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.

 

Talking Clayton Kershaw’s Herniated Disc with My Brother the Neurosurgeon

NOTE: By the time I got around to writing up this post, the news about Clayton Kershaw’s injury had taken a sudden turn for the hopeful so I left it to languish as a draft. Now that the news about Clayton has hit the proverbial fan, I’ll go ahead and publish this sucker. What follows is a transcript of a conversation I had with my little brother who happens to be the neurosurgeon in the family.
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Todd and the Brain Surgeon

One of these guys is wearing a tacky t-shirt. The other grew up to be a neurosurgeon.

When it was announced Clayton Kershaw was going on the disabled list with a herniated disc, I fired off a quick text to my brother (he happens to be a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal work) for some insight and reassurance that everything will be OK.

Because he also happens to be a busy neurosurgeon with three very young kids, I didn’t get a response from him until I finally cornered him at our family’s big 4th of July BBQ up in Northern Wisconsin.

ME: So what’s your thought on Kershaw’s injury?

MY BROTHER THE NEUROSURGEON: What was it again?

ME: A herniated disc. He had an epidural last week.

MBTN: Oooh… that can be a tricky one.

ME: How so?

MBTN: Well, the epidural is only to take care of the pain. It doesn’t actually fix anything. Only rest or surgery can do that. If the hernia is small enough, there’s a chance the body can sometimes dissolve it with rest. The epidural was just to give his body a chance to relax and hopefully attack the hernia.

TROY HERNIATED DISC

My brother and his catch of the day, the largest herniated disc he’s ever removed.

HERNIATED DISC

Look at the size of that thing. (Don’t worry, this hunk of meat is definitely the exception when it comes to herniated discs.)

ME: So is it a good sign that Kershaw had an epidural?

MBTN: No. It’s just the first step but if it was really bad they would have elected to go straight to surgery.

ME: But how do you know when to go for surgery?

MBTN: Either rest takes care of the herniated disc or the pain becomes too much to handle. There really isn’t any middle ground.

ME: But what if you’re an elite athlete? Let’s say you’re the best pitcher in the world, does that make a difference?

MBTN: It can only make a difference in the sense that he’s got a whole training staff on top of things but they’re not going to be able to do anything special for him. The fact that this was a big enough issue for him to go on the DL means I wouldn’t have him even touch a baseball for at least six weeks.

NOTE: In retrospect, this was probably a good idea.

ME: If Kershaw needs surgery, what’s that going to be like?

MBTN: Well, the surgery itself is pretty easy. You cut out the hernia and that’s it. The disc itself stays put and wouldn’t be damaged. It’s the recovery that takes a while.

ME: How long is the recovery?

MBTN: Again, everyone is different but 2017 could be a better year for the Dodgers.

ME: Really?

MBTN: Oh yeah, he wouldn’t throw again for this season for sure.

ME: Dang. Well let’s say Kershaw does need surgery but because he’s a bad ass he chooses not to have it, what could happen?

MBTN: He’d have to fight through a ton off pain and deal with some potential nerve damage but it’s not like he’d wind up paralyzed or anything. Depending on which vertebra  is affected he could still even pitch with nerve damage. It’d just feel like his leg was always asleep but eventually he would need surgery at some point. Then he should be as good as new.

ME: Thanks for the uplifting news I was looking for.

MBTN: Anytime.

Game 21: Rangers 3 – Twins 2

The matchup: Minnesota Twins vs Texas Rangers (7.1.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Oh jeez… Bud Heavy tall boy, Bratwurst, Grain Belt tallboy, Surly IPA, nachos, a Dilly Bar (delivered to my seat!), creme brulee, and maybe something else that I’m forgetting.
Giveaway: Nope. But there was a post game fireworks show presented by South Dakota.
Memorable Moment: Snagging my first-ever foul ball (then giving it back to the dude who whiffed on catching it).

Target Field Cropped Pano

The view from behind home plate at Target Field is not too shabby.

RECAP: My wife and I spent the 4th of July with my extended family up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin so we scheduled a bonus day in Minneapolis to catch a Twins game before we made the drive up north.

