The Day After Opening Day

Today is the Day After Opening Day in the year 2020. 

It’s the first Day After Opening Day my wife and I aren’t attending since 2005.*

The Day After Opening Day 2019.

The streak we didn’t know we were starting began with one of our earliest dates. That night I introduced her to the thrifty dirtbag magic of parking outside Dodger Stadium (but we’ll get out so much faster), schlepping in our own sodas and water, and haggling for cut rate tickets out in a lawless patch of parking lot beyond the Left Field Pavillon.

As a Dodger fan accustomed to her company’s corporate tickets that included a preferred parking pass, this was a whole new experience and little did she know how much of a glimpse into her future it would be. If I would have waited half a second longer to tell her I was kidding when I asked her to help me steal a jar of spicy brown mustard, I swear she would have run up the aisle, never to be seen again. 

Tonight we should be celebrating 15 years in the bigs. That’s what the caption was going to say on our annual Day After Opening Day selfie. (Thought of it weeks ago.) But instead, we’ll probably find something to watch on Netflix and fall asleep on the couch like we do here on whatever day of COVID-19 self-isolation it currently is. 

Tonight I’m going to miss that first-game-of-the-season anxiousness that would kick in around 4 o’clock. We would have planned to leave for the Stadium around six like we usually do but the temptation is always too much and we’d be out the door by 5:30. 

“It’s already baseball season?”, our South African neighbor would quizzically ask when he’d spot us running down the steps to our garage.

“Oh yeah. Got 161 more after this one too,” I’d say.

Then he’d shake his head and we’d be off on the 12 to 18 minute drive to Elysian Park using our secret longcut through Chinatown to beat the traffic.

Heading up Stadium Way, we’d scout the $5 lot. If was empty, we’d take that as a sign to roll the dice and hunt for a free spot. If it was filling up, we’d play it safe and park there. (2008 was the last time we paid the full price to park. My mom was in town and I wasn’t allowed to make her hoof it into the Stadium.)

Assuming we snagged a free spot, we’d start hiking up Scott Road and we’d mutter to each other that we need to start hitting the trails of our neighborhood park. Halfway up, I’d pause to check out the status of the perpetual free wood pile. I’d step on some mulch to gauge its density and excitedly ask my wife to remind me to bring a shovel on Sunday. Of course I’d mildly embarrass her by asking loud enough for fans walking by to hear.

Photographic proof that I’m not kidding about bringing a shovel to games.

I’d stop and grab a few photos of the Welcome to Dodger Stadium sign and we’d catch our first glimpse of the ballpark. The lights would already be on and the air would be electric. We’d look out into the hills and point to the four palm trees we can see from our backyard and say “Our house is that way.” (We do this every time. We’re such dorks.) I’d start an awkward conversation with a fan wearing the jersey of an obscure player and we’d say thank you to the crossing guards and complain about a staircase to the Reserve Level that was mysteriously removed during a road trip back in 2016 as we trudge all the way up to the entrance.

Upon seeing the crowd forming at the Left Field Gate, we’d start fast walking it alongside the row of news vans. Then I’d blow our advantage by asking a lost looking fan if they need help and before you know it I’d be in full tour guide mode. Then we’d jump into the shortest line that ends up being the slowest. I’m a ninja through security. The guard checks to make sure our binoculars aren’t smuggling booze and slides my bag containing a Coke, a Diet Coke, two bottles of water, and a jacket for the lady across the table. Meanwhile, said lady scolds herself for not bringing a smaller purse.

We’d bypass the self-service concession stand and laugh at all the suckers snaked around in line. If they only knew there was an identical stand out towards shallow right that’s never busy. I’d grab two Dodger Dogs while she carefully selected a much superior (in her opinion) all-beef Super Dodger Dog. We’d debate getting fries. I’d point out that the garlic fries are a buck more expensive this year. We’d consider regular fries but, garlic always wins. We’d go to the cashier on the left who always welcomes us back and I’d ask how the team looked during BP like I always do and get a solid breakdown in return. (Dodger Stadium employees work the same spots season after season and it really gives the largest park in baseball a small town feel.)

The condiment station is where we go our separate ways. Visualize an obscene amount of brown spicy mustard. Now go a step beyond that. That’s what I require for my dogs along with a sprinkle of onions. A couple yards away, my wife would be laying down a single stripe of yellow mustard that’s blueprint straight.

My next stop would be the beer cart. From a few steps out, I’d unfurl the tall can koozie stashed in my back pocket with more style and panache than Jon Woo directing a pigeon. “May I please have a Mango Cart?”, I’d ask. The beer dude would take my koozie and sheath my beer as if it were Excalibur, which is the only way to treat a 17 DOLLAR AND 75 CENT CAN OF BEER. I’d thank him and drop the what was left from my twenty into the tip cup. This is the one day of the year I am excited about paying 20 bucks for a beer. 

Behold. A $17.75 beer.

From the top of the aisle that leads to our side of Section 2, I’d take a big sip and savor a view that will never get old. I’d find my wife already in her seat having some laughs with Cora, a retired nurse who sits in front of her. I’d say hi to Michael and Kathleen in the row behind us and try not to trip or pull a muscle climbing over to my seat. Cora’s husband Ruel would say “Hi, Guy” and immediately pick up his tirade from last October right where he left off before shifting gears to workshop his new heckles for 2020. He’s a retired copywriter and brings notecards of his heckles to games. It’s the yin and yang of adorable and sinister and “0-for-Forysthe” will always be a favorite. 

