This story originally appeared on Dodger Insider
On a sunny February afternoon at Dodger Stadium during the introductory press conference for David Price and Mookie Betts, the man whose Tampa Bay Rays selected Price as the top overall pick 13 years ago began to reflect on the Cy Young Award-winning pitcher he’d come to know.
Andrew Friedman, who is now the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations following his tenure as the Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operations, moved swiftly from Price’s pitching credentials to a different type of skill the left-hander possesses.
“Obviously, the success he’s had is evident, and everybody knows about that,” Friedman said. “But he was as good of a teammate as I’ve seen. Just the impact he’s had in the clubhouse was as significant as I’ve seen.”
Asked to elaborate, Friedman specifically recalled the support Price would shower his teammates with — whether it be watching starting pitchers as they throw their side sessions or sitting on the top step to congratulate starters after an inning of work. When other players would retreat to the clubhouse, Price always stuck around.
“David is locked in on the four days he’s not starting and being an extremely supportive teammate,” Friedman said. “I think that really rubs off and created a really special culture among our starting pitching group that he was a huge part of.”
Price joined the Dodgers this year after a decorated 12-year Major League career that brought with it a number of colleagues who can vouch for Friedman’s commendations. Some of those colleagues are in Price’s new clubhouse.
Only now, most of them happen to be his bosses.
Few who make it to the Majors get to enjoy a career spanning double-digit seasons the way Price has, so most of the people he knows best in the Dodger clubhouse from previous stops — former teammates included — are now members of the club’s front office and coaching staff. From Friedman, to vice president and assistant general manager Brandon Gomes (a Tampa Bay pitcher from 2011–15), to director of player development Will Rhymes (a Tampa Bay infielder in 2012) and Chris Gimenez (a Tampa Bay player from 2012–13 who was the Dodgers’ game planning coach last year and continued to provide input this spring), Price’s first shift to the National League doesn’t feel completely unfamiliar. He said he’s thankful for that.
In 2014, Price was traded from Tampa Bay to Detroit. A year later, he was dealt from Detroit to Toronto. In the move to Los Angeles, for reasons beyond getting to play with former Boston teammates Betts and Joe Kelly, he isn’t alone.
“It’s really the first time I’ve known guys on the team on a personal level when I got there,” Price said. “I’ve played with quite a few of, I guess, my bosses now. It’s cool. It goes by quick. That was something I was told my first Spring Training game, and that definitely has held true. I cherish every day I get to put on a uniform.”
According to some of Price’s former teammates, and those with the Dodgers who knew him before he joined the club, that joy was always evident.
That’s how Gimenez described Price from their two years together in Tampa Bay. He said Price may look stoic on the mound, but he was always making life fun.
Gimenez thought mostly back to 2012, when the former Major League catcher played in 42 games for the Rays. One night, the team was leaving Toronto and going through customs. At 2 a.m., with the place nearly cleared out, Gimenez said Price borrowed a Segway to traverse the airport’s empty paths before sprinting across the moving walkways. If a player’s energy was sapped, Price lifted it.
Rhymes describes Price similarly. That year, Rhymes played in 47 games for the Rays. It was the 29-year-old’s last year in the Majors, at a time when Price was only 26 years old.
“Pricey’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Rhymes said. “He was pretty young at the time, but … guys always looked to David for leadership and guidance. He just has a way about him that kind of draws people toward him. It’s apparent that he cares about people and about winning above himself. When people are authentic — which David is incredibly authentic — I think that draws veterans and rookies alike to him.”
In the Dodger clubhouse, Price also has current teammates who knew him from his early playing days.
Catcher Jose Lobaton, a non-roster invite at Spring Training this year, played for the Rays from 2011–13. With a grin on his face, Lobaton said he remembers Price for how loud he was — in the best way possible. He was the type of player who made those around him feel better.
Lobaton, who has spent parts of nine seasons in the Major Leagues, said players with that type of energy are necessary in a sport where failure is common. As anger and frustration build, players such as Price help provide levity.
“It was music, singing, it was like a happy guy every day,” Lobaton said. “That was really good for us to see him doing that. It was like, if he enjoys baseball, we have to do the same.”