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Copy of Harrison JT - 3

by Mark Jent

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”

Those are the words of the late MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti (1938-1989) that he wrote at the outset of his now famous essay turned speech “The Green Fields of the Mind.” {click here to listen to it}

For me it has happened numerous times along my 35 year baseball journey of being a fan. Sometimes it may be after a devastating loss and other times it may be when my team loses or trades away a favorite player. And occasionally it might just be when the final out of the Fall Classic is made and the long winter is upon us.

I’ve learned in recent years that parenting a baseball fan is very different than simply just being a baseball fan. With young kids (ages 10, 12, 14) who are in various stages of their own fandom, the words of Giamatti have already rang true in the Jent house. Their passion has collided with disappointment, but that’s what makes the game beautiful and unique.  

With all that said, I experienced a personal first as a dad this week – a first that I knew was possible, but I was hopeful wouldn’t happen.

I was in Honduras this past week on a work trip when I got a text from a friend delivering the latest offseason free agent news. It wasn’t the splashiest offseason headline, but as Dodger fan it cut the deepest in our household – our 3B Justin Turner had signed a two year contract with the Boston Red Sox. 


I immediately knew I wanted to be the one to deliver the news to Harrison who just turned 12 on Sunday. You see he started sitting down with me and watching games in 2016 when he was 5 years old. It was then that he chose the red-headed, scruffy-bearded, high leg-kickin’ guy as his favorite player. And Harrison has stayed true to his allegiance to Justin Turner ever since, even to the point of choosing 10 every season for his jersey number.

Spring 2021 Baseball Season. It’s a little ironic that his team name was the Giants (not our choice!), but he was faithful to being #10 after Justin Turner.

As I prepared to make the call, I found a quiet spot outside to FaceTime him as I was about to be the bearer of bad news. “Hey buddy, I have some Dodger news to share with you. Justin Turner is going to the Red Sox.”

His disposition turned on a dime. His ever-present smile was wiped away and replaced with a look of shock, confusion and sadness.

We had talked for months about the Dodgers pending free agents – JT, Kershaw, Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and the ever-looming Cody Bellinger situation. I had given him the best dad analysis I could and explained the reality that Kershaw would likely come back, but could sign with Texas or may decide to retire. (Fortunately he signed a 1 year deal to return for a 16th season.) I informed him a few weeks ago that the Dodgers declined JT’s team option making him a free agent, yet Turner made it clear he wanted to return. The Dodgers brass indicated he was an off-season priority. Yet when a player gets to free agency, anything can happen.

I cut to the chase, talked about how and why, told him I had “been there before” and kept the FaceTime short.

the newspaper clipping that I kept from that fateful day when Strawberry left the Mets for the Dodgers

It might have been a first for me as a parent, but not as a fan. That first occurred on November 9th, 1990 when I was 13 years old and my favorite player, the Mets superstar RF Darryl Strawberry left “my then beloved Mets” to go home and play for his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers. He signed a MASSIVE 5 years, $20 million contract, the second largest in baseball history at the time. I remember seeing the breaking news story that night on ESPN’s SportsCenter, probably delivered by Chris Berman or Bob Ley. The next morning the reality sunk in more as I saw the headline in the Nashville Banner. I was crushed.

At 13 years old I found myself at a crossroads – do I keep my allegiance with the Mets, my favorite team since ‘86? Or do I follow my favorite player across the country? I wrestled with this agonizing decision, but ultimately my heart was pulled to not only cheer for Strawberry, but along the way I fell in love with the history and traditions of the franchise’s iconic legacy. Darryl Strawberry’s tenure with the Dodgers did not live up to the hype, but even though it wasn’t my money, for me it was worth every dollar. 

February 2017: Harrison is 6 years old and I took him to an FCA Dinner in Columbia (TN) to meet Darryl Strawberry.

Harrison knows of my journey from being a Mets fan to being a Dodgers and that it’s due to Darryl Strawberry’s free agent departure. (One of my my favorite baseball memories was taking Harrison to meet Strawberry in 2017 at a FCA Dinner in Columbia.) The family has heard the story many times as I often get asked the question, “How did you become a Dodgers fan growing up in Tennessee?” Selfishly, my hope is that him switching his team’s allegiance doesn’t follow the same path as mine! I am doubtful it happens, but if it does, I will somehow accept the change. There are worse places to watch a game than Fenway.

It’s been a few days now since Justin Turner signed with the Red Sox. As I write this story we are 99 days away from Opening Day and it seems that reality has set in for Harrison that JT’s not coming back. Yet with that said, there is a reminder on the horizon that we can’t escape – a gift on Christmas morning. 

After assessing his wish list (and in discussion with him), just two weeks ago we placed an order on for Harrison’s first authentic jersey – a pearly white one with pantone 294 blue script on the front, with Turner 10 on the back across his name and number. The only thing it’s missing is the black pine tar streak. (We even ordered a size up so he can wear it longer.) Yep, when jolly ‘ole Saint Nick visits our house in a few days, in Harrison’s pile of gifts will be his now VINTAGE Justin Turner Dodgers jersey.

I am hopeful this reminder will bring a smile across his face and with it are all the great memories we have of Justin Turner’s amazing career with the Dodgers.

JT, if you ever happen to read this story, thank you for all the memories – from the epic walk-offs that made us scream uncontrollably in our living room, to the diving tag in the 2020 World Series, from setting all the Dodgers’ postseason records, to being the heartbeat of the clubhouse, from being a community icon in the city of Los Angeles, to being a great role model for a little boy in Nashville – thank you.

Featured Image:
August 2020, Cards-R-Fun card shop in Nashville. It was Harrison’s first trip to a baseball card shop. To read more about that, click here.

Here are a couple of Justin Turner highlights that I’ve captured over the years that can be found on Simply A Fan’s YouTube Channel.
September 2017, San Diego: Justin Turner hits game-tying 9th inning HR
July 2022, Los Angeles: Justin Turner Q&A, MLB Play Ball Park during All-Star Week

June 2022, Truist Park in Atlanta. Harrison wearing his Justin Turner “shirsey” while watching the Dodgers take batting practice. His Christmas gift is his first authentic jersey.