Directly in front of Cora and Ruel are Marc and his dad. When we first got our seats in Section 2 back in 2014, we referred to Marc as the guy who was always mad at Brian Wilson. Now he’s on our cats’ elite list of humans approved to enter their house. Next to Marc is a family that will be down a member this year. Their daughter (who was just a kid a couple years ago) graduated from UCLA and took a job in enemy territory not far from whatever the Giants call their ballpark these days. While we’re down one, it’s still a net gain as our friends James and Ashley joined the Section 2 Fam this year.

Welcome to Section 2.

In the seat to my left would be a guy named Don. He’d greet me by asking us how much we got for our Opening Day tickets and then make a comment about maybe selling his next year but he never does. If his wife was with him, we’d skip the pleasantries and start trashing each other’s college football team. If it was his daughter, we’d be comparing notes about The Rise of Skywalker.

A few seats to Don’s left is a woman and her daughter. Maybe this year will be the year we exchange names but until then the air of mystery is fun. We’d all break into first day of school hellos from across our little hallway before collectively questioning our sanity for coming back for more after yet another season that ended in heartbreak.

The next order of business would be to spot Chuck, the legend of Section 2. If he’s not already in the seat he’s had since 1977 and reading a neatly folded LA Times, this is where I’d turn into a worried mother. Chances are he just went to get up cup of ice. There’d be an ovation waiting for him when he returned from the folks who weren’t there when he first arrived. (Chuck is always the first to arrive in Section 2 so ovations happen often.)

After 18 innings the night before, Chuck was the first one in Section 2 before game 4 of the 2018 World Series.

The Aisle 2 gang would already be in their seats. They’ve presided over the same side of Section 2 since before it was even known as a section and they have the weathered Aisle 2 t-shirts to prove it. In their eyes, we’re still considered the new people even though our cluster has been together for seven years. 

The Aisle 2 Gang knows how to make an entrance.

Now it’s about time for Todd Leitz to boom in with his “Welcome to Dodger Stadium” intro and we’d know the game is getting close. Dieter Ruehle would break into the Welcome Back Kotter theme and we’d laugh and wonder what clever new songs he has on deck. 

Then we’d stand for the National Anthem. I don’t remember exactly when I adopted the same stand-at-attention stance that Marc and his dad do but I’m always optimistic that maybe will inspire someone to stop recording the singer and put their phone down for 90 seconds.

Next on the agenda would be the starting lineup for the San Francisco Giants. At the first utterance of their name, an avalanche of boos would cascade down to the field from every corner of the Stadium and a welcome rush of hatred coursing through our veins would tell us baseball season was officially back.

The Dodger lineup is as familiar as a well worn glove by this point but my wife and I would be fighting over the binoculars like a couple of kids on mile 500 of a family road trip to get our first up close look of Mookie Betts in Dodger Blue. Walker Buehler would strut in from the bullpen and we’d be yelling down to the visiting dugout to ask the Giants why they even bothered to show up.

The top half of the inning would end with a ‘chicka-chick-ahhh’, the first two hundred plus Ks for Buehler and then it would be time for the Dodger bats to pummel the Giants into submission. By some small miracle, it’d be three up and three down and we’d all be muttering that this season is cursed and the team will never score a run. 

Try as the Giants might, the dam eventually breaks and scoreboard turns into a slot machine. While most people in the Stadium will say this happened because the Dodgers are a vastly superior team, those of us in Section 2 know it’s because Ruel has mystical powers that only work when he runs to the bathroom. And he’ll let us know it was all his doing when he returns after the third out and loudly declares “You’re welcome!” 

Ruel, haver of mystical run enabling powers.

By the third home run of the evening, a tourist in Section 2 notices we all high five and asks if we know each other. We laugh and after the next dinger we’re high fiving our new friend. It would feel so good to high five a stranger right now. 

In the middle innings, the Dodgers inevitably make the kind of boneheaded play that makes you wish Vin isn’t watching at home and gives you pause that they might not finish the year 162-0. Miraculously, they find a way to overcome their momentary stupidity and snuff out the Giants’ rally before it starts, giving us renewed hope that such an unprecedented streak could very well happen.  

Sometime after the cap shuffle (which somehow found a way to get harder), my wife and I would spend most of an inning trying to take that annual selfie. As you know, selfies are serious business so we’d take a bunch while trying not to embarrass our selves too much and then I’d hand my phone over to her until she carefully selected the shots worthy of being seen by the public. 

Before we know it, it’s time to stretch and sing along with Dieter for Take Me Out to the Ball Game. I’d seize the opportunity to put my arm around my wife and she’d say it’s only because I didn’t listen to her and when she said to bring jacket.

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out.

From this stage of the game, the next item on our Day After Opening Day bucket list is for DJ Severe to drop California Love and see Kenley run in from the bullpen to shut this game down. He doesn’t need to play but since his services weren’t required the day before, Doc thinks it’s a good idea for him to unleash a few cutters and give the rest of the League their first glimpse at a new and improved Kenley.

The Big Man makes quick work of the three Giants that are keeping us from hearing Randy Newman for the first time since last October 3rd. The opening chords blast through night and it sounds sweeter than we remember it. We all do our little victory celebrations while Marc and his dad keep it formal with a handshake. When the moment comes, my wife and I both yell “Sixth Street!” at the top of our lungs. It’s our favorite line in I Love LA and it makes zero sense.

