It wasn’t clear if any of the media gathered in Dodger Stadium this week to question Mookie Betts and David Price realized the two marquee players were from the same neck of the woods, but there is a distinctive Nashville feel for the team in Dodger Blue these days.
Betts and Price were traded to the Dodgers in a blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox, who were looking at losing Betts at the end of the 2020 season to free agency and who unloaded a large part of Price’s contract in a broad re-working of the Red Sox’ outlook for the future. Betts and Price appeared in a press conference for the first time as Dodgers on Wednesday.
Betts, a former Most Valuable Player for the Boston Red Sox, played at Overton High School in Nashville and has been building a new home just south of Nashville in Williamson County.
Price hails from nearby Rutherford County, playing at Blackman High School before pitching for Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He has been a generous financial contributor to Vandy, which has one of the premier baseball programs in the country and is the defending NCAA national champion.
But Betts and Price as a Nashville duo only scratches the surface of the mark Music City has on the current Dodger roster.
Walker Buehler, who played in high school in Lexington, Ky., also pitched for Vanderbilt and is already a notch or two ahead of the former Cy Young Award-winning Price in the Los Angeles starting rotation.
Even the Dodger pitching coach, Mark Prior, pitched at Vanderbilt, before transferring to the University of Southern California, before pitching five seasons for the Chicago Cubs.
Matt Beaty, who played at Dresden High School in West Tennessee, played at Belmont University in Nashville and is on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster as an infielder, although he played the outfield as well as first base and third base for L.A. as a rookie last season.
Even the Dodgers’ list of non-roster invitees to spring training includes two former Vanderbilt players. Jeren Kendall, a center fielder, who played for the Dodgers’ Rancho Cucamonga Class A team last year, is on the list, as well as Jordan Sheffield, who was drafted out of Vanderbilt in 2016 by the Dodgers in the first round. Sheffield played high school baseball in Tullahoma, Tenn., and is the brother of Justus Sheffield, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners.
Further, the Dodgers’ big-league roster includes two former Nashville Sounds, a Class AAA club. Pitcher Jimmy Nelson, who was a highly touted prospect, pitched parts of two seasons for Nashville before pitching for the then-parent club Milwaukee Brewers. Nelson signed this year with the Dodgers as a free agent. And, of course, Max Muncy, who played for the Sounds in 2015 and 2016, is a fixture in the current Dodger lineup. Muncy played in Nashville when the club first operated as an Oakland Athletics affiliate. Muncy is expected to be the first baseman for the Dodgers and is also on the depth chart as a second baseman.
The Dodgers’ Opening Day lineup could well have Buehler on the mound, Muncy on first, Betts in right field and Prior in the dugout, where he takes over for former University of Tennessee pitcher Rick Honeycutt, now a special assistant for the Dodgers. Price would figure to be the No. 3 starter behind Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. Nelson is a rotation candidate. Beaty is currently listed as the fourth left fielder, the fourth right fielder, and the fourth third baseman on the Dodgers’ depth chart.