Los Angeles Dodgers owner and chairman Mark Walter, left, and Dodgers president & CEO Stan Kasten, right, introduce to the baseball team ownership group, tennis champion Billie Jean King, second from left, and her partner Ilana Kloss at a news conference in Los Angeles, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

King returns to SoCal roots with ownership stake in Dodgers

September 21, 2018 - 8:18 pm
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Billie Jean King has gone back to her roots in becoming part of the Los Angeles Dodgers' ownership group.

The tennis champion first became enamored with the team when it arrived from Brooklyn in 1958. King says she and younger brother Randy Moffitt "grew up bleeding Dodger blue" in Long Beach. Moffitt later pitched in the majors for teams that included the rival San Francisco Giants, or as King puts it "the wrong team."

King and her partner Ilana Kloss have taken an undisclosed stake in the Dodgers at the invitation of owner Mark Walter.

"It's a great thing for the Dodgers," manager Dave Roberts said.

Pending approval by the WNBA, King and Kloss are also expected to have an ownership interest along with Walter in the Los Angeles Sparks.

"We're not allowed to talk about it," King said, referring to her percentage of the Dodgers. "We're all in this together."

King said she hopes they "can make a difference that's meaningful and be impactful."

She and Kloss met Walter and his wife Kimbra in the last year while helping raise money for a new tennis complex on the South Side of Chicago, where King splits her time when she's not in New York.

"We took a beat and waited and then said we've got to do this," said Kloss, who is King's former doubles partner. "It's funny how little deals sometimes take forever and deals that are the most meaningful are about the people and the relationships."

Walter, King and Kloss didn't get into specifics about what their roles with the team will be.

"We need a lot of listening first because this has happened very fast," King said. "We need to learn from everybody."

Walter said King and Kloss "know a ton" about professional sports and leagues, with King having co-founded World TeamTennis, which just wrapped up its 43rd season.

"They're so underselling what they add in terms of value," Walter said.

One area that King and Kloss hope to expand upon is the Dodgers' efforts to be inclusive to the LGBTQ community.

"I care so much about everyone," King said. "I want everyone to feel included."

Kloss added, "We really are excited not only about doing well but doing good."

King, the 74-year-old former No. 1 player in the world, was like a kid at batting practice Thursday. Sporting a No. 17 jersey, she and Kloss stood behind the cage watching the Dodgers take cuts while chatting with coaches.

King said it is her and her brother's favorite number since both favor odd numbers.

King caught up with outfielder Chase Utley, whom she's known since his days with the Philadelphia Phillies. She pointed out that they attended the same junior high and high school, albeit at different times, in Long Beach.

King and Kloss are the first women among the current Dodgers ownership, which includes NBA legend Magic Johnson and entertainment executive Peter Guber.

"It's great as women that we're a part of this," King said. "It sends a very strong message."

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