August 2010

Dre’s Anatomy

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All-Star Dodger ANDRE ETHIER shows his many layers in a chat on fashion, food, family and faith
by TOM MURRAY / photographs by ERIC RAY DAVIDSON /
styling by HAYLEY ATKIN / produced by HANNAH HARTE

It’s late morning on a gloomy July day as Maggie Ethier opens the door of the cozy West Hollywood house where she lives with husband Andre, the Dodgers’ All-Star outfielder, and their nearly two-year-old son, Dreson. Just four weeks from delivering their second boy, Maggie offers that since the Dodgers are mid homestand, things are just now beginning to stir in the Ethier household.

By the time Andre gets home from a game, she says, it’s usually well after midnight, and then it takes a few hours for him to eat something, get in some face time with the little guy—a night owl who likes to wait up for his daddy—and wind down. This morning it’s a happy place: The night before, Andre smacked a home run in a Dodger win.

It’s been a challenging season for Ethier: He was leading the majors with a lofty .392 batting average and 38 RBIs when he broke his right pinkie during batting practice and missed 15 games. But he logged more fan votes than any other player for last month’s All-Star game in Anaheim and was able to start—in center field, not his typical right—for the National League, which won its first midsummer classic since 1996. While he hails from Phoenix, he has embraced the Los Angeles lifestyle in unexpected ways. We sit out back, in the barbecue and dining alcove of their small, grassy yard.

You might be the first L.A. pro athlete I’ve come across who lives in West Hollywood.
I gave Maggie the option: Do you want to live near the beach or out in Pasadena, where a lot of the guys live? She said no [to those locations], so we decided to look here. My first three years, we lived downtown in the lofts, right across from Staples Center, and we loved it. Didn’t have any kids. It was perfect—five minutes from the field. That first year, there was no certainty of me staying, so we wanted something that was convenient. It’s our second year in West Hollywood. We love the community we’ve gotten to know since we’ve moved in. You can walk everywhere. One of our favorite breakfast spots is around the corner. And as commutes in L.A. go, it isn’t too far, but it’s far enough. That drive after the game gives you some time to sit and reflect, whether you need to cool down from a bad game or, if you’re too high, to come back down.

Are you a guy who likes to dress up off the field—more than the jeans most ballplayers favor?
If you ask my teammates, they’d say yeah. There are two or three of us guys on the team known for wearing not the usual jeans and sweaters. I try and have the whole outfit going together, rather than just a mishmash. I see the locker-room guys picking up my sweater or looking at my shoes and thinking, What the heck is this guy wearing?

You don’t hide the fact that your Catholic faith is an important part of your life.
I think faith has played an important part in my development since I was a young kid. It’s developed me into the person I am. And to shun away from that just because you’re supposed to be more vanilla in certain areas, it wouldn’t be me. I’m always trying to portray myself as who I really am, so that’s definitely part of me—the faith part.

So going to Mass regularly is a big part of that for you?
Oh yeah, I think it’s important—not only the aspect of having some type of discipline to follow, but I think it’s also a great time to be able to clear your mind and think about where you’re at in general. Sometimes things get out of perspective pretty quickly. So no matter what happens, good or bad, you gotta keep steady in that faith.

Then let me ask you as a fellow Catholic who has grappled with this question: How do you reconcile your faith with the abuse scandals that have been so prominent in the church?
You feel a little bit ashamed and embarrassed for the way they handled some of those situations. Who wouldn’t if you belong to whatever group it is? You can relate it to the Dodgers: If they were to handle certain situations in a certain way, and you’re a follower and a fan of the team, you might be embarrassed and upset, but you don’t disown it and just say that’s it. Hopefully they’re making strides, sooner and quicker than they have in the past.

