By the time Dodgers’ charter lands at LAX on Sunday night following the team’s week of work in Cleveland and Cincinnati, KLAC/570 team beat reporter David Vassegh will still need a couple more hours to get to to his West Hills home figuring his 4-year-old daughter Adriana and 1 1/2-year-old son Joseph will be long asleep.
But he won’t have missed out on Father’s Day.
The Vassegh family strategy was to celebrate it a week earlier. On the Sunday afternoon following the Dodgers’ dramatic 9-7 win over the Reds at Dodger Stadium on June 11, Adriana Vassegh provided the encore with in presenting her dad with a card made out of a paper lunch sack with a tie on it, and a bunch of nuts and bolts glued to it. Asked what her favorite thing to do with her dad was, she wrote: He gives me ice cream.
Way to make a father melt.
When Vassegh started in 2012 as the Dodgers flagship station insider and co-host of “DodgerTalk,” he was a newlywed to wife Tessa. Five-plus seasons and two Vasseghs later, he remarkably and admirably has yet to miss a Dodgers game, home or road, regular or postseason. That is in addition to covering the team for MLB Network, contributing to SportsNet LA and recruited to host an off-day “DodgerTalk” when a night at home would be more preferred.
“It feels some days like I’m leading two separate lives with this job, but the personal life is the most meaningful,” the 40-year-old Vassegh said Thursday from Cleveland during the afternoon getaway game, before collecting postgame interviews and doing a live report that afternoon on KLAC’s “Petros and Money Show,” a place where Vassegh spent five years as the show’s producer.
One of those dueling emotional moments came just the other day while Vassegh was with the team in … where was it … oh, right, Milwaukee.
A Friday night, and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw was recording his 2,000th career strikeout. Ten seasons earlier, Vassegh witnessed Kershaw’s major-league debut and first strikeout – memorable too because it was a night at Dodger Stadium when Vassegh set up the first official date with his future wife, a producer at KFI/640.
“So I’m pumped and excited and thankful to see Kershaw reach this historic milestone, and I’m caught up in that moment -- but I’m also thinking about my daughter’s first ballet recital,” he said. “As Kershaw gets No. 2,000, my wife sends me a picture of her with my mom and her parents and her brother at the recital, and all I can think about is some huge empty seat where I was supposed to be and my daughter expecting me.
“Now, I know she’s only 4, and I’m praying there will be so many bigger things in her life, but this is one of the toughest parts about the job.”
After a typical Dodgers’ weeknight game, Vassegh won’t be back home until after midnight. The kids will be up by 6:30 a.m. and he’ll follow shortly. Before heading to Dodger Stadium at 1:30 p.m for the 7:10 p.m. start, he’ll have dad activities lined up.
On road trips, it gets a little more difficult. Joseph may be pulling on dad’s leg when he sees him rolling his suitcase toward the car.
“I just think of those times when Vin Scully used to praise his wife, Sandi, for all those years of being so supportive and handling things at home -- I understand that,” said Vassegh, a graduate of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks and a broadcast journalism major from Cal State Northridge after time at Moorpark College.
“I love my job, and if this ended tomorrow, I feel as if I’ve reached my Mt. Everest, my dream job after so many told me no. But my priorities have really changed. The kids are No. 1.
“When you’re on this side of it, you appreciate all the sacrificing that goes on — for the broadcasters, the players, everyone. Money doesn’t take care of any of those issues. They love their kids and family and it can be hard to be away.”
For example, Vassegh, who shares photos with fans of his trips and family on Instagram, picked up a tip from Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez about how to use Facetime if stuck in a hotel room – put the phone up on the dresser and pretend the kids are in your living room as you’re packing and unpacking, making it more casual.
Tessa will send David videos of things the kids have done during the day that he can watch between innings at the game. Family bonding trips can happen in San Diego, or at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz.
But that’s not always problem-proof. Last March, when Joseph came down with croup (an upper respiratory virus), Tessa had him in urgent care while David was trying to find a 24-hour Walmart with a humidifier.
Vassegh, who learned much of the radio business for five years as an intern, producer and reporter for the KSPN/710 Joe McDonnell and Doug Krikorian show, has enough fans in the business to make sure he’s supported as well.
“Dave is one of the closest people to me in broadcasting,” Papadakis said. “There are times when I’m struggling as I’m leaving my family for a road trip, and I’ll call Dave when I’m driving to the airport because he knows what it’s like.
“He has a balancing act to accomplish all the time — as a reporter, he’s getting his information and inserting his opinions, knowing what he might not be able to use because it’s confidential. He’s got all kinds of chainsaws in the air. And somehow he does it with a great smile and a great laugh and a trust of the players he covers because he’s a genuinely good person.”
Vassegh’s parental nurturing role model has been his mom, Bianca, who divorced his father when he was 9. She still lives nearby. His godfather, a Teamster truck driver named Pete Rose who died in 2002, instilled a work ethic that Vassegh carries on.
“My mom was everything for me and my brother,” said Vassegh, coming home on this trip with kids T-shirts from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “Not having a father around much is very personal to me. I don’t want my kids to feel their dad is missing a lot of time. It has made me want to be the best dad I possibly can.”
MEASURING MEDIA MAYHEM WHAT SMOKES • More Father’s Day emotion: A 20-minute piece scheduled for Sunday’s “E:60” (ESPN, 7 and 9 a.m.) focuses on the father-son story of Michael Lorenzen, the Cincinnati Reds middle relief pitcher from Anaheim, Fullerton High and Cal State Fullerton. Late in the 2016 season, he somehow hit a home run against the Dodgers at Great American Ballpark that went viral because of how he tearfully reacted. Lorenzen had just rejoined the team following bereavement leave so he could attend his funeral of his father, Cliff, who led a tormented life of alcoholism and drug abuse but was still passionate about coaching him in Little League. Another interesting angle here: The reporter is Will Reeve, the 25-year-old son of the late actor Christopher Reeve, and doing his first piece for the show after doing some “SportsCenter” work. “Michael’s story, while it’s unique to him, is also universal,” said Reeve. “We all have a father that we try to follow in their footsteps, for better or worse, and there are universal truths in this story that relate to themes of forgiveness and hope after our shared experiences.” Wrapping up the piece, Reeve and “E:60” host Jeremy Schaap will sit together to discuss the relationships they had with their high-profile fathers who are now gone. “We want to explore that emotional space, and give credit to Michael for his raw emotions that he exposes and we were not expecting,” said Reeve. The Dodgers finish a three-game series at Cincinnati back at Great American Ballpark on Sunday (SportsNet LA, 10:10 a.m.) where it may not be all that strange if Lorenzen came out of the bullpen for an appearance. WHAT CHOKES • Still haven’t dig down to get Dad a gift yet? That’s on you. There are bookstores. Track one down unless you have Amazon Drone same-day delivery and find a) one of these we covered in last April’s 30 baseball books for 2017, b) the new Richard Sandomir “Pride of the Yankees” book reviewed last week, or depending on what message you want to deliver, c) consider something dark like the new Douglas Brunt novel, “Trophy Son,” called a cross between Pat Conroy’s “The Great Santini” and Bernard Malamud’s “The Natural.” It’s about a teen tennis prodigy Anton Stratis groomed by his dad to be the No. 1 player in the world. Explains author Brunt: “The main trust of the novel explores the sacrifices made for such an intense life, and how our culture increasingly requires early specializing in athletics to succeed. It’s a very narrow way to grow up and while I use tennis here, the message of the book applies as widely as kids specializing in any sport or other activity such as piano or chess.”