Feeling the glow from the first of many wins of the season, we stick around for the Friday Night Fireworks. I take at least 50 pictures that turn out blurry and all of us in our quadrant of Section 2 make plans for when we’ll see each other again.

When you crunch the numbers take come with 81 home games, you quickly realize that you spend more days and nights with the folks around you than with actual family members, which is probably why we all refer to ourselves as family.

The Section 2 Fam, October 4, 2019.

My wife and I retrace our steps on the way out. Walking through the concourse, I’d probably high five a kid riding on his dad’s shoulders and we’d Frogger our way across the parking back to the Scott Road gate and share some laughs with other fans doing the same. If all those people stuck in traffic only knew how much faster you’d get out by parking outside the Stadium.

On the way home, we’d listen to Dodger Talk heckle the callers who make you wonder if they were even watching the game, which is pretty much every caller.

And we’d definitely stop for tacos.

*Remember that asterisk all the way back at the beginning? It’s because last year my lovely wife Facetimed into the Day After Opening Day from her Airbnb in Prague where she was on a European adventure with her BFF. She stayed up late to call in for the start of the game to keep our streak alive. Then a few hours later, she sent a good morning text and I replied back that I was still at the game. As you may recall, game 2 of the 2019 season required six hours and five minutes to play 13 innings and ended just shy of 1am. To paraphrase Joe Davis, the second game is always weird and that one definitely was.

Here’s hoping we get a second game sometime soon.





So long, April. The Dodger Fam Won’t Miss You.

I’m heading to the Ravine shortly for my first home game of May. As we saw last night, the Dodgers’ first game back in Blue Heaven after the calendar turned ended just like so many in April, with an excruciatingly frustrating loss. 

There’s still five months left in the season to turn things around but all signs are pointing to 2018 being longest season in over half a decade. 

I was in Section 2 for six games in April and saw the Dodgers win exactly one of those, a 9-0 romp over the Giants on Easter Sunday. The other five games aren’t even worth dwelling on. It really hurts to see a team that was so close to winning it all play such uninspired baseball. 

If the World Series hangover continues to hover over the stadium like a marine layer of doom as we move towards summer, there’s only one thing to do.

Show up at the ballpark and cheer your ass off for the Boys in Blue.

Opening Day adjacent pics of my lovely wife and myself from 2013 – 2018.

In retrospect, maybe it’s not a good sign that the best upgrade the Dodgers made all year was adding tall-boy sized coozies at the beer stands.

Cheers to this guy for not remembering the horrors of November 1, 2017.

It was great to see that Chuck is still holding down the same seat he’s had since 1975.

It was also great to see that Marc was starting the season in mid-season form.

Chicken n’ Waffles might be my favorite new item at the concession stand.

A Days of Thunder jacket ibeats any obscure jersey I’ve seen at the stadium so far this season.

 

Our friends Diamond and Mike got season tickets in Section 4 and have been sitting with us until they eventually get kicked out by the perpetual latecomers who sit next to us.

The Dodgers are down 16-6 in the 9th inning of April game? Yeah, the stadium is going to be a little empty.

I’m someone who grew up walking a mile to school in all kinds of horrible weather and living in California has made me so soft I had to break down and buy a new jacket in the middle of a game. Marc was perfectly warm though.

But in my defense, even Chuck was cold. Or the Dodgers were making him cry.

Even with the season starting in the toilet, Dodger Stadium remains the best mobile workspace in town.

Oh hai, Kenley.

At least I can say I saw Kershaw pitch this season.

Come back soon, buddy.

It’s Time… Again

It’s hard to believe it’s already time for Dodger baseball.

When we last left off around these parts, the Dodgers’ playoff run was about begin.

Five or so months later, it’s still difficult to comprehend (let alone try to put into words) everything that happened during that stretch.

October was like spending a month riding the most exhilarating and joyful rollercoaster ever created. All the thrills and scares were there but the ride was so much fun that no matter what happened, the smile could not be wiped from your face. Every time the danger was cranked up and you were sure this would finally be the time the coaster would plummet to its doom, you’d escape through to the other side doing barrel roll and wearing even bigger grin.

Then the calendar changed to November and the ride stopped. Just like that. There was no grand finale, not even a slow roll back to where it started. The Baseball Gods snapped their fingers in the top of the first of Game 7 and that was it. The ride’s over. Sorry folks. Park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.

The walk across the stadium parking lot following baseball’s final out of 2017 was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever experienced. 50,000 of us dressed in Dodger Blue walked through the gates ready for the greatest nights of our lives and walked into the darkness in total silence.

But today a new season begins and 50,000 of us dressed in Dodger Blue will be walking back through gates for one of the best days of the year and start that journey towards seeing our guys win one more game.

LFG.

A look back at some playoff highlights… 

 

 

It’s Time… to Enjoy the Ride

Here we are. The Dodgers are just a few hours away from beginning their 2017 playoff run. The Arizona Diamondbacks are the first obstacle blocking their path to the World Series.

This is exactly where we want the Boys in Blue to be. And this is exactly where they’ve been the previous four seasons.

Will this year be any different?

