Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 5/2/12
LOS ANGELES - Wednesday was the beginning of a new era at Dodger Stadium and the Guggenheim Baseball Management Group celebrated the momentous occasion by putting on a Magic show. The new Dodger owners - who paid a record 2.15 billion for the team - were there in full force, led by the Big Three of Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Mark Walter and Stan Kasten, who publicly took the reigns of one of sports' most storied franchises Johnson, the former Laker great and Basketball Hall of Famer, showed some of his old point guard decision-making when talk during the Q & A portion of the news conference got around to former owner Frank McCourt. Pressed for an answer about McCourt's standing with the team, Walter answered from his seat, saying that the Guggenheimers own the team and the land in Chavez Ravine and McCourt's 150 million interest in the land did not include any decision-making power. "Every aspect of every operation in this ravine, is managed and controlled by us," Walter said. Johnsonfeeling that the statement shoud be as forceful and honest as possibletold Walter "I want you to go up (to the podium) and please be direct with these people, Mark." And much like James Worthy cutting across the lane after a gesture by the Magic Man, Walter immediately stood up and headed toward the microphone to reiterate their business relationship as it concerns McCourt. "To be clear and not hiding anything," Walter said, "the former ownership does have a certain amount of economic interest concerning the potential profits that may come from a potential development in the future. Other than that, this is our land; we manage it." Reporters were still curious about what the Guggenheim group was thinking when it kept a minor tie with the former regime, not totally satisfied with Walter's explanation. So, Johnson himself took control like a great team leader would, saying that "We own it a hundred percent. We want to be clear with it. (McCourt) doesn't get a dime from the parking." Still a bit exasperated about the McCourt-centric direction the questions were beginning to take, Magic laid it all on the line. "Frank McCourt," he said very deliberately, "is not involved in any shape (or) fashion. If you need me to come up (to the podium) I will. We're trying to explain it to you. The rumorswe're squashing them right now. I think Mark did a great job (negotiating with McCourt); It only covers profits from any new development, if we do anything. That's it. That's how you have to do (a deal) sometimes. "Deals are made all the time; we're moving this franchise forward. We're not talking about Frank McCourt any more. If he's part of a future development, so what? What's important is that there's new ownership here, new direction and there's a new era. We're going to be a winning franchise. We're going to be a best-in-class franchise. Let the fans see with their own eyes what's going to happen. Give us an opportunity. We're going to make sure we have a great team on that field every day. "Frank's not here, he's not a part of the Dodgers anymore. We should be clapping just for that." With thirty seconds of transparency, Johnson showed again why he's the most beloved sports figure in the history of Los Angeles, and well-received as a businessman who makes sure to reach out to the community and help rebuild some of the areas hardest hit by longtime economic and social downturns. "This is what Earvin loves to do," said his wife, Cookie. "He lives for challenges like this: something that will keep his interest but also something where he can reach out and help the community. This is one of those great things that came along, and he just couldn't pass it (up). It's a very proud moment for us." And it's a seminal moment for Dodger fans as well. Fed up with the lack of caring shown toward themafter all, they do pay the billssupporters had stopped coming to games for the first time since the move to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958. Kasten said that returning the great fan experienceand improving on itis at the top of the to-do list. The new team president announced that the Dodgers were cutting parking prices 33.3, from 15 to 10 dollars per game, showing that so far the Guggenheim Group is well aware of the complaints that need immediate attention. He and Walter also said that they're committed to refurbishing Dodger Stadium, making it a ball park for the 21st century. Kasten said the first part of the evaluation is underway, and the improvements will soon commence. And Johnson certainly eased the minds of fans when he said: "We're here to win, and we'll do what we have to do to improve this team to make it a championship club. "I didn't come here to sit back and keep things as they are. If there's a player or players who can help us, Stan will be able to (spend the money) to get him. Just because we wrote one big check, doesn't mean we're going to stop (spending). We're here to bring a World Series championship back to L.A." They're definitely on the way, tied with Tampa Bay and Texas for baseball's best record at 17-8. In Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and last year's MVP runner-up Matt Kemp, they definitely have two of the best young players in the game, while Andre Ethier has rebounded from a sub-par 2011 to drive in 27 runs in his first 25 games. And speedy shortstop Dee Gordon has just started to realize his potential. General Manager Ned Colletti has done a good job of picking up solid contributors in players like Jerry Hairston, Mark Ellis, Juan Rivera, Chris Capuano and others to give the Dodgers a team in the true sense of the word. Now, with a wealthy management committed to winning immediately and consistently, an new era has dawned for one of the most iconic franchises in baseball. Walter O'Malley would be pleased.
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