Puzzle man: Angels' David Fletcher joins Dodgers' Kenley Jansen in talent show

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Los Angeles Angels' David Fletcher fields a base hit by Oakland Athletics' Elvis Andrus during the third inning of a spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Angels' David Fletcher fields a base hit against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training game on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York / Associated Press)

What could be better to break up the monotony of spring training than a talent show?

David Fletcher and Kenley Jansen are among the Southern California baseball celebrities donating their time and talents to a benefit Thursday for the American Lung Assn.

Jansen, the Dodgers’ closer, plays the piano. Angels shortstop José Iglesias sings. Angels broadcaster Mark Gubicza cooks. Dodgers broadcaster Orel Hershiser does something, but we couldn’t find out what.

Fletcher, the Angels’ second baseman, can solve a Rubik’s cube. In a segment taped last year, he’ll try to solve one as former Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons watches.

“He was heckling me,” Fletcher said, “trying to distract me.”

Fletcher said he learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube from a teammate in the minor leagues.

“We have a lot of free time on our hands,” he said.

What’s the secret?

“It’s a lot of memorizing, a lot of steps and stuff,” he said. “If I didn’t know how to do it, obviously there’s no way I’d be able to figure it out.”

Yogi Berra could not have put it any better. But, other than the ability to play baseball and solve a Rubik’s cube, Fletcher said he did not really have many other talents.

When he attended Cypress High, Fletcher said, the senior class did not stage a talent show.

“If we did,” he said, “I probably wouldn’t have been involved.”

The talent show can be streamed free via https://www.lung.org/get-involved/events/championsunite.

Dead ball, live game

The traditional description of baseball as the “national pastime” is not an anachronism, at least not to Angels manager Joe Maddon. He just believes the sport needs to return to traditional baseball.

Toward that end, he approves of the slightly deader ball Major League Baseball plans to use this season. Fewer home runs, he hopes, would lead hitters to use the whole field, leading to more singles, doubles, triples and stolen bases — all of which are more exciting than the sleep-inducing contemporary mix of the "three true outcomes": home runs, walks and strikeouts.

“If you’re going to want to re-engage the fans and kind of force a different method of play, I think it would be outstanding,” Maddon said.

“I want to see the industry grow. I want to see the phrase ‘national pastime’ used more consistently, because that’s who we are. We’ve gotten away from that a little bit, and the little bit is the disinterest in the game based on the three true outcomes that have proliferated the last, I don’t know, 10 or 12 or 13 years. There’s only one way, I think, to get the game being played to its fullest again.”

The Angels scored their first run Wednesday when Justin Upton singled, stole second base, and scored on a two-out single. Upton has two stolen bases this spring. He had no stolen bases last season and one in 2019.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.