It certainly feels like it but then again the Baseball Gods are a fickle, fickle bunch as we were reminded time and again over the course of the season. From the Dodgers’ slow start that gave fans serious concerns about the Dbacks and Rockies running away with the division, to breaking off a 43 and 7 run before losing 16 out of 17 games and making fans fear the absolute worst.

Along the way, there was absolute madness, and Rich Hill’s heartbreaking near miss at perfection, and a kid named Cody who arrived a year early and set the National League record for rookie home runs and brought the crowd at Chavez Ravine to its feet every time he stepped to the plate.

While this blog went MIA over the course of the regular season thanks to the combo of real life getting in the way and an overall feeling of impatience to get back to the main event of the playoffs, I did manage to make some wonderful memories at the ballpark over the course of 36 games viewed from our summer home in Section 2. I made some new friends, reconnected with old friends, and had a lot of laughs. And that’s what a baseball season should be all about.

To me, the summer of 2017 was reminiscent of the summer of 1987 when I obsessively tried to beat Super Mario Bros. If you remember the game, then you know it’s a long slog to get to Bowser at the end. Back in the Golden Age of video games, there was no such thing as saving a game. All you could do was hit pause and hope your little brother didn’t come along and sabotage your efforts. But if you made it to Bowser and ran out of lives, your only option was to start over to at the beginning. If memory serves. I came up short three times before I finally rescued Princess Toadstool.

Here’s hoping the firth time is the charm for these Dodgers.

2017 Regular Season Recap

Games Attended: 36 
W/L Record:
25-11 (including a 19 game winning streak!)
Dodger Dogs consumed: 18
Pounds of peanuts consumed: 9.5 (had a lot of help)
Beers: Lost count
Red Bull Vodka Slushies: 1
Dole Whips: 4
Nacho Helmets: 0 (new record)
Balls Snagged: 5

The Regular Season in Tweets

Game 2: Dodgers 3 – Padres 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (4.5.17)
Special Guest: Me!
Snacks: Dodger Dog w/ spicy brown mustard and onions (x2), Bud Heavy, Point the Way IPA, plus many more beverages at the Short Stop and Little Joy following the game.
Giveaway: Fernando Valenzuela jersey.
Memorable Moment: Tie between Puig’s first homer and Kenley’s first appearance.

RECAP: Now this is the Dodgers team everyone expects to see this season. Compared to the previous night’s frustrating shutout, these guys played like a well-oiled machine up and down the lineup.

Rich Hill made his first (and hopefully not only) start of the season and continuously buckled the Padres with a curveball that more than justified his free agent signing. The offense came out swinging and put up a pair of runs in their half of the first that would be all Hill and the rest of the pitching staff would need.

Yasiel Puig countered Hunter Renfroe’s 4th inning solo home run with a no doubt bomb of his own that landed in the Dodger bullpen to put them ahead for good.

I’m not gonna lie. I was weird seeing Sergio Romo make his debut in Dodger Blue. It felt like half the crowd started to instinctively boo thanks to his years in San Francisco but we all pumped the brakes before any real noise made. If this game is any indication, the 8/9 punch of Sergio and Kenley is going to bum out a lot of teams.

My friend Meg, who joined me for a few games last season, bought a chunk of our tickets for this year. She asked me to join her for her first game to get the lay of the land and meet her new Section 2 family.

Ran into this guy on a beer run. Is there any better reason to dress up like a hot dog on a Wednesday night than a Dodger game? I need to find him again so he can remind me of his Instagram handle. I woke up the next morning remembering half of it but it was no help. You wouldn’t believe how many variations of @weeniedog you’ll find on the ‘gram.

Dodgers win! One intangible upside to Kenley coming back is we get 3-5 more years of California Love.

 

Spotted this family leaving the game. They must really love Kershaw. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Game 1: Padres 4 – Dodgers 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (4.4.17)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Dodger Dog w/ spicy brown mustard and onions (x2), Bud Heavy
Giveaway: Phone charger
Memorable Moment: It only took 14 minutes to drive home from this game.

RECAP: The long, brutal off-season has finally ended and it’s time for Dodger baseball that counts. For us, The Day After Opening Day has become our official start to the season and spirits were running high when we left for the stadium.

Along the way, we took a pit stop to do our civic duty.

Voting is an important right to exercise. (And that is as political as this site will ever get.)

One of the best off-the-radar aspects of the Dodger Stadium experience is the consistency among the game day staff. If you go to enough games, you’ll eventually notice the same employees posted up in the same spots. Game after game, season after season.

Our aisle has had the same usher the four seasons that we’ve been in Section 2. She was all smiles as she welcomed everyone back. My favorite beer vendor was at my favorite, super secret beer stand, and I got my nightly scouting report from my favorite cashier at the self-serve concession stand. I always start our transaction by asking how the Dodgers are looking tonight and she replies with a detailed scouting report that’s usually sprinkled with some Yoda-level wisdom.

The stadium was still buzzing in the wake of the Dodgers’ 14-3 Opening Day romp. The new pre-game pump up video is incredibly well done. Instead of relying on Kendrick Lamar (like last year) or some other random grab bag of celebrities, the new video features a wide assortment of Dodger fans all around LA that gives a real sense of pride in being a fan. The best part about the video is that it starts out with a slow burning “Let’s Go Dodgers” chant that gets the crowd rocking as if it were a playoff game.

