His name is Pete Bonfils, and he is a batting practice pitcher. Pete is also a baseball memorabilia collector. Two upstairs rooms at his home have been converted into a shrine to the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.
I first met Pete around 10 years ago. Maybe it has been longer than that, not sure. We work out at the same gym, Arcadia Fitness at the intersection of Duarte and First. For some reason, he’s in a lot better shape than I am.
Pete turned 57 on May 27, and looks 37.
(Story continues below following video interview with Pete and tour of his impressive enormous collection of Dodgers memorabilia.)
We’ve become good friends. We’ve gone to the Baseball Scouts Foundation Dinner together a number of times and when I was still working as a sportswriter for the L.A. Times and had press credentials, we’d hang out together at Dodger games after he was done throwing batting practice.
Everyone there knows Pete. And why shouldn’t they? He has been around forever.
Pete started out as a ball boy for the Dodgers in 1969 when he was a senior at Pasadena High School, and started pitching batting practice the following year.
His association with the Dodgers has lasted through five decades.
“If I make it to 2010, it will be six decades,” he notes.
Beginning in 1971, there’s an 11-year gap when Pete left the Dodgers to pursue a career as a minor league pitcher. But he returned to the Dodgers in 1982 and has been one of the team’s batting practice pitchers ever since.
He has thrown to some of the biggest names in Dodger history — Maury Wills, Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Kirk Gibson, Mike Piazza and Jeff Kent, to name a few, and he currently has a special relationship with Manny Ramirez.
When Manny first began working out at Dodger Stadium during his 50-game suspension, he requested that Pete pitch to him.
Fortunately for Pete, he has an employer that allows him time off to do what he loves to do.
Batting practice pitchers make only $50 a day, so he’s certainly not doing it for the money.
Pete works for Young’s Market as an account executive in the wine and spirits division, and twice has been named the department’s account executive of the year.
Pete and his wife Diane, an English teacher at Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, have lived in Arcadia since 1995. (continued)
Pete has always been a huge baseball fan. He started collecting baseball cards when he was seven and was a Little League all-star. In his junior and senior years of high school, he was an all-league outfielder.
His best friend in high school was John Wade, whose father Ben was a longtime executive in the Dodgers’ ticket office. John Wade was Pete’s ticket to access to the Dodger dugout and locker room, places most people never get to see.
Pete ended up getting a job as a ball boy, whose duties include delivering balls to the umpire.
Pete was invited back as a ball boy the next season, and one day was asked to also throw batting practice. The players liked his left-handed delivery, and the rest is history.
In 1971, Pete was attending Pasadena City College and throwing batting practice whenever the Dodgers had a home game. But he was unsure what he was going to end up doing with his life. He loved baseball but never thought about playing the sport professionally.
But, as fate would have it, he did.
After catcher Jeff Torborg was traded from the Dodgers to the Angels, he arranged for Pete to throw batting practice in Anaheim as well. An Angel scout named Kenny Meyers liked what he saw and signed Pete to a minor league contract.
During his 11 years in the minors, which included seven in the Mexican League, Pete pitched 1,715 innings and struck out 1,034 batters. He had a respectable record of 108 wins and 89 losses and an ERA of 2.99.
Fortunately for Pete, the Dodgers brought him back into the fold after his playing days were over, and he has been a mainstay with the organization ever since.
Pete is one of the people featured in a new Dodgers DVD, “Bluetopia: The LA Dodgers Movie,” available at Amazon, Best Buy and other outlets. The film focuses on the 2008 season and Dodgers fans.
And Pete Bonfils is definitely a Dodger fan – one who has gotten to be a part of the team and live out a dream.