April 23, 2014

Pacific Northwest Dodger Fans Share Their LA Stories

What a day.  What a series.  For Dodger fans up in the Pacific Northwest, this weekend road trip was a rare chance for LA fans to see their favorite team in action.  Remember, the next closest city that LA plays in regularly is San Francisco, and that’s nearly a two hour plane flight from Seattle.

Today’s game had a totally different feel to it than yesterday’s game.  Perhaps due to a much larger Sunday crowd of Mariner fans, the 6-1 early lead that the Dodgers staked or it being just a nice lazy sunny afternoon, it definitely seemed to be a more mellow affair.

The highlights on the field, of course, were a solid performance by Chad Billingsley, who went 7 and two thirds innings, and a monster 411 foot grand slam by Andre Ethier to break the game open in the second inning.

But by far the best part of the weekend series was meeting so may Dodger fans and hearing their personal stories, and what brought them to the games this weekend.  Here are just a few:

- An Orange County man who now lives in the Northwest, taking his two year-old son to his first baseball game (and it was important to him that it was a Dodger game).

- Mike Carp’s uncle rooting on his nephew while wearing a Dodgers’ jersey.

- A Dodger fan from Yakima, WA who told me the last Dodger game he attended was three years ago and had the same pitching matchup we saw on Saturday: Kershaw vs. Vargas.  The guy told me the 8-3 final score was the same during both games, except in the first game, Ethier hit three home runs and Paul Gasol threw out the first pitch.  As he told me the story, I remembered covering that game for the blog back in 2009 and remembered Gasol getting a standing ovation and high fives from the crowd as he walked around the concourse (not sure that would happen today, but check out the photos at the link above).  And what are the odds that this fan would be sitting right behind me three years later and we would be discussing a game we both saw (and remembered) back in 2009?  Crazy.

- A guy sitting behind me on Sunday told me that he played high school baseball and football with Ron Cey in Tacoma, WA.  I don’t think I ever knew The Penguin was from the Pacific Northwest.

- Catching up with team photographer Jon SooHoo before Saturday’s game and hearing how much he loves visiting new stadiums (I even got my own SooHoo photo!).

But my favorite story was that of a cute, creative Canadian graphic designer named Robyn who made the trip down from Vancouver, BC with her family for the three-game series, and who I had a chance to meet before Sunday’s game.  Robyn’s dream is to work for the Dodgers as a graphic designer and she had created a massive poster of the head of a smiling Clayton Kershaw.

Like many Dodger fans, she and her dad waited during batting practice and after the game for the chance of an autograph.  Matt Kemp was the first player to spot the eye-catching Kershaw head, and when Robyn asked him to sign it, he said he couldn’t sign that thing, but asked playfully why she hadn’t made one of his head.  She told him she’d make one that night in the hotel and bring it the following day.

The next morning, Robyn, her family and the two big heads arrived at the game, and both Kershaw and Kemp stopped by the third base line to sign their respective pieces of fan art.  And being the jokester that Kemp is, he asked Robyn why his head was smaller than Kershaw’s (Robyn had to explain that she didn’t have access to the same supplies at the hotel that she does at home).

It’s these types of stories that were being told all over Safeco Field this weekend, as fans and their families celebrated a rare trip to the Northwest by their favorite team.  It was cool to see, and a totally different experience than anything I’ve seen at Dodger Stadium, or anywhere else for that matter.  Here’s hoping that we don’t have to wait another 10 years for the Dodgers to make the trip up the coast to Seattle.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/ ©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2012

 

Dodger Fans Make Mariners Series Special

While I could talk about how the Dodgers won today’s game against the Mariners 8-3 (Kershaw striking out 12 in seven innings; Hairston driving in a career-high five runs), today’s game was notable for a different reason.

I’ve been to Dodger road games before, but today’s game was different in a really special way: the fans.  Maybe it was because this was the Dodgers first trip to Seattle in 10 years.  Maybe it was just interleague play.  Whatever the reason, Dodger fans represented today, and in droves.  It easily felt like (and I’m not exaggerating here) one third of the crowd was rooting for the Dodgers – and nearly all of those were decked out in Dodger Blue.  Take a look at my photo to see what I’m talking about.

It even felt like a Dodger home game at Chavez Ravine: the eruption for Hairston’s three-run home run in the top of the first inning was so loud, my buddy who was late to the game thought the Mariners must have scored.  There were beach balls rolling through the crowd.  Numerous “Let’s Go Dodgers!” chants at key moments in the game.  A standing ovation for Todd Coffey when he closed out the game, sealing the 8-3 victory.  I even got to catch up with Dodger team photographer Jon SooHoo, who shared his admiration for Safeco Field before the game.

Throw all of this together, and it was easily one of my top five favorite games I’ve ever attended.  The crowd was raucous, but good natured….clearly people were enjoying seeing the Dodgers come through the Pacific Northwest and were determined to celebrate the occasion, giving each other high fives, while recounting how they came to today’s game.  In fact, while I was waiting patiently (yet out of reach) to get Kenley Jansen’s autograph on a ball during BP, a young kid in front of me offered to get Jansen to sign it after he had his signed.  Who does that?