I’m very pleased to report that Target Field more than lived up to the hype as one of the best places you will ever watch a ballgame. It was like it existed in a land of baseball make believe where someone set out to create the dream baseball experience from the ground up. Every aspect of the joint was so nice and serene that I wanted to grab the local who sat next to by the shoulders and scream, “DO YOU EVEN REALIZE HOW DARN TOOTIN’ GOOD YOU HAVE IT HERE?”

Thanks to the suggestions from the good people on r/minnesotatwins, (kids, always trust strangers on the internet) my game day experience started with a field trip to see the legendary Wally the Beerman at a bar called Sneaky Pete’s. Considering that any activity in LA beyond fetching your mail requires as much pre-planning as the Normandy Invasion, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Sneaky Pete’s was only a block from our hotel which also happened to be a block from Target Field.

Batten down the hatches on your head because I’m about to blow your mind with how much stuff a person can accomplish in under an hour in Minneapolis.

6:10: I leave the hotel to go to Sneaky Pete’s.
6:15: Wally the Beerman serves me a Bud Heavy and we talk baseball for a spell.
6:35: I go back to the hotel to pick up my wife.
6:45: We depart for Target Field.
6:50: Our tickets are scanned and we enter the ballpark.

Because I’m that big of a nerd, I checked my steps as we walked out of our hotel lobby and again when we entered the stadium.

The total went up by 517.

To put that into a Dodger context, the old 76 Station out in the center field parking lot is probably farther away from Dodger Stadium than our hotel was from Target Field.

Our seats were right behind home plate in the Legends Club which is only available as a season ticket package, unless those ticket holders sell theirs on SeatGeek. Basically, it was as if the Loge Level at Dodger Stadium featured cushy club seating and access to the Stadium Club. In the case of Target Field though, the Stadium Club would be that level’s entire concourse with a slew of concession stands, bars, souvenir shops and a museum’s worth of Twins memorabilia.

The game itself was a great experience. Watching baseball is so relaxing when you’re not rooting for either team. We saw a couple home runs, gave old friend Adrian Beltre a respectful golf clap, and had some laughs. What more could you want?

The fans around us were totally Minnesota Nice, even to someone in their midst who was decked out in Dodger gear. The only comments I got were well wishes for Clayton Kershaw.

After a few innings, my wife and I realized the biggest difference between a Twins and Dodger game was just how quiet it is at Target Field. Twins fans were much more reserved in their cheering but the sound system was just background noise. Compared to Dodger Stadium, it was like watching a baseball game at Wimbledon. It wasn’t any worse, it was just different in an enjoyable way but the lack of in-stadium hosts between innings was a very welcome sight. You don’t realize how intrusive and obnoxious they are until they’re not around to scream at you.

Let’s tell the rest of the story in pictures.

WALLY THE BEER MAN

Welcome to the land of Wally the Beerman and $4 tallboys.

Wally the Beerman

Wally the Beerman!

WALLY THE BEERMAN BASEBALL CARD

Wally gave me one of his 2016 baseball cards.

ENTRANCE TO TARGET FIELD

We entered through the right field plaza. The giant cube is a cleverly designed parking garage.

Bratwurst

Brats! Brats! Brats!

GRAIN BELT

The local swill.

TARGET FIELD SIGN DAY

The Twins sign in center field is an homage to their original logo.

BUDWEISER PARTY DECK

The Budweiser Roof Deck features the only fire pit in an MLB ballpark.

TARGET DOG

Target Dog watches over the Target Field action from his Target Center post.

Dilly Bar

In-seat Dilly Bar delivery really had me questioning my loyalty to the Dodgers.

KOOZIE GUY 1

This guy was my favorite fan in our section, not just because he came to the game packing his own beer koozie…

KOOZIE GUY 2

but that he brought TWO different koozies. This guy was PRO in every sense of the word.

TWINS PRESS BOX

Target Field’s open-air press box was right behind our seats. I asked the usher if they’ve ever had problems with fans yelling at the media (like Dodger fans would heckle Bill Plaschke if given the opportunity) and he just chuckled and said it’s never been an issue on his watch.