You’re in a homestand right now. Is there any particular routine you follow on a game day?
I try to be up by 10, and that’s kind of an early wakeup call. Most guys on our team aren’t up until 11, 12, so that only gives them an hour of free time before they have to get to the field. I guess that’s an unfortunate part about playing here in L.A. You usually have to give yourself 30 minutes to an hour for commute time. I try to get lunch in by 12:30, and by 1:30 I’m heading over to the ball field. Then before every game—ever since I was in the minors—I eat a peanut butter and honey sandwich on wheat bread and two spoonfuls of tuna.

Together in the same sandwich?
No, no. I don’t put the tuna on the bread. I put it on the side. I try to balance the protein and the carbs and everything. Tuna is one of the few meat proteins that’s still lean, and it leaves me with a satisfied feeling, not one where I eat something and I’m not going to feel right during the game. I’m not going to lie to you. Some of the food in the clubhouse that the guys like isn’t great. I mean, you’re talking curly fries, pizza, hot dogs—all kinds of crazy things that they put out there. Tuna and peanut butter and honey is probably one of the more health-conscious choices you can make in there.

“This is one thing I will brag about: I have some of the right friends in the restaurant business...Mario Batali loves baseball. I think I’m the only guy in town who gets takeout from Osteria Mozza.”

This is a perfect segue into the topic of food, which I know is a tremendous passion of yours. When did it all start?
When I first got to the minor leagues. You don’t get much extra money to spend on eating and stuff in the minors. Most of the towns and cities we played in have the typical fast-food restaurants and diner-type places, but the ones with more variety or better quality food—and just as cheap—were some of the ethnic places. I found myself wandering into those places because it seemed like you could get home-style cooking out of it. So I learned how to try different foods when I was in the minors, and then when I got here, L.A. has so many places to choose from. I drive home [from Dodger Stadium] every night on Melrose. You pass every type of ethnic restaurant. And if you see a decent crowd, you know that place must be pretty dang good. So you make a mental note, and when you have a free moment, you stop in.

You even did a blog for a while—Dining with Dre.
Our media guys came up with the idea. It was working out well—I think a little too well, because they wanted me to start putting out more all the time. And it came to where I said I can’t be on a deadline here and keep putting these out. So I had to stop doing it.

Were you taking a laptop with you on the road?
No, I did ’em on my iPhone. I still have most of them. [Pulls out his iPhone and proudly shows one of his reviews.]

Is there a particular spot in L.A. that is a favorite?
This is one thing I will brag about: I have some of the right friends in the restaurant business. On the way home is Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza. So that’s part of the strategic planning in my mind of why we chose to live here. They take care of me. And I may as well let this secret out: Mario [Batali, chef at Osteria Mozza] loves baseball, and he’s a big Dodger fan. I think I’m the only guy in town who gets takeout from Osteria Mozza. I can text when I leave the ballpark and say I need a pick-me-up, something good, and they’ll have a full pasta meal and mozzarella waiting for me on the way home at 11:30 at night.

You just pull over?
I pop in and shoot the breeze for about 10, 15 minutes. It’s great, because it gives me a chance to sit and have some good conversation with people I’ve really gotten to enjoy here. I’m getting some of the best food in L.A. People wait on a list for a month trying to get a dinner reservation. And they’re getting me takeout! That’s one thing I’ve been very proud to establish, that relationship with some of these restaurants in town.

If you had to eat one particular kind of food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
You know what? Since the time I first tried it to now, the food I cannot get enough of would have to be Korean. Especially spicy tofu soup and chicken bulgogi. That’s a great fast-food Korean meal right there.

Do you cook?
Maggie cooks. I’m the eater. I think in my mind that’s what makes me so good at knowing what restaurants to go to.

How would you and the family spend the perfect day off?
Just hanging around in this area—maybe take Dreson to the park up the street in the morning, then put him down for his nap, and then we’ll go out to a movie. That’s something we always try and do—make a kind of date night. [Leans back in his chair and smiles broadly.] And I can definitely say that a big part of our days off is planning where we’re going to eat that evening.

TOM MURRAY is hoping to become the second man in L.A. to order takeout from Osteria Mozza.