As the randos that made up the Padres’ starting line up were introduced, I wondered why they were even out there. They’d save themselves a lot of time and trouble and make it easy on everyone if they just forfeited the game. They’d probably have more fun catching an early dinner than catching a second consecutive beat down from the Dodgers.

Then the game started and the Boys in Blue forgot how to play baseball.

Our friend Marc is already in mid-season meltdown form.

Following the Padres’ 2 run offensive explosion to start the game, my lovely wife asked me to pass her our binoculars.

“Why?” I asked.

“So I can get a better look at Dave Roberts punching Kenta in the face,” she replied.

(It should be noted that my lovely wife was only kidding but if she ever managed a team, she’d take a lot of pride in having the shortest leash in baseball.)

The Dodgers’ half of the 1st started out promising until Corey Seager stepped to the plate and promptly grounded into the first of four spirit crushing double plays of the night. Most everyone hit the ball hard, the only problem is that everything was hit right at the defense.

By the 7th inning, all we could do was accept the Dodgers’ fate and have a few laughs about such a bummer way to start the season. I guess you need games like this one to make October that much sweeter.

Even still, I would have been perfectly happy if the Padres would have forfeited.

As these fans passed us walking into the stadium, the fella in the Corey Seager jersey told us that he hates walking but he hates giving Frank McCourt money even more which is why they park outside the gates.

The free woodpile is going off right now!

The last photo I took during the game. The irony was cranked up to 11 when my phone’s battery died on phone charger night. Good times.

It’s (Finally!) Time For Dodger Baseball

Hey there,

Remember this blog that fell off the face of the Earth right when the Dodgers started their playoff run last October? Well, it’s back for 2017 and there’s a long story about why it vanished at the end of the regular season.

(The story itself is boring so I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say you never want to get swamped with house hunting duties while the Dodgers are in the middle of a playoff run. It really drains your free time.)

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s do a little recap of the 2016 postseason. We’ll make it quick.

Game 3 of the NLDS against the Nationals (aka the Dodgers’ first home game) was the first time my lovely wife ever saw the Dodgers lose in the playoffs, dating back to our first playoff game together in 2008. She’d been such a good luck charm that we didn’t even think to get a playoff selfie until we left the stadium. In the background, you can see the FREE wood pile that can be found along Scott Road. Seriously, if you need free wood, there’s always a pile right next to the stadium. Have no idea where it comes from.

In a tie for my favorite moment of the 2016 playoffs was this kid rocking a Clayton Kershaw jersey during the must-win game 4 against the Nationals. Kershaw was on the mound in a total ride or die situation and I got to see this kid have the best day of her life.

I arrived at the stadium early to stake out my usual spot over the bullpen and this girl and her dad showed up in the nick of time to snag the last available seat, which happened to be right next to me. They weren’t there for more than 30 seconds before her dad asked if I could keep an eye on her while he ran to the restroom and hit the concession stand.

Before I could even let him know I was marginally qualified for the task on my best day, he was gone. Words can’t describe what an avalanche of responsibility it is to be suddenly put in charge in the well being of a random child. Before her dad sat her down next to me, I was a dude sitting by himself day drinking a Bud Heavy and somehow, I was deemed “responsible enough.” I still can’t believe it happened.

While her dad was away, we had a nice little bro down and it didn’t take long to realize she knew more about the Dodgers than me. They lived up in Ventura and her dad surprised her by pulling her out of school to take her to the game. She had no idea it was happening until she was called down to the principal’s office to get checked out for the day.

After about 45 excruciating minutes, in which every horrible scenario flashed before my eyes, her dad finally returned with pizza slices.

If you’re keeping score at home, this kid was pulled out her fifth grade class to go to her first Dodger playoff game with her favorite player pitching AND she was having pizza for lunch.

Now here’s where it gets unbelievably good.

Once her dad was returned, he started talking strategy to her to try to snag a ball from Clayton during his warmup. I chimed in with the tip not to ask Clayton but to ask pitching coach Rick Honeycutt right after he gave Clayton a fresh ball.

After Clayton threw this very pitch, here’s where the ball ended up.

Can you say best day ever? Playing hooky from school to see the Dodgers win in the playoffs, pizza for lunch, AND you get a ball from Clayton? It doesn’t get any better than that and my new friend was a total pro. She yelled ‘Mr. Honeycutt’ right on cue and made a clean barehanded catch. It was awesome.


This was our fireplace when Kenley took the mound in the bottom of the 7th in game 5.

Doing our best to communicate with the baseball gods.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see a performance as heroic and Kenley and Kershaw tag teaming for three inning save.


In the other spot for favorite moment of the 2016 playoffs is my buddy Mike. This GIF is from the Dodgers’ 6-0 romp over the Cubs in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS. I’ve never seen him so happy in his life. This is exactly where hopefulness peaked on the season.

Unfortunately we all know how things ended.

Another year, another photo of Marc wallowing in his misery.

Third year in a row an unused World Series ticket went into my basket of ticket stubs.

Finally tally on season: 45 games attended (including the playoffs) and 43 Dodger Dogs consumed.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s step into the present.

The matchup: Dodgers vs Angeles (4.1.17)
Special Guest: My lovely wife. This game marked the start of our 12th season together.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), mooched some of my wife’s fries, souvenir sized Coke.
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: The best/worst rundown play I’ve ever seen in my life at any level of baseball.

