Arriving at Steve and Candace Garvey's open-aired Mediterranean-style villa in California, one is first struck by the floral explosion, from spikes of dangling purple foxglove and climbing bougainvillea to bright roses and teeming azalea. It is like being welcomed to a show, a botanical pageant where life blooms on as towering palms watch overhead.
"We've always felt that the first impression is very important," Steve Garvey said. "When people come up to our home, just as maybe you did, and you went, 'Wow, this is something special.' Well, she's created that. I'm very, very happy to defer. I'm not a pitcher for a reason. I was a hitter for a reason. She's a designer and a renovator for a reason."
The Garveys invite fans on a virtual tour as the latest video in the MLB.com series, Home Field Advantage presented by Coldwell Banker. Previous episodes showcase homes owned by former outfielder Johnny Damon, Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, with more coming throughout the season.
On the 40th anniversary of his MVP season for the Dodgers and the 30th anniversary of leading San Diego to its first World Series, Garvey is back in Southern California's comfortable surroundings. Favorite household item? Maybe it's beside the reflection pool and fountain: the statue of a right-handed hitter of yesterday, a purposeful boy waiting for a pitch in nondescript uniform, vintage helmet with sleeves and a batting glove, choking up high on the bat.
Or if technology turns your head, then consider the pop-up TV. Most of us have toasters, but in the Garvey house, a baseball game ascends on command in the kitchen. Candace is giving a tour of the kitchen and as she speaks, she has a remote in her hand and a flat screen suddenly rises up from the surface behind a sink, showing Carlos Beltran batting on MLB Network.
"This is truly the 'family' kitchen," she said. "Since we have two boys in the family, a third being the dad, we wanted to do something special, so . . . when everyone came home at Christmas, Thanksgiving, that no one would leave the kitchen. And we did this. And no one left. They all sat in here, helped cook, did everything with me . . . and it always turns on to the MLB channel, and it's been a lot of fun and I'm never alone here anymore."
You'll find a throwback picture of Steve and Candace, both wearing Dodgers attire, Tommy Lasorda between them. Nearby are a couple of books, "For The Love Of The Game" by Cynthia J. Wilber and "100 Years of Major League Baseball." There's a portrait of Garvey in the Dodgers dugout, in road jersey, a long road back indeed.
There were 10 All-Star selections in a little more than a decade, the iconic Dodgers infield that always stayed together, the National League record for consecutive games, four consecutive NL Gold Gloves at first base, the perennial contender for Lasorda's Dodgers. There also was a tumultuous, middle-age-crazy saga, an epic Sports Illustrated account a quarter-century ago that chronicled the life and times of a fallen mythical status.
It was about that time, January 1989, that Garvey fell in love with 30-year-old Candace Thomas, the blonde, blue-green-eyed former high school cheerleader. They met at his annual Ski Classic in Deer Valley, Utah, to benefit the Utah Special Olympics. They would dance at the George H.W. Bush Inauguration and get engaged the night of the '89 Super Bowl. Now, here they are today, a quarter-century flown by and Garvey an active MLB ambassador who is set to speak Sunday at a nearby fund-raiser in Santa Clarita.
You leave their house feeling it was the perfect balance of former baseball player (memorabilia room, photos of Garvey with U.S. presidents) and the touch that seemingly only a great interior designer could provide. The home feels warm, a place where a family was raised and nurtured. There were even two dogs on hand to round out the experience.
"For us, it's simply where the heart and soul of the family is," Garvey said. "It's a place that originally was a house, and this very talented woman makes it a home.
"It's where we love and we live. We have so many kids, then we send them out into the world" -- he laughs -- "to find homes of their own."
The house original was owned by Candace's mother, Marilyn, for whom Candace found it. Marilyn lived there for many years, and then decided to downsize.
"We were in conversion from a large home in Deer Valley, Utah, on 120 acres, and we were coming back to Southern California, and we thought originally back to the Westside of L.A.," Garvey said. "Then we found out that she was thinking about selling this, and this was really home to all the grandchildren, a place we thought was special, so we bought it from her."
"I worked on this home for over 20 years," Candace said. "We've remodeled the kitchen, we've torn out walls everywhere, we've completely relandscaped."
Garvey said it is "tough to sit down seven days a week, because we travel so much, busy schedules. But when we do, two or three days a week, we really want it not to just be about the meal, but to be about understanding everybody's lives and talking about it. We've had some of the funniest times at that table. For us, having a meal together, whether the kids are at home or they are visiting, is probably the most important part of our family life."
He turns to Candace and says softly, "It is." She blushes.
Then, as Hiroki Kuroda pitches in the background during a YES Network telecast of the Yankees, the 19-year veteran tells her: "You have made every house a home. You have been the love of my life and our children's lives. You have dedicated your life to us. We just want to tell you -- and I speak for them -- that we love you with all of our heart."
After sharing a kiss, she tells him, "Thank you, love you." And that's where it became too emotional to have a camera crew around. "OK, you guys . . ." she says with a laugh.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.