PART II: Petco Park
(AKA Flirting With History)
After the All-Star break, I felt completely ready to take on a bunch of different ballparks, and this is where the bulk of my travels take place. This downtown San Diego park is one that I’ve frequented. However, I’ve only made two visits to this park in the last five years, and one of those visits was with my best friend, Paul, to the Padres Fan Fest in 2010. I figured it had been long enough between trips to Petco Park to garner another fresh take. Instead of comparing how the park looks now to back when it first opened in 2004, I gave myself a clear head and took everything at face value. Get ready folks, this is going to be a long post!
Ballpark 2: Petco Park, elevation 15 feet.
The game: Mets @ Padres on July 20, 2014.
This fairly new ballpark near the Gaslamp District is in the heart of downtown San Diego, and is built with some classic elements in mind. This park is classified in the “retro modern” column, and one look at left field will tell you why. Embedded within the stadium is the old Western Metal Supply building, which is over 100 years old. Because the park was built in the downtown area, there has been some new developments built around the area of the ballpark. Also, parking is at a premium which is why the Padres encourage the use of public transportation. Time was that for a night game, I would park far and just take the trolley in as there is a stop right outside the Park for less than five bucks. However, parking all around downtown has shot through the roof, and the trolley prices have gone up! If you are going to Petco Park by yourself, then I would recommend parking far away and then take the trolley in as it’s a $5 round-trip ticket. There is also a trolley service that goes from Qualcomm Stadium (the Padres old stadium) to the Park on game days. However, here is a little known secret that most people forget. You ready?
There is free parking around the Park on Sundays…
You read that correctly. Outside the Park, there are a multitude of meters that are enforced Monday through Saturday in and around the Gaslamp District. But, those meters are NOT enforced on Sundays! Most people know that, but not enough as I was able to snag a space not far from the Western K Street entrance. The meters are not checked… and neither are the yellow-painted curbs. That’s because the yellow-painted curbs are commercial loading zones, and you can park there anytime on Sundays. Since this was a Sunday game, I decided to look for street parking early on, and I did a double-take when I found a parking spot only ONE block away from the entrance. This was painted yellow, which might explain why nobody was going after it. But I snatched up the spot on 6th Avenue, and made my way inside the Park.
The ushers were very kind with me entering the ballpark, maybe because I was wearing my Padres gear. For those of you that collect jerseys, I was wearing my 1936 Padres jersey from their days in the old PCL. Ted Williams wore that jersey way back then, so it’s more than good enough for me. Every time I attend a game in San Diego, there is at least one person who either asks about where I got it, and/or if I want to sell it.
Entering the stadium, I got a free 4-page program that lists the current players for both teams. This is always very important when the trade deadline is approaching and some teams have already made trades (as the Padres did earlier that weekend). Since it was Sunday, it was also family day, so there were freebies all over the place, especially for the young ones. Every Sunday, Padres fans 14 and younger can get a free autograph from a current or former player before the game. I will say this, the Padres organization know how to treat their young fans the right way, and I tip my cap to them for that.
After checking out the pitchers warming up, I wanted to pay my respects to one of the greatest hitters of my generation, Tony Gwynn. When I got there, fans were already flocking to his statue beyond the center field bleachers and placed flowers on it. Tears are still being shed to mourn the passing of Mr. Gywnn.
After that, I had about an hour to peruse my food options. Yes, I needed almost the entire hour. The food choices are vast and amazing. I ended up scouting out many places until I finally decided on a tri-tip sandwich from the Seaside Tri-Tip cart. The best bang for your buck might be that place because the food from there tastes amazing. They also serve up mouth-watering tri-tip nachos. Yes, this is a real thing… they looked that good. But one of the best deals is the Seaside Market by section 105 inside the park. Their peppered tri-tip sandwich with two sides is very tough to beat, especially when one of those sides are the potato wedges. I think the price was around $13, but this was a pretty sizeable meal. I’ll put up a couple links about the food down here.
Yes, there are other awesome drink and food options there, but I didn’t touch those because I sat in a place where I got in-seat service, and would later use it.
Ticket prices: StubHub saved me once again, and I was able to find a couple Toyota Terrace seats in Section 216, row 1! The view from there is perfect for the game I was about to watch. Normally, those tickets are in the $40 range, but I found them for under $24 each thanks to the Wendy’s deal, once again. The ticket prices have gone up quite a bit over the years, but not enough to keep the fans away. Once again, StubHub is your best bet since there is a pretty decent secondary market for tickets. There isn’t a bad seat in this ballpark, and the upper reserve seats are closer to the action than at most massive ballparks. Petco Park feels like a cozy park without being too small.
The fans: These fans are pretty loyal, and they came out in flocks before the game. Since there was a family event going on since it was Sunday, there were plenty of families around, and there were many kids getting autographs and playing on the small field beyond the center field batter’s eye. The fans there are more passionate than you think, and very loyal. However, there was one die-hard fan who stole the show before the game…
The game: I had read an article the day before the game about who was throwing out the first pitch. Agnes McKee had been preparing for two months to throw out the first pitch in this game. A small-town girl from Indiana, she was married for many years to her husband, who served in the military. This Sunday featured a salute to veterans, which the Padres organization is top-notch at. By the way, Agnes is 105 years old. There