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Tony Jackson

One day during my first spring training with the Dodgers, I was the second-to-last person to leave the stadium after a game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Near the stadium, I rolled over something and had to pull over my rental car into an empty parking lot. Darkness was falling, and I’m no good with my hands.

Thousands of miles from home, 45 minutes away from Vero Beach, there was really only one person I could call for help.

Yes, Tony Jackson - the last man in the press box - finished his story and then changed my flat tire.

Sure, we were competitors. And definitely we were different - Tony being the Cal Ripken of beat writers with the Los Angeles Daily News and me the 25-year-old who he’d often joke was too “young, hip and cool.” He was proudly everything those adjectives were not.

The baseball beat brought us together. You spend more time with the guys on the beat than your own family, friends and co-workers. You learn their quirks. You know them so well that you can exchange looks and know exactly what each other is feeling.

Getting lost in conversation while sitting in a strange bar restaurant in a strange city with a 6 a.m. flight the next day to catch, that’s all you have to stay sane sometimes. Glamorous, isn’t it?

When I walked into the clubhouse at AT&T Park earlier this week and saw the Dodgers regulars for the first time since my layoff, Tony didn’t immediately greet me. He laughed and explained later that he was so used to the sight of me in the clubhouse that he immediately didn’t think anything of it.

We shook hands, and I told him I’d see him in August when the Dodgers came to town again. Yesterday, it was learned that Tony would be the second Dodgers beat writer laid off in as many months and yet another voice silenced.

Even before calling him, I knew how he’d feel.

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