Andre Ethier enjoys connecting with Cooperstown

Written by: Bill Francis

Walking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum put Andre Ethier’s career in perspective.

Retired from the game since 2017, having played a dozen seasons in the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the lefty swinging outfielder left the diamond with two All-Star Game nods, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and eight postseason appearances. The Phoenix native accompanied his 12-year-old son to Cooperstown to compete in a local youth baseball camp.

“I always say I had 12 years longer (in the big leagues) than I ever thought,” Ethier said. “I didn’t even dream about it. I just dreamt of playing there. You don’t dream what’s after that. You maybe dream of being in the Hall of Fame. But you don’t know what the filler is in between that. And I got 12 years in a place that I absolutely loved, playing in Los Angeles and playing for the Dodgers.”

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Ethier’s journey included initially attending Arizona State University as a freshman, then transferring to a junior college before returning to Arizona State and being drafted after his junior year.

“Everyone has a road to take and some guys’ roads are easier,” Ethier said. “I had a little bit more difficult road where it was filled with some little adversities and little hiccups, but I think those little hiccups and adversities helped me keep reaching the next level and beyond. It wasn’t ‘hang my head and feel sorry for myself,’ it was ‘I’m going to go out there and show that I can play and I deserve to play.’ Whoever’s giving me that opportunity, I’m going to show them that they’re making the right choice.”

Ethier, 41, was selected by the A’s out of Arizona State in the second round of the 2003 amateur draft. A trade in December 2005 to the Dodgers for fellow outfielder Milton Bradley led to career that ended with 1,367 hits, a .285 batting average, a .359 OBP and 162 home runs.

“I didn’t grow up knowing that much about the Dodgers. And I get there and I’m on this legacy franchise with so much history. I’m wearing the same jersey that Jackie Robinson wore, that Sandy Koufax wore. The name has not changed over all these generations from Brooklyn to LA. That’s unbelievable to think about,” Ethier said. “I wish I would have thought about that more when I was playing, but you’re caught up as being a young kid and surviving and figuring out a way to have your own career. But then when you’re done and you look back and you’re like, ‘Wow. I got a chance to play for this franchise with all these great names from the past.’ Players like Willie Davis, Roy Campanella, Steve Sax, Don Drysdale and Steve Garvey.

“And to fast forward it even more, I got a chance to play with a (potential) first-ballot Hall of Famer, Clayton Kershaw, for a lot of his career. I told him one day, the day he retires we can mark our calendars because five years later we will all be here ready for him to go in the Hall of Fame.”

Ethier’s time with the Dodgers also included playing with Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux in 2006 and 2008 and playing under Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre from 2008-10.

“I grew up watching Greg Maddux pitch and then all of a sudden he’s my teammate. Come on. You can’t write stuff like that,” Ethier said. “And I can see it flash up in my head. Joe Torre in the old Yankee Stadium managing that Yankees team in the late ‘90s. And then all of a sudden he’s my manager and talking to me. Unbelievable.”

Ethier’s trip this time included revisiting a pair of artifact donations he made – a Dodgers shirt he wore during the 2014 Major League Baseball season-opener played in Sydney, Australia, at the Cricket Grounds in New South Wales, and the black painted Matt Kemp Louisville Slugger bat – 34 inches and 32 ounces – he used during the tail end of his 30-game hitting streak in 2011.

“We came all the way from Phoenix because this seems to now be a rite of passage for 12 year olds in any type of baseball, whether it’s a Little League or club baseball. It seems to be the mecca for summer baseball,” Ethier said. “This was the first year I was ballot-eligible, and I was on the ballot this year. I’m realistic. I know I’m not a top one percenter of the candidates that get (elected), but to be included on the ballot is unbelievable. And to just have something worthy to be here, it’s a pretty neat thing to be a part of.”

With a baseball lineage that includes a grandfather, Pierre “Pete” Ethier, who played eight minor league seasons in the 1950s, reaching Triple-A, a father who played collegiately and a brother who played in the minors, the game has been in his blood forever.

“I have three sons, but I’m only coaching softball right now. I have a six-year-old daughter and it’s my second year coaching softball,” Ethier said. “But I do help my sons a ton. My sons are good ballplayers, but I still make it realistic. Wherever their ability takes them I’m happy.”

While Ethier received no votes in the 2023 Baseball Writers’ Association of America election, he and his wife, in 2014, were honored as the first husband-wife inductees in the Arizona State Sports Hall of Fame.

“She was an unbelievable gymnast at Arizona State. We met there. She’s a gymnast and I was playing baseball,” Ehtier said. “I always joke that I was riding her coattails into the Hall of Fame because I only played two years there. She had a full four-year career there. I was good, but nothing worthy of the long list of names that have played there in the past like Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds and Sal Bando.”

Ethier remains involved in the game, working community outreach for the Dodgers.

“But honestly, my passion these days is coaching softball,” he said. “I love coaching my daughter and her teams. I love that the little girls are much more adept to paying attention and listening than the boys.

“But I’ll never not be grateful for the life that baseball has given me.”

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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