While today I was sitting in the box seats over first base, the real hub of Dodger fan activity were in the box seats over the visiting team’s dugout along the third base line.  I’ll be sitting over there tomorrow, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me and the other Dodger faithful at Safeco Field.  For additional in-game reports, follow me on Twitter (@dodgerfan_net) and if you get a chance, check out a Dodgers road game – they’re something special.

Seattle Shocker: Mariners No-Hit Dodgers

Being a Dodger fan and blogger living in Seattle, I catch a fair amount of Mariners games at Safeco Field.  I know what kind of a pitcher’s park it is, especially on a cool evening like last night.  But there was no way anyone could expect what happened to actually take place.

37 year-old Kevin Millwood was throwing smoke, with complete command of his fastball through six innings, before suddenly pulling himself from the game as he warmed up for the seventh inning with what was described as a mild groin strain.  You could see the look of shock on the crowd’s faces (after all, he was throwing a no-hitter at that point), but they quickly got back in the game as relievers Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen pitched the final three innings.

With six pitchers used by the Mariners, Seattle tied the major-league record for the most pitchers used in a no-hitter (the other time the Houston Astros in 2003) and this was the 10th combined no-hitter in major-league history.

There were two huge opportunities for the Dodgers late in the game, where LA was just unable to capitalize, and that was primarily due to shrewd managing by M’s skipper Eric Wedge.

First, in the 8th inning with runners on second and third with one out, AJ Ellis hit a shallow pop-up to left field.  With pinch runner Alex Castellanos on third, the Dodgers had a halfway decent shot at scoring, but Wedge had just put Chone Figgins in in left field.  Figgy went on to make an incredible running catch and throw (he threw the ball so hard he literally pulled himself over), holding Castallanos in his tracks.

Then, leading off the ninth inning, Wedge put defensive specialist Brendan Ryan in at shortstop.  When Dee Gordon hit a weak grounder to short, it looked like this would be the Dodgers first hit of the game.  After all, this is the type of play Gordon makes routinely with his speed.  But Ryan is also known for making these plays, and his arm won out over Gordon’s legs.  The Dodgers went quietly after that.

Next up is a 4:15 start with Kershaw on the mound.  I’ll be at the game today, so keep an eye on our Twitter feed, for pre-game and in-game updates and photos.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/ ©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2012

Dodger Kids Come Through with Series Sweep Against the Cards

Despite an up and down pitching performance by Chad Billingsley (mostly down), the Dodgers managed to squeak by the Cardinals io6-5 in the Sunday evening nightcap on ESPN in thrilling fashion.

The big moment in the game came in the bottom of the seventh, when 25 year-old rookie outfielder Scott Van Slyke powered a three run home run to left field to give the Dodgers a 6-5 lead. The bullpen then came through in exemplary fashion, with Javy Guerra, Josh Lindbloom and Kenley Jansen combining for a perfect seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

But what’s really remarkable is the performance of the young Dodgers that are stepping up for the injured Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe. Take a look at the following stats for the time they’ve been in LA this year:

Elian Herrera: Batting .385 with a .429 OBP (he also went three for four today)

Jerry Sands: Batting .250

Justin Sellers: Batting .171 with one HR and one RBI

Scott Van Slyke: Hitting .333 with one HR and six RBI

It’s one thing for the Dodgers to continue to win an MLB-best 28 games, but it’s quite another to do it with so many starters out for an extended period of time.  Herrera has probably been the most surprising so far, but as long as he continues to get on base ahead of NL RBI leader Andre Ethier, the Dodgers will be in good shape.

An Epic Night at Dodger Stadium

Last night at Dodger Stadium was simply epic.  I don’t want to make too big a deal about it as it’s only late-April, but it just felt like a special night, didn’t it?  A top flight pitching matchup in Kershaw and Strasburg, a pre-game ceremony honoring Drysdale and Wills, and the major league debut of phenom-in-the-making, Bryce Harper.  All that led to a pumped up crowd of 54,000+ fans in the stands and ready to welcome Harper to Southern California with a chorus of boos.

But it was the last few innings that provided the real electricity (and overshadowed impressive efforts by Strasberg and Kershaw and a solid debut by Harper), with a clutch double by Juan Uribe, aggressive base running by Jerry Hairston, Jr. and an epic home run to deep center field by Matt Kemp to lead off the bottom on the 10th.

Sure, this team has some question marks that will need to be addressed during the season, but to have the opportunity to win a championship you not only need to play great baseball, but you need to have those breaks and special moments along the way that give you that feeling that maybe, just maybe, this is the year.

By the way, did you see this quote from Matt Kemp (captured by Eric Stephen of True Blue LA)?  Per my earlier posts, I really believe that for the Dodgers to ultimately be successful at the highest levels, the fans need to return to Dodger Stadium on a consistent basis and support this team.  Looks like Matt agrees:

“It’s always good to see the crowd. That’s the Dodger Stadium I remember, two or three years ago. Every Friday and Saturday we were filling out the whole stands with 56,000 screaming fans,” Kemp said. “It helps a lot when you have those guys on your side. We have some great fans and if we could get them to come out to more games it would be way easier to win games.”

Now, enjoy these photos of Matt Kemp’s walk-off homer as we watch Chris Capuano and the Dodgers try and complete the sweep of the Nationals.