RECAP: 

In our fourth season of being season ticket holders, this was the first year we took advantage of our bonus tickets to see a Freeway Series game. We usually give them to friends but this year we had an important mission. We needed to make a test run to the stadium from our new address.

Seven minutes after we pulled out of our driveway, we slid into our secret parking spot and cackled like idiots at the fact that we now live 2.4 miles from Dodger Stadium. This season is already off to a fantastic start.

Hello, gorgeous.

You see those circled palm trees?

Here they are as seen from our backyard.

Our 12th Dodger season together started with seeing our first tie. Hopefully it will end with seeing our first World Series.

Section 2 legend Chuck is back and is already in mid-season form.

If you can make it down to the Club Level concourse, there’s a new display honoring Vin. Can’t say that it didn’t feel strange not hearing him at Dodger Stadium his presence was felt.

It really cracked me up that Vin’s game notes were called “Super Secret Notes.”

The hallway leading into the Vin Scully Press Box has some new art on the walls.

This is going to be a good year.

Let’s go Dodgers!

 

Game(s) 33 – 40: The homestretch of the regular season

What can I say? The last month of the regular season was a blur. Thanks to actual obligations and the start of college football, things kind of fell by the wayside around these parts. I made sure there was time to go to Dodger games, I just didn’t have time write about going.

Then there was that subconscious denial that if maybe I didn’t acknowledge the regular season was drawing to a close it would keep going and Vin would have no choice but to stay with us a little longer.

That clearly didn’t happen as Vin signed off for the last time in San Francisco with a poignant, heartfelt goodbye that perfectly wrapped up his storied career.

Let’s get on with the recaps.

GAME 33: Dodgers 1 – Cubs 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Cubs (8.28.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Ivan. Check out his web series about card collecting called The Breaks.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2) Frozen Kirin (x2)
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: Corey Seager being safe at second by a cleat length. His hustle and the Cubs’ brain fart in the shift allowed the only run of the game to stand after replay confirmation.

RECAP:

Frozen Beer Foam Kirin

Sundays were made for frozen beer foam.

Todd and Ivan

Take a diehard Cubs fan out to the ball game.

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During the game, Ivan broke down the ins and outs of modern card collecting. It’s way different than the days of riding your bike to 7-Eleven and hoping you hit the jackpot with a Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. Here’s a look at his “wallet cards.” Still miss you, A.J.

GAME 34: Dodgers 7 – Padres 4

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (9.4.16)
Special Guest: Myself. (Long story.)
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2) Souvenir Sized Coke
Giveaway: Sandy Koufax Pin
Memorable Moment: Catch on the field day for season ticket holders.

RECAP:  Thanks to some creative seat shuffling, I gave our tickets to my friend Marc and went as the guest of my other friend Marc and experienced Section 2 from Row J. Marc #1 and his wife have two little kids, one is still young enough to not require a ticket, so all that was needed was a cheap single on SeatGeek and boom, a family of four is taking in a Dodger game on a Sunday afternoon for under $5.

Todd and Marc

Marc and his family. The little guy was definitely NOT playing games on his phone. He was looking up stats on FanGraphs.

Marc

When you realize the old guy sitting next to you doesn’t fully understand Field Independent Pitching.

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Marc #2 and I through the lens of Marc #1.

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And here’s a fish eye.

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Following the game, Marc #2 and I got to go down on the field to play catch. Video of our epic round of long toss does exist but for the time being I’m going to hold off from posting it out of respect to not upstaging Puig’s noodle cannon.

GAME 35: Dodgers 10 – Diamondbacks 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Diamondbacks (9.5.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: BBQ Plate, Dodger Blonde Ale.
Giveaway: Souvenir Cap.
Memorable Moment: Seeing Zack Greinke’s return to Dodger Stadium, until it stopped being fun five Dodger home runs later.

RECAP: It took nearly the entire season but Zack Greinke finally returned to square off against his former team. My wife and I snagged the last seats above the visitor’s bullpen and joined the other Dodger fans (plus a lone DBacks fan) to welcome Zack back to Chavez Ravine.

It was a sincere welcome too. Halfway through his warm up a “Come back Zack” chant broke out which was nice to see. Hopefully Zack remembers that more than the “Hit the road, Zack” chant that broke out when he mercifully got the hook in the 5th inning.

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Still doesn’t look right to see Zack in a such an ugly uniform.

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Not a bad spot to enjoy a little Labor Day BBQ.

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The Dodgers’ home run assault on Zack had Cora giving her bubble gun a workout.

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My hunt for a Dole Whip brought me up to the Top Deck just in time to catch a perfect sunset to close out the summer.

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USA USA USA

GAME 36: Dodgers 2 – Giants 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (9.19.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Mike.
Snacks: Dodger Dog with YELLOW mustard (spicy mustard is in short supply this time of year), regular fries, Bud Heavy Tall Boy.
Giveaway: A Giant beat down was the only gift we needed.
Memorable Moment: A tie between the return of Clayton Kershaw and a walk-off Dodger win.

RECAP: With Clayton Kershaw on the mound at Dodger Stadium for the first time since June 20, I went full geek-out mode and staked out seats over the Dodger bullpen two hours before game time. It was standing room only an hour before first pitch.

Here’s Clayton’s full warm up from that night. It was so good to see him back.

