzuela throws out the ceremonial first pitch.
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 19: Fernando Valenzuela throws out the ceremonial first pitch.  

Jaime Jarrín summed up the biggest news from the Dodgers FanFest event at Chavez Ravine on Saturday in just one sentence.

"This," the Dodgers' recently retired Spanish radio voice said after the team announced it would retire Fernando Valenzuela's No. 34 this coming season, "is something overdue."

For years, much of the club's fanbase has felt the same.

No, Valenzuela hasn't been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the traditional prerequisite for the Dodgers to retire a former player's jersey.

Yet as the seasons went by, and the Mexican pitcher's enduring legacy with the franchise and in the community ceased to fade, the absence of Valenzuela's number in Dodger Stadium's left-field Ring of Honor grew increasingly difficult to justify.

Though the Dodgers hadn't issued the No. 34 to a player since Valenzuela's retirement, Jarrín had been among a growing contingent hoping to see it officially retired.

Jarrín called all 11 of Valenzuela's seasons with the Dodgers, including the legendary 1981 campaign in which the left-hander won the National League rookie of the year and Cy Young awards while helping the team to a World Series title. He often served as Valenzuela's interpreter in public appearances, including at a 1981 White House luncheon with President Ronald Reagan.

After his playing career, Valenzuela joined Jarrín in the Dodgers radio booth, working alongside him for two decades before Jarrín retired last year.

"I was hoping that they would do it," said Jarrín, who is now a club ambassador and has his own plaque in the team's Ring of Honor. "I don't know why they waited. They could have done it several years ago."

Dodgers Spanish-language announcer Jaime Jarrín, left, talks to former player and broadcast partner Fernando Valenzuela.
Dodgers Spanish-language announcer Jaime Jarrín, left, talks to former player and broadcast partner Fernando Valenzuela.  

Now that it is happening - the ceremony is scheduled to take place before an Aug. 11 home game this year - Jarrín couldn't help but smile Saturday.

"It's fantastic," Jarrín said. "He left the Dodgers [as a player] almost 40 years ago, and still now … the people love him. It's unbelievable."

Jarrín wasn't alone.

Manager Dave Roberts celebrated the move during a chat with reporters.

"Even before today," Roberts said, "when you thought of the Dodgers and 34, you thought of Fernando."

Current Dodgers stars, including pitcher Julio Urías, a fellow Mexican left-hander, and infielder Max Muncy, welcomed the news, too.

"It makes us very proud to see a fellow countryman be able to achieve this great success," Urías said in Spanish.

Echoed Muncy: "When you start playing for the Dodgers, that's one of the first things you learn, just the impact Fernando had."

Infield clear; center field unknown

Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux fields a grounder and throws to first base.
Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux fields a grounder and throws to first base.  

The Dodgers preferred infield alignment appears to be set.

Roberts confirmed the Dodgers are planning to play Gavin Lux at shortstop, Muncy at third base and Miguel Vargas at second base to begin the season, with Miguel Rojas likely to provide depth off the bench at all three positions (in addition to some potential time in left field).

Earlier this offseason, it seemed the Dodgers would put Muncy at second and Vargas at third, where the highly touted rookie had spent most of his time in the minors.

However, the Dodgers opted for their new plan in order to keep Muncy at the hot corner, a position he settled into last year after Freddie Freeman's arrival at first base, and allow Vargas to use more of his range by playing up the middle.

The Dodgers' plans in center field, on the other hand, remain unclear.

In the wake of Cody Bellinger's offseason departure, Roberts told reporters "your guys' guess right now is as good as mine" about who might fill the spot, with Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson, James Outman, Bradley Zimmer and Jason Heyward in the mix.

More WBC participants

The Dodgers' representation at next month's World Baseball Classic continues to grow.

Austin Barnes confirmed Saturday he will play for Mexico; Roberts said Trayce Thompson is expected to play for Great Britain; and Rojas said he is hoping to play for Venezuela, as long as he is 100% by then after recently undergoing right hand surgery. Rojas was cleared to begin a hitting progression this coming week.

Those three join a long list of previously known Dodgers participants: Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts and Will Smith for the U.S. (in addition to third base coach Dino Ebel), Brusdar Graterol for Venezuela, Urías for Mexico, and Freeman for Canada.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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