Dodger great Tommy Lasorda made some of his first public comments about new Dodgers owner Magic Johnson, saying he will bring a winning culture to the team.
Empty seats, an unusually high number of them, characterized Dodger Stadium at the end of the team's 2011 campaign, when many fans boycotted games in protest of former owner Frank McCourt.
Dodgers great Tommy Lasorda, however, never stopped going.
"I love the Dodgers," Lasorda said Thursday in Arizona, before a spring training game against the Giants. "We finally got an owner."
A career-long Dodger, the 84-year-old won three World Series titles in more than 60 years with the team -- one as a player and two as a manager -- so it was no surprise he stood with the Boys in Blue through one of the toughest eras.
But the team has new owners, including fellow Los Angeles sports great Magic Johnson, who Lasorda said on Thursday is the right man for the job, and now the Dodgers can focus on getting fans back onboard.
"I met Magic when he first came here. … He wore a Dodger hat for a lot of years," Lasorda said.
"He worked hard to get where he is and I'm proud of him to even be associated with us," he added.
Magic Johnson is the face of a group, which also includes baseball executive Stan Kasten and Guggenheim Partners Chief Executive Officer Mark Walter.
The group, Guggenheim Baseball Management, placed a successful $2 billion bid to buy the team, the highest price an American professional franchise has ever been sold for.
Lasorda believes Johnson can bring a culture of success, since the new owner won five NBA championships during his time as an all-star point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"He can walk around and tell guys what it's like to win because he was winner," Lasorda said.
He also had some nice words for Kasten, who has been an executive for both the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.
"I've known him for years," Lasorda said. "When he was the president of the Braves, he did a tremendous job over there."
As for the steep sale price, well, Lasorda thinks it says a lot about the team.
"It just shook up the whole baseball world," Lasorda said. "It goes to show you the pride and the reputation that the Dodgers have had over the years."
And over the years, Lasorda was partly responsible for that success.
He played just two seasons for the Dodgers, when their jerseys read "Brooklyn" instead of "Los Angeles," and was a member of the 1955 World Series Champion team.
But he found most of his success as a manager of the Dodgers from 1976-1996, when he won two titles, in 1981 and 1988, and was named Manager of the Year twice.
A fan favorite himself, Lasorda might be the biggest Dodger supporter there is, his No. 2 is retired by the team and he wants his fellow fans to join him in coming back to Dodger Stadium.
"Dodger fans will come back," Lasorda said. "They just had a bad feeling and they left. We just got to bring them back."
Players must do their part in bringing back fans as well, he added.
"The players have to play a vital role in this," Lasorda said. "They're going to have to get on that field and bust their tails and give fans exciting baseball."
As for off the field, Lasorda wasn't sure about his role with the team going forward, but made it clear that he'd like to spend the rest of his life as a Dodger.
"If they want me, I'll continue doing what I'm doing," Lasorda said. "I feel like I'll die a Dodger."