With the division title on the line and a main event of Kershaw vs Bumgarner, this game did not disappoint. Yasiel Puig got the fireworks started by having the audacity to look Bumgarner’s way has he ran out a dribbler up the first base line. Bumgarner’s theatrics sent the Dodgers and Giants racing from their benches and bullpens and launched a thousand “Don’t look at me” memes.

Two innings later, Adrian Gonzalez delivered the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.

A couple important things to note about the following video: 1) I sound like Kermit the Frog when I yell. 2) Yes, I did call Corey Seager and idiot for some unexplainable reason.

GAME 37: Giants 2 – Dodgers 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (9.20.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Joe. Go see his movie.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), Garlic Fries, multiple Shock Tops.
Giveaway: Vin Scully Bobblehead(!)
Memorable Moment: Getting to catch up with Joe.

RECAP: Following the previous night’s walk off heroics and bench clearing drama, this game was a total dud and not just because the Giants won. It was probably for the best though. An exciting game would have only gotten in the way of our epic gab session. Joe and I both grew up in Nebraska and went through the same program at Husker U. so we had plenty to talk about with baseball and college football seasons in full swing. Joe’s a huge Mets fan and went to all their home games during the World Series. Hopefully, the next time we catch a game together I’ll be able to regale him with tales of seeing the Dodgers in the series.

Ladies and gentlemen, your award winner for BEST JERSEY OF THE YEAR

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Best. Jersey. Ever.

GAME 38: Dodgers 5 – Rockies 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (9.23.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), Garlic Fries,
Giveaway: Vin Scully Letter.
Memorable Moment: Um… how about every second of Vin Scully Appreciation Day?

RECAP: When Vin Scully Appreciation Day was announced back in April you knew the game was going to be special. It wasn’t until the festivities started that you realized just how special the night was was going to be. It couldn’t have been more perfect. There wasn’t a dry eye in the park as Vin and his remarkable career received the send-off it deserved.

The standing ovation Vin received when he stepped out onto the field was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. You could truly feel genuine love from the crowd.

Vin made sure the mood stayed festive by starting his speech with the magic words that always bring a smile to any Dodger fan’s face.

Vin and Sandy Scully

Sandy and Vin leave the field in style.

Somewhere along the way a was game played between the Dodgers and the Rockies but I don’t remember a single thing that happened.

GAME 39: Dodgers 14 – Rockies 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (9.24.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), souvenir-size Coke, victory Dole Whip.
Giveaway: Vin Scully Commemorative Coin.
Memorable Moment: The Dodgers hanging a pair of touchdowns on the Rockies while my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers wiped the field with Northwestern.

RECAP: For the third time in as many years, my two favorite teams had to go and schedule games at the exact same time. Thanks to modern technology and free wifi throughout Dodger Stadium, being able to watch both has never been easier.

It’s a far cry from October 4th 2008 (sad side story alert) when the high of watching the Dodgers sweep the Cubs in the NLDS was ruined when I listened to a dear college friend’s voicemail after the game. I had shut my phone off so I could have complete radio silence about what was happening with the Huskers’ game against Missouri. When I saw it was Katie who called, I didn’t think twice about listening to her message. As a lifelong Cubs fan who moved to Chicago after graduation, I assumed she was calling to talk baseball but nope. She had to rant about the Huskers getting pounded 52-17. Well, at least she spared me a couple hours of anguish.

This time around, Nebraska was able to handle Northwestern and all was right with my two team sports world. Oh, and Clayton Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings.

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When your two favorite teams play at the same time.

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Vin Scully commemorative coin.

After the Dodgers recorded the final out, the Padres game against the Giants was shown on DodgerVision. The Padres rallied but came up short, allowing the Giants to live for one more day.

GAME 40: Dodgers 4 – Rockies 3

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (9.25.16)
Special Guest: Solo mission.
Snacks: Tuna Sandwich (don’t know what I was thinking), Garlic Fries, Souvenir-sized Coke.
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: Vin Scully saying goodbye to Dodger Stadium.

RECAP: As much as I wanted to stay in to watch Vin’s final home game, I knew I had to do my part and show up to help make sure there’d be a crowd to cheer him on.

Typically, the last home game of the season is a casual affair but between Vin and the Dodgers having a chance to clinch, the stadium was packed and a playoff vibe hung in the air.

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I hiked out to the far reaches of left field to catch a glimpse of Vin at work for the last time.

Vin Scully

The GOAT in his office.

My favorite part of Vin Scully Weekend by far was Vin leading the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This happened all three games and each time was a serene and magical experience.

When David Dahl homered off Kenley in the top of the ninth to give the Rockies the lead, I began question the humanity of the baseball gods. Surely they wouldn’t let Vin’s final game at Dodger Stadium end on a whimper could they?

Of course not.

Corey Seager tied it up with a monster blast into the Rockies’ bullpen on a full count in the bottom of the ninth.

Then in the tenth, Charlie Culberson stepped to the plate and Vin wrapped up his career at home with one last call for the ages.

(Listen close and you can here Charlie be told to hit a home run.)

Following the Dodgers’ celebration and Vin serenading the crowd Wind Beneath My Wings, I was in such a happy mood I had to go introduce myself to the fella who became known as Newspaper Guy this season. Getting to put a name to the legend was one of this season’s biggest highlights.

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Chuck has had the same seats in Section 2 since 1975.

