Burbank Barber Cutting Up the Dodgers

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Eli Ocegueda with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Photo courtesy Eli Ocegueda.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Dustin May has one interesting characteristic that he doesn’t share with many of his teammates.
The young right-handed pitcher doesn’t have Burbank barber Eli Ocegueda’s cell phone number.
Ocegueda is not the team’s official barber, but he has been frequented by many of Dodger players in recent years.

MT

Ocegueda works for Big O’s Barber Shop on Olive Avenue, which is owned by his good friend and former Burbank High classmate Oscar Flores, who he regards as the person responsible for him getting into the business.

“Honestly, I did not graduate from high school. I went to Burbank High, then Monterey, the continuation school. School was never my thing,” the 30-year-old Ocegueda said.  “I started cutting hair in my garage. I started cutting hair for friends. It became a problem at home because I had so many people wanting to come. My mom said you need to do something with yourself, you have so many people here it is ridiculous.”

Ocegueda said Flores had been cutting hair and encouraged him to get licensed.

“I ended up getting dragged to barber school. I didn’t want to go to barber school. I wanted to stay a garage barber,” Ocegueda recalled.  “I had to take the bus from Burbank and I had to get to Downtown LA by 8 in the morning. Sometimes I’d have to take two buses depending on which one would get there faster. Sometimes I would have to take a bus to the Metro subway and that takes time too. I would have to look for the best route every morning. I would have to be waking up at like 5:30, 5:15 in the morning just to be out of here by like 5:50.”

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Eli Ocegueda cutting Clayton Kershaw. Photo courtesy Eli Ocegueda

Ocegueda said to get accepted into the barber school he had to show proof of a high school diploma or a GED. He had neither.

“For my GED I had to write a 1,500 word essay and my teacher from Monterey , he helped me out and he wasn’t even working as a teacher anymore,” Ocegueda said of Todd Doty.  “I found him and messaged him on Facebook and asked if he could help me. He always knew we were good kids, we were just clowns. I told him I wanted to be a barber and needed to do this essay and I sent him the essay after doing it and he corrected it as if I was still in his class. He sent it to me corrected and went out of the way to do that for me.”

After graduating from barber school in 2013, Ocegueda started his career in Glendale at Rudy’s Barber, a fixture in the community for decades.

Just days into his new job at Rudy’s, Ocegueda said all of his fellow barbers were busy and he was the only one available to take a walk-in customer.

“Someone walks in with a screwed up haircut and it ends up being Paco Rodriguez. I didn’t know it was him. Nobody knew it was him. He was a rookie and I was a new guy in town. I asked him are you from around here,” Ocegueda recalled. “I thought he was a local and he told me he’s from Miami. He told me ‘I’m a pitcher with the Dodgers I just got signed’. I was like what. He liked the haircut after that. I let him go. The barber next to me was like go give him a business card. I ended up chasing him down the alley to give him a business card and told him if you need anything, I’ll come to you, you don’t need to come to me.  That’s how it all started.”

Rodriguez, who hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since 2015, soon spread the news about Ocegueda to his teammates.

He said after Rodriguez, he was surprised to get a text message from another Dodger.

Third baseman Justin Turner getting his hair cut by Eli Ocegueda. Photo courtesy Eli Ocegueda

“I had a text message from Ricky Nolasco. He had just got traded from Miami to the Dodgers. They were actually playing the series together Miami versus Dodgers when he got traded,” Ocegueda recalled. “I ended up going to his house. Since he’s good friends with the other team, he had a player from the other team inside his house. I walk in and introduce myself and I thought it was just a regular guy, just one of his friends and it ends up being Giancarlo Stanton.”

Stanton, who is now one of baseball’s highest paid players, grew up in Tujunga and attended Verdugo Hills High for two years before transferring to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

“I got really cool with those two. Ricky Nolasco was a Dodger for about a year or two and he ended up getting traded to Minnesota. I just talked to Nolasco today and I talked to Stanton the other day. He’s coming back to LA, so I could be cutting him up in the offseason,” Ocegueda said.

After Nolasco and Stanton, Ocegueda got introduced to a couple of young guys, some of who were still in the minor leagues at the time.

“I ended up getting connected with Joc (Pederson). He was a rookie when I met him. Paco was introducing me with everyone. Paco even introduced me to Kike (Hernandez). That’s how I met Kike and Joc.  Paco Rodriguez introduced me to them two,” Ocegueda said. “The cool thing is Paco would always introduce me as his barber.  It was kind of like him letting them know I trust him. I think that helped me out a lot. Every time players felt like they needed a haircut they know Eli, they know Paco is the guy. Paco would call me and I would go.”

Ocegueda said he made a difficult to decision to drive to Spring Training in Arizona in 2014. With no sponsor, he said he drove alone and had to pay for his own hotel and meals. He brought his scissors with him hoping to get some work.
“I ended up cutting so much hair that it paid it off the hotel,” he said. “It was more like an experience, which was cool and I got to cut a lot of guys and I got to catch the games.”
Ocegueda said he thought that if he could get the players before the start of the season, they would come back to him in Los Angeles.

Eli Ocegueda with Julio Urias. Photo courtesy Eli Ocegueda

“That’s when I met Corey Seager,” Ocegueda recalled of the current Dodgers shortstop, who was just a minor leaguer back then. “By the time he came up he knew me already.”

Ocegueda said he has also cut Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Dave Roberts, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner and Chris Taylor, as well as others.

At one point, Ocegueda said he started to cut for the Los Angeles Chargers. But he said the workload got to be too much and he decided to stay focused on the Dodgers.

He said at one time he would travel to residences frequently to cut hair. But Ocegueda said that became difficult to do because his services were in high demand.

“On off days they set up a day for me to go and cut them up and get as many as I can,” Ocegueda said.” I had to start going to the stadium because in doing house call it is hard trying to fit them in the schedule when I’m doing house calls at 11 at night. That’s when they were like let’s bring this guy by the stadium.”

Ocegueda said he had a great experience in Glendale at Rudy’s but left in 2017 to help his friend open Big O’s.

“I ended up moving to Burbank because my friend opened a barber shop over here. It’s the same friend that inspired me to cut hair so it was only right for me to come help him open a barber shop.” he said of Flores. “We met in high school. We both didn’t finish high school. He started barbering five years before me and inspired me to become a barber. That’s why I came to help him open up a shop in Burbank, our home city. The odds were against us. When you don’t have a diploma at a young age, it’s hard to get a good job.”

Eli Ocegueda with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Photo courtesy Eli Ocegueda.

Ocegueda said he hasn’t been able to cut at Dodger Stadium this season because of COVID-19.

“If I can’t cut them up, they will come to me,” he said.

He said Bellinger, Seager and Walker Buehler have all been to the shop in Burbank.

“They are comfortable with me. It’s not like they want a haircut. They don’t want to go to anyone,” he said. “They don’t want to get bothered. I let everyone know who’s coming in at the barber shop and I tell them don’t bug this dude. I know these guys on a personal level. They’re my friends, they are regular people.”

Ocegueda, who also cuts for the general public, said business has been interesting this year because of COVID-19, but he said he believes business is starting to pick up again.

And he certainly wouldn’t mind getting his clippers on Dustin May.

MT

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