MASCOT RACE

The mascot race made me realize we have yet to see Mustard Mike or Ketchup Katie at Dodger Stadium this season.

FOUL BALL

After a couple hundred or so MLB games, I finally had my mitts on a foul ball, until I gave it to the back to the kid who had it ricochet off his hands. It landed on the walkway behind us and I turned and scooped it up without even leaving my seat. It should noted that the “kid” was probably in his early 20s and returning it to him after he had his chance sparked a pretty hilarious debate in our section over finders vs keepers. Had this happened at Dodger Stadium I would have kept it no question, unless the person who whiffed was an actual kid.

KID IN SUNGLASSES

Obligatory photo of the guy who led the ‘give it back’ side, only because he’s wearing sunglasses at night.

Dessert Cart

Having done my good deed for the decade, I felt I earned a second dessert.

Creme Brulee

This was only $6!!!

Target Field Selfie

Only took us 10 years to branch out and visit a different ballpark together.

PAPA JOHN'S

So far this season, the Twins have activated their Papa John’s deal 30 times. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who only need to score 5 runs, win or lose, have activated theirs 38 times.

Fireworks - South Dakota

I wasn’t joking. The fireworks show really was presented by South Dakota.

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Thanks for the show, South Dakota.

Twins sign after the fireworks

The Target Field sign following the fireworks. It’s like the spirit of Prince was hanging in the air.

Statue

A young fan pays his respects to Kirby Puckett.

Game 11: Dodgers 3 – Reds 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Reds (5.25.16)
Special Guest: My cycling buddy Fred. He’s 155lbs of caged fury on the bike.
Snacks: Nothing for me, thanks. I had the meat and cheese sweats. (Long story.)
Giveaway: Adrian Gonzales bobblehead. Boom.
Memorable Moment: Chase Utley averting total disaster by gunning down Jay Bruce at home after Joc Pederson ran into the center field wall while chasing down a fly ball.

Fred and Todd

Fred is about to eat his body weight in Garlic Fries after crushing a Dodger Dog. He spent part of his day riding his bike 70 miles up the coast.

RECAP: Earlier in the day, I was faced with an utterly grim situation. Our house was severely lacking in the food department and I didn’t feel like putting on pants and venturing out into the world in search of an Egg McMuffin and/or a Trader Joe’s. My best case scenario was hoping that I didn’t starve to death while I waited an hour for UberEATS to start delivery.

Then I remembered the Dodgers activated the Papa John’s #Dodgers5 deal by scoring 8 runs against the Reds the night before and my problems were suddenly solved.

Or, you could my problems were just starting because I ordered Papa’s new Mushroom Swiss Burger Pizza at 10am.

Hey, don’t judge. It was delicious AND 50% off. Thanks for coming through, Dodger offense.

Somehow, over the course of the day, I managed to plow through most of that pizza and left for Dodger Stadium deep in the throes of the meat and cheese sweats.

So what’s one of the first things I see on DodgerVision?

Papa John's Dodgers5

There is no escaping Papa John.

And if that wasn’t torturous enough…

Papa Johns Dodger Stadium

Papa John will even deliver to your seat if you’re a lucky winner.

And we can’t forget the pizza vendors roaming the aisles.

Pizza Vendor

Not to worry. The box was empty. I asked.

While I was feeling like Jabba the Hutt after a trip to Golden Corral, Fred tore through his food like a guy who had just been on a 70 mile bike ride. Between bites he dropped a pretty cool nugget of personal trivia.

“Don’t know if I ever told you, but a really good friend growing up is a pitcher.”

“Oh yeah? Who?”

Ben Rowen.”

“You mean the guy who was on the Dodgers for a minute last year.”

“Yeah. That’s him.”

Los Angeles Dodgers workout Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at Camelback Ranch-Glendale in Phoenix,Arizona. Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2015

Ben Rowen as a Dodger during spring training last year. Or, this could be Fred. They look a lot alike. Photo by Jon SooHoo.

