When fans think of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers, for sure names like Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig come to mind first. Having star players comes with the territory for Los Angeles over the last couple years, but World Series success has not. The difference this year has been the core component of players that make up the Dodgers’ soul, and that core starts with Justin Turner.
Turner came up huge in Game 1 of the World Series for Los Angeles. With two outs in the sixth inning, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles found themselves locked in a 1-1 pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel, each their team’s respective aces. Turner came to the plate with a runner on and broke the tie in dramatic fashion with a moonshot over the leftfield fence. Los Angeles never looked back, taking Game 1 by a score of 3-1.
The 32-year-old had bounced around Major League Baseball for eight years before he landed with the Dodgers.
Originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2006, Turner made it as far as AA before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2008. The Orioles thought enough of him to grant him his MLB debut in 2009, but by 2010 Baltimore gave up on him, designating him for assignment. in 17 games with the Orioles, Turner had hit just .111.
Turner landed with the New York Mets, where he played well enough to earn NL Rookie of the Month honors for May 2011. He platooned at shortstop to finish out the 2013 season, finishing with a .280 average while playing four infield positions in 2013.
However, the Mets surprisingly decided to non-tender Turner, in effect granting him his release.
“His attitude was ‘Okay, let’s go to work. What are we working on today?” said Doug Latta, Southern California hitting coach who had been working with Turner when he got the news.
That’s when the Dodgers hitting coach at the time, Tim Wallach, saw Turner playing in a Cal-State Fullerton alumni game. Even then, Turner was nearly cut after a slow start. Then-manager Don Mattingly saw something in Turner that he liked, and battled to keep the utility infielder on the Dodgers.
By putting in the work, and keeping the faith, Turner has gone from journeyman infielder to World Series hero.