 

Game 32: Giants 4 – Dodgers 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (8.25.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Devin. (He’s a Giants fan but he’s OK.)
Snacks: My first-ever Phillippe’s French dip, some sunflower seeds, and a Shocktop.
Giveaway: Corey Seager bobblehead!
Memorable Moment: Corey Seager bringing a ray of sunshine back to Dodger Stadium on an otherwise lousy day by busting up Matt Moore’s no hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

RECAP: This is the chat I had with my buddy John as I struggled to summon the motivation to go to the game following the shocking trade of A.J. Ellis.

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During my 16 years as a Dodger fan, the A.J. trade is the only one that has ever truly hurt. It was such a sudden, unexpected gut punch that, to put things in Top Gun terms, it’d be like if Viper strolled into the Officer’s Club and snapped Goose’s neck the moment he and Maverick finished singing You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” 

Ever since the Mets knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs last season, A.J. has been my favorite player and it was all an accident how that came about.

Following the final out, I kicked it with John (the same one as above) at his car for an hour or so while we waited for the parking lot gridlock to clear. Since not a single Mets nor Dodger fan left early, everyone was stuck in place which just compounded the dread.

Emotions around us ranged from jubilant Mets fans to tears from Dodger fans young and old to flat out rage from one fan who really wanted to make good on his vocal desire to jump Don Mattingly when he exited the stadium.

John and I floated in the middle of the spectrum. We were just two bummed fans who saw the Dodgers come up short a third year in a row. We made banal small talk to fill the occasional gap of silence in the melee that engulfed us and turned our sights to the next big priority of the year- the new Star Wars movie. Things were already looking up.

Once cars finally started moving, we said our goodbyes and I headed over to where I was parked. As I Froggered across the road that rings the stadium, I stopped next to an SUV’s bumper to make sure the driver saw me before proceeding.

We made eye contact and I really wish we hadn’t.

A.J. was behind the wheel.

In an instant, I’ve never felt so bad for someone in my entire life.

His face was blank. Only his eyes betrayed the emotions he was trying to hide following another all-or-nothing game that ended with nothing. His wife Cindy sat next to him and stared off into the black sky that hung over Chavez Ravine. In the backseat you could see the tops of three little heads. It was going to be a long ride home.

A.J. waved me by. He was on full autopilot.

I paused halfway across the span of his hood and gave him a small fist pump. Don’t know why I did that but it felt right.

A.J. didn’t crack a smile but his mouth creased just enough to acknowledge the gesture.

On with the recap:

RIDING INTO THE ABYSS

The slow ride into the abyss of despair

RIDING THE TRAIN

Nothing says stereotypical melancholy like listening to The Royal Tennenbaums soundtrack on the subway.

PHLLIPE

Drifting to the stadium, I crossed paths with Phlippe’s. So that’s where it is.

BAD NEWS

Bad news.

FREEWAY

Let’s call this one caged paradise.

SANDWICH

The French Dip was good but couldn’t make the misery go away.

17 DOSENT LIVE HERE ANYMORE

Number 17 doesn’t live here anymore.

Why the number 3? The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, duh. 12 years of catechism is still paying off.

GIANTS FANS

These two Giants fans were not at all obnoxious about the no-hitter that was in-progress.

GIANTS FAN FACE TATTOO

Why settle for a lowly tear drop when you can tattoo what looks like an entire resume of felonies across your face?

DEVIN AND TODD

At least my buddy Devin was having a good time.

NEWSPAPER GUY

How tense was the scene with a no-hitter going into the bottom of the ninth? Newspaper Guy set his paper aside and watched the game from the edge of his seat.

Then, with two outs and nearly every shred of hope flushed down the toilet, Corey Seager brought the color back to Dodger Stadium and gave fans something worth cheering about- a bloop single to right.

 

Game 31: Dodgers 9 – Giants 5

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (8.23.16)
Special Guest: My friend Leslie.
Snacks: Pulled pork sandwich from the Think Blue BBQ and a Bud Heavy.
Giveaway: Headphone night. (Best ones yet.)
Memorable Moment: The first place Los Angeles Dodgers taking Madison Bumgarner and the Giants to the Elysian Park woodshed.

RECAP: With the Dodgers returning home in sole possession of first place and the dreaded Giants coming to town, this game brought a playoff feel to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night in August.

The cool air and the earlier setting sun help set the mood and Dodger fans rose to the occasion. The stadium was packed by the first pitch and everyone in blue helped cancel out the cockroaches in orange and black who infiltrated the ballpark.

[We interrupt this post with a special news bulletin}

HOLY HELL. A.J. ELLIS WAS TRADED TO THE PHILLIES.

Um… yeah. I think I’m going to go ahead and let this update go from here. Just not in the mood to remember the good times right now.

Here are a few photos from back when baseball was fun.

GROSS GIANTS FAN

Not saying all Giants fans are gross but this one plucked a hair out of her head and FLOSSED WITH IT while waiting for her order.

Sorry, kid but Adrian Gonzalez is about to ruin your day. (Watch close and you can see my buddy Marc and his dad popping up like Whack-a-Moles.)

YOU'RE OUT GIANTS

It’s one, two, three strikes you’re out, Giants.

WOOD PILE

Did you know there’s a perpetual pile of free wood next to the sidewalk along Scott Avenue near the stadium? This post was going to contain all sorts of woodshed and lumber puns in honor of this pile but now I just want to take a log home tonight and start carving my A.J. Ellis memorial sculpture.