Fred then texted Ben’s wife to find out what team he’s currently playing on. (In his defense, Ben has bounced around so much in the last year even his family might not be sure which jersey he’s wearing these days.) She wrote back to say he’s on Toronto’s AAA team in Buffalo and will hopefully be called up soon.

We then spent the rest of the game comparing pro baseball to pro cycling and talking bikes, because that’s what happens when you put two bike geeks together.

Even at a baseball game it’s all about the bike.

 

 

Game 10: Dodgers 1 – Reds 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Reds (5.23.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Bruce, a hilarious young comic from the mean streets of Bakersfield. Give him a follow.
Snacks: Los Doyer Dog, Goose Island IPA, and some of Bruce’s Red Vines which were surprisingly fresh.
Giveaway: Travel pillows!
Memorable Moment: Watching Clayton Kershaw throw a two hit, complete game shutout was pretty good.

DOYER DOG

First Los Doyer Dog of the season!

RECAP: With Kershaw on the mound, Bruce and I arrived early to watch batting practice and catch Clayton’s pregame warmup from the bullpen overlook. The only hitch in the plan was the part where the Dodgers skipped their half of BP following their 17 inning marathon in San Diego the day/night before.

Bruce worked for the Bakersfield Blaze back when they were affiliated with the Reds and shared some fun stories about Billy Hamilton and other current Reds players coming through Bakersfield on their way to the bigs. It was a great way to pass the time because other than Scott Kazmir’s quick bullpen session, this was our entertainment until Kershaw showed up.

Dodger Groundskeeper

You don’t know how exciting it can be to watch a guy water dirt when you have to hold down a seat for a few hours.

Once Kershaw made his entrance to the bullpen, the wait became instantly worth it. This was the fifth time or so that I’ve seen him warmup and it was just as exciting as the first time. From the moment he steps onto the field to start stretching, the dude is locked in. He doesn’t say a single word. He just stares at the ground and throws fire.

DCIM100GOPROG0051946.

Clayton Kershaw begins his warmup.

CLAYTON KERSHAW BULLPEN

Kershaw returns from his pregame ritual of staring at a wall during the National Anthem to finish his warm up.

Clayton Kershaw GIF

The closest Kershaw gets to speaking during his warmup is when he fist bumps Rick Honeycutt on his way out to the field.

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Kershaw and AJ Ellis make the commute to their office.

And here’s a reverse angle featuring a photobomb from us courtesy of the Dodgers’ Instagram.

Photobombing Clayton and AJ

99% sure Bruce and I were talking about where to eat when this photo was taken.

Aside from the Reds briefly threatening to score in their half of the first, Clayton mowed them down with merciless efficiency. The only real scare for Kershaw (as far as fans were concerned) came on the base paths when he was mildly crushed by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips when he slid into second following a wild pitch. Clayton though had no time for heart attack inducing near misses. He got right up and motored to third following a horrible throw to second that was Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart’s first of two throwing errors on the evening.

And of course Clayton’s hustle would be rewarded by his teammates by leaving him stranded on third.

Bruce and Todd

Bruce and I enjoying our new Dodger travel pillows.

Kershaw kept things humming as such a brisk clip that the game was somehow in the seventh inning stretch in under two hours. When he took the mound in the eighth, he was only at 79 pitches which meant he had 20 to work with to pull a Maddux. He made it to the ninth with the possibility still intact but a six pitch at-bat by Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton’s refusal to swing at the first pitch put Kershaw at the 100 pitch mark. Hamilton would fly out to end the game two pitches later.

The near miss on the Maddux added a nice jolt of excitement and makes a person wonder if Greg Maddux, now that he’s on the Dodgers’ staff, would have called to congratulate Clayton on his achievement.

On the way home, I couldn’t help but think how many pitchers out there would give their non-pitching arm to throw a single game like Kershaw’s but for him, and to the fans who’ve become spoiled by such brilliance, it was just another Monday night at the ballpark.

Game 6: Dodgers 1 – Padres 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (5.1.16)
Special Guest(s): My buddy Jim and his daughter Elsa
Snacks: Looks like they crushed some Dodger Dogs.
Giveaway: Corey Seager Kids Jersey
Memorable Moment(s): From Jim’s texts during the game: 10 pitches, three strikeouts for Kershaw in the first inning. Kershaw got an RBI. He’s doing it all himself! Nine innings of Kershaw!

Jim - Elsa

Jim and Elsa flying the Dodger flag.

RECAP: With a Corey Seager Kids Jersey on deck for the giveaway, I offered up our tickets to my buddy Jim so that he could take Elsa, his t-ball superstar daughter, to a game. Knowing how kid’s schedules are planned out years in advance, I offered him our tickets long before it became clear that Kershaw would be on the mound so I wasn’t about to dredge up an excuse for needing our tickets back.

As if I’d dare pull that stunt on a couple of hardcore Dodger fans anyway.

Jim’s been a lifelong fan and has been doing his part to make sure Elsa that is too so it’s always a treat when we get to hook them up with a game. From his updates, it was clear they were there for every pitch (no easy feat when bringing a 7-year-old to the ballpark) and were able to make some great memories.

Here’s hoping they get reminisce about this one 10 years from now with Kershaw still on the mound for the Dodgers.

Elsa Dodger Dog

Elsa takes down a Dodger Dog like a pro.

Jim and Elsa

Jim and Elsa joined me for an afternoon on the field at the end of last season.

Elsa at the Warning Track

Elsa got some early practice in the art of robbing a home run.

 

 

 

Game 3: Marlins 3 – Dodgers 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Marlins (4.25.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Matt. Check out his Star Wars short on Funny or Die.
Snacks: Dodger Dog, regular fries, some of Matt’s fries, churro (for a hand warmer), some of Matt’s peanuts.
Giveaway: Clayton Kershaw bobblehead.
Memorable Moment: The return of Don Mattingly.

WITH MATT

Matt shows off just about the only thing a Jewish vegan can eat at Dodger Stadium during Passover.

RECAP: The Dodgers returned to Chavez Ravine after a quick 4 and 2 road trip to Atlanta and Denver and brought some gnarly weather back home with them. And we’re talking gnarly by hearty Midwestern standards. Not “Oh no, a dead palm fond fell on my Prius.”

Clouds over Dodger Stadium

It was a dark and stormy night at Dodger Stadium.

About 45 minutes before game time, a howling wind had the giant flags in center field as stiff as boards, sending rain (yes rain!) flying in every direction and fans running for cover. Things calmed down enough so that everyone returned to their seats in time for the official introduction of Don Mattingly as the manager of the Marlins.

DodgerVision played a montage of assorted highlights from Donnie Baseball’s years in blue set to the theme song for Welcome Back Kotter, a rather melancholy selection. Don was greeted with respectful applause and a smattering of (mostly) ironic boos.

Ross Stripling held the Marlins scoreless until Giancarlo Stanton led off the top of the fourth by sending the crowd at the left field bar running for cover with a cruise missile of a solo home run. Yasiel Puig and Trayce Thompson countered with shots of their own in the bottom half of the inning to put the Dodgers ahead 2-1. Stanton didn’t have to wait long to strike back. He raked a tying double to the wall in the fifth and the Marlins pulled ahead for good an inning later when Puig came up about half a mile short in his attempt to spear Derek Dietrich’s line drive triple out of the sky.

In the bottom of the seventh, Donnie received his most sincere greeting of the evening when he came out to replace starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. The only way he could have been booed any harder is if he would have called for a double switch (his signature move) that involved Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds trotting out to play left field. While I like Mattingly, I couldn’t help but laugh at the years of pent up angst raining down upon him.

Over in the Dodger Dugout, Dave Roberts maximized the used chewing gum that was available pitch out of the bullpen and emptied the bench in the most strategic way he could, saving Adrian Gonzales until the bottom of the ninth to pinch hit with Joc Pederson standing on first.

The Dodgers came up short but tonight is a new night and Clayton Kershaw is on the mound.

And hopefully this guy won’t be at the ballpark.

Barry Bonds Jersey

Yep. This guy was wearing a Giants era Barry Bonds jersey to a game between the Dodgers and Marlins.