Friendship on hold for Astros, Dodgers bosses

Rob Woollard

Los Angeles (AFP) - Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Houston Astros counterpart A.J. Hinch have put their close friendship on hold as they prepare to battle for the World Series starting here Tuesday.

Roberts, 45, and Hinch, 43, have often intersected on their road to the baseball showpiece in a journey which began when they both studied at college in California -- Roberts at UCLA and Hinch at Stanford.

Their friendship florished during several years working on the staff of the San Diego Padres between 2010 and 2014.

Their paths diverged when former history student Roberts joined the Dodgers in 2015 while psychology graduate Hinch took over at the Astros in 2014.

Both men, however, were to have a dramatic effect on their respective franchises, with Roberts helping to turn the Dodgers into an authentic powerhouse while Hinch worked a near-miraculous transformation with the Astros.

Hinch admits that the story of the two mens' friendship followed by this season's World Series showdown was barely believable.

"It's a unique story," Hinch said Monday. "I think we both have unique backgrounds. And we find ourselves in the center stage of the World Series. It shows you that anything's possible."

Hinch, who guided the Astros into the playoffs in his first season in charge after years in the doldrums, said the two men had cheered for each other during the 2017 season, when both of their teams finished with 100-plus wins.

- 'Mortal enemies' -

"Well, we're not friends this week -- we're mortal enemies," he joked.

"Over the years I've gotten to know him a lot better. Our families are friends.

"We shared a breakfast in July where we both kind of rooted each other on that we would meet each other in October and fight out for the World Series.

"Now we've got to be careful what we wish for -- we have to go up against each other's teams.

"I love the man. He's an excellent example of what leadership should be about."

Roberts said he had forged an instant connection with Hinch during their spell in San Diego with the Padres.

"He was in the front office, I think director of scouting, and I was a coach and we just kind of hit it off, and obviously we were contemporaries, and had mutual friends, and just loved talking about the game," Roberts said.

"So to be managing against him now in this situation, it's really surreal. I think after we advanced, he reached out to me. And then after they advanced, I reached out to him.

"And from that point on it has been radio silence."

Hinch, meanwhile, said he had been inspired by Roberts' fierce determination to succeed and ability to find a message that resonated with players.

"Dave, as a coach first, was really good at connecting players and connecting with players and finding the competitive advantage," Hinch said.

"He has the will to win. Probably gets maybe wrongfully accused of being too nice of a guy to everybody. But he's got an inner burn to compete. I loved that when we were together and I'm sure I'll see it firsthand this week."

Hinch said Roberts, who successfully overcame cancer in 2011 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, had been on an "incredible journey."

"Obviously his is a special rise to the top on one of the best teams in baseball," Hinch told reporters. "I've got great respect for him."

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