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.