Los Angeles Dodgers’ all-star third baseman Justin Turner made headlines last week when he suggested using a home-run derby to decide extra innings games.
Turner hit a bigger home run, though, when he recorded a pep talk video to the residents and staff at the Veterans Home of California-Ventura. And he ask that it be shared with those living and working at the seven other Veterans Homes, operated by the California Department of Veterans Affairs, as they deal with coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
And the assist goes to Rona Chavez, the Ventura Home’s executive secretary and avid Dodger fan who reached out to Turner to request the video.
Here’s the backstory:
Chavez, who has worked at VHC-Ventura for the past four years, is a member of Pantone 294 (the color also known as “Dodger Blue”). This group of Dodger fans traveled periodically with the team on road trips as well as attending many games at Dodger Stadium. Over time, she became acquainted with some of the players, their wives or girlfriends, and they began following each other on Instagram. Chavez exchanged messages on occasion with Turner’s wife, Kourtney.
“I’d established a rapport,” Chavez said. “Whenever I’ve reached out, she’s responded.”
The connecting began in earnest a few years ago, when Chavez became aware of a child dealing with a serious illness. She thought a video from a player would be great for cheering up the child and family. So she messaged Kourtney, and the Turners quickly sent a video that made a huge positive emotional impact on the child.
So, as the potential dangers of the COVID-19 forced the Ventura Veterans Homes to close to outside visitors and to restrict the activities of the residents, Chavez again turned to the Turners, messaging Kourtney on March 31. Kourtney responded within minutes.
“(Kourtney) said, ‘What do you want us to do?’ ” Chavez said. “I told her it’s been really tough on the veterans and the staff. I’d overheard some of the veterans saying how sad it is that baseball is canceled (for the time being). There are lots of Dodger fans here, and the veterans go to one or two games a year.”
She asked that Justin record a video to boost the spirits at the veterans home. In a quick turnaround, the Turners created another motivational video that arrived in Chavez’s email inbox just three days later. He spoke not only to the veterans and staff at the Ventura Home, but also to the veterans and staff members at all of the homes in the CalVet system.
Chavez was by no means surprised by their willingness to help: Justin Turner is a big supporter of veterans, and his Justin Turner Foundation supports, among other things, homeless veterans.
“Whenever there are veterans at the games, he’s one of the players who runs over to shake their hands,” Chavez said.
And now, he’s offers a video tribute as well, with Chavez giving the “swing away” sign.
You can view Justin Turner’s Facebook post here.