Seven Questions: Josh Rawitch, Dodgers VP of Communications
Josh Rawitch, Joe Torre & The Great Wall of China | Photo Courtesy Josh Rawitch / used with permission
LA has a diverse cast of characters. Whether it's the characters with stirring stories or interesting occupations or the people who are just simply characters, this town has them all. In an effort to get to know some of those characters a little better, we've created "Seven Questions."
While a Freshman at Indiana University, one professor had an especially profound impact on the life Rawitch, a San Fernando Valley native. He recalled the educator's words: "don’t be afraid to send your resume to your hometown team. You never know what’ll happen."
Next thing the Dodger fan knew, he was interning for his hometown team, paid in tickets for three summers of work, before receiving his Bachelor's degree in Sports Marketing and Management.
Rawitch is now in his sixteenth season in Major League Baseball, his fourteenth with the Dodgers and third as the team's Vice President of Communications. His current position is in "probably the one department that literally touches everything that goes on in the organization," he said.
“The coolest part about this department is that it’s got a little bit of marketing in it, it’s got a little bit of Baseball Ops in it, and it’s got player relations -- setting up player interviews or community appearances."
This dreamjob has sent him to dozens of Major League ballparks, Spring Training (once Florida, now Arizona,) China, Mexico City, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and other pockets of the globe. “International travel is my other big passion," he said.
LAist recently caught up with Rawitch at his office inside of Dodger Stadium. That old professor is surely proud.
1) Did you always want to work in the business side of baseball?
When I first got into it, I thought I wanted to be in Baseball Operations. Growing up, I thought I was going to be a GM. [Former Dodgers General Manager] Fred Claire was kind enough to sit down with me when I was an intern and take me through just how tough it is to be a General Manager of a team.
For a lot of GMs, if you don’t win, you’re out. Suddenly you’ve worked 30 years to get to a position and you’re out. Plus, the overwhelming majority of people never get to be a GM. As I did more and more of the business side, I realized that was more my career path and I really loved what I was doing.
2) What’s a difference you've been a part in making?
Probably two, three years ago -- right when he was getting ready to be a free agent again -- Rafael Furcal and I were in Pittsburgh, sitting at a sushi bar after a game one night. He started telling me about a lot of the stuff he does in his hometown -- Loma de Cabrera -- in the Dominican Republic and he wasn’t doing it to brag. He was saying how crazy life is down there. He’s the town financier -- anybody who goes into the hospital and can’t afford to pay their bills, Furcal pays the bill for them.
His hometown, which is basically right on the Haitian border, doesn’t have a firetruck or an ambulance. I jokingly said, “if you come back and sign with us next year we’ll get you a firetruck.” When I first saw him this spring, the first thing he said was, “dude, are we doing a firetruck?” This upcoming winter, the Dodgers are going to donate a firetruck from the LA Fire Department, and transport it down there.
Honestly, that’s one of the coolest things about this job -- what a crazy effect you can have on people with the simplest little things you do. Obviously, getting a firetruck to the Dominican isn’t a simple thing, it’s going to take a lot of coordination and work, but a town will have a firetruck for the first time in its history. That’s crazy.
We had one guy once who, basically, his whole dream in life was to sit at home plate. He was a big prospect before World War II, he got drafted and never got to find out if he could make it. His kid wrote in and said, “my only goal is to just have my dad sit at home plate. I don’t want him to meet anybody, I just want him to sit there by himself for twenty minutes.” And you’re thinking, “this guy has lived for 70 years, and we have the chance with the simplest little thing to make his dream come true.”
We obviously can’t do every one of these things, but to me, that’s the coolest part of the job is that we have such an ability to effect people because they care so much about the Dodgers.
3) How is it to have your office at historic Dodger Stadium?
It’s surreal. It started when I was a senior in high school, I interned at the LA Times downtown and the route I used to take would take me by Dodger Stadium and I would think, “some day I’ll get to turn left, instead of right and go up to Dodger Stadium.” The next year I landed this internship.
It’s still totally surreal. You’ll be here leaving on a random night in November at seven o’clock and you’re looking out at the stadium and thinking, “my God, this is where I go to work.” Most of the people who work here genuinely appreciate that, and that’s part of what makes you willing to work all the crazy hours.
I represent our department but we’ve got a lot of people who work really, really hard and who love what they do. What I do is useless unless all these people are working their asses off. We have a really, really good staff.
4) Are you tested for steroids?
I believe I can be. I have not been, but my understanding is that any team employee with access to the clubhouse can be asked to test. I think anybody that sees my physique would know they’re not part of my daily regimen.
5) What was the biggest holy wow game you've seen?
The biggest single wow night was the Four Homer Game. I was sitting in the press box. I remember my jaw dropping and looking next to the person who was sitting next to me: “I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”
Bottom of the ninth inning, down four runs, we hit four consecutive solo homers off Trevor Hoffman. It was ridiculous. Then, to do that and give up a run in the top of the tenth, and Nomar [Garciaparra] hits a game winning walk-off two run homer. That was definitely the most dramatic of the games I’ve seen.
One of the strange things about being in this job, and in the press box during the games, is there’s no cheering in the press box. It does take a little bit of the fan out of you, you can’t get caught up in the emotion.
6) The Dodgers have been the first baseball club to credential bloggers as regular media. How come that came about?
I could literally go on for hours about it. Those of us who deal with media relations have to realize that the media world around us is changing and we can't try to stop it from changing. Nothing’s going to stop the fact that anyone with an Internet connection can basically go online and cover the Dodgers.
It’s not any person with a website can come out here and have clubhouse access and talk to players, but I think if sites are proving that they’re willing to cover this team in a journalistic fashion, not in a profane way, and are putting hours and hours of time into covering the team, to me, they deserve access.
To me, it’s better than to ignore all these sites that are out there and hope that they write something good about you. It’s better to give them at least the ability to interact with you and let them know what’s going on. We want them to have the ability to ask questions of the people who make the decisions and interact with the team.
There are some rules that they adhere to. If you started causing problems in the clubhouse, you’d be bounced in a heartbeat. Plus, the process has kind of weeded itself out. People think: you show up, you watch the game, you write about it, and you call it a day. It’s not that. It’s a huge time investment for somebody.
The other thing I’d say that made us change this policy was that the Dodgers are such an international brand. The three cities that visit Dodgers.com the most, are LA, Riverside and Taipei.
If you’re a Dodger fan in Taipei, you don’t know what the LATimes.com is versus TrueBlueLA. Whoever gives you the best coverage of the baseball team you like, that’s where you’re going to go.
7) Do other baseball teams do this?
No other team has really gone on to do this yet. I know the [Cleveland] Indians just started. They have a row for bloggers in their pavilion, where I think ten people can come out and setup their laptops. I think teams are slowly going in that direction.
For us, it was a progression. It started out: you can get our press releases, but please don’t ask to be credentialed. It’s not like we’re trendsetters by any means. I just think for us, it’s a simple: if these people are going to write about us, we should interact with them.