LOS ANGELES — Justin Turner grew up rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers, played his college ball 30 miles away from their stadium and elevated his career while playing for them, serving as a central figure for dominant teams that came up just short of a championship.
When the Dodgers finally won it all on Oct. 27, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series, Turner wasn’t allowed to take part in the celebration. One of his COVID-19 tests came back positive, forcing him to be removed before the eighth inning of the final game. Inside a doctor’s office at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, he watched Julio Urias record the last out.
Turner, speaking before the Dodgers’ ring ceremony on Friday afternoon, called it “a big void.”
“As happy as I was, and as excited as I was, that Julio got that last out in the ninth, at the same time it felt like I was sitting there watching for the third time in my career a team get to celebrate the World Series,” Turner said. “This (the ring ceremony) will be very special, it’ll be something I enjoy, but I don’t think it’ll take the place of that moment of the last out and getting to celebrate on the field with my teammates.”
Turner received a rousing ovation when he was first introduced to the 15,036 fans who attended the home opener, then an even louder one when he homered off Washington Nationals reliever Luis Avilan to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the sixth.
Turner and his teammates were presented their rings after personalized congratulatory messages from the players they grew up idolizing. Turner was introduced by Gary Sheffield. Clayton Kershaw was introduced by Will Clark, who inspired him to wear No. 22. Walker Buehler was introduced by Bronson Arroyo, who sang “Wonderwall.” Dustin May was introduced by Alex Rodriguez, who was met by a chorus of boos. And Edwin Rios was introduced by Ichiro Suzuki, who summoned his best Spanish to say: “I don’t have a ring. Give me yours.”
The Dodgers honored the late Tommy Lasorda, and his daughter, Laura, addressed the crowd. Owner and chairman Mark Walter gave a speech during which he praised Dodger Stadium for serving as a critical testing and vaccination cite during the pandemic. And Dodgers owner Magic Johnson and L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti raised the championship flag in center field.
Friday marked the first time in 18 months that fans could attend Dodger Stadium, which meant it was also the first time they could experience a $100 million renovation that included a new center-field plaza, seats directly behind the outfield walls and a system of concourses and elevators that freely allow them to circumnavigate baseball’s third-oldest ballpark.
The Dodgers’ rings are 14 karats and include approximately 222 round diamonds, 10 princess-cut diamonds and 53 sapphires. David Price, who opted out of the 2020 season, will auction his ring to raise money for The Players Alliance.
It’s all in the details. pic.twitter.com/GDZcNh35YZ
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 9, 2021
The ceremony marked the first time Turner was able to truly celebrate the World Series title with his teammates, and it was hardly ever a guarantee that he could. After the conclusion of the World Series — which saw Turner endure rampant criticism for violating health-and-safety protocols by posing for a team photo and congregating with teammates on the field — Turner set off into a prolonged free agency that didn’t end until he rejoined the Dodgers with a two-year, $34 million contract on Feb. 19.
The way last season ended still resonates with him.
“It’s something that I’m not gonna forget,” Turner said. “That’s definitely motivation to me, to bring another championship back to L.A. Whether that might be considered selfish or whatever, I wanna be on the field for the last out and be able to run in and dog pile and embrace my teammates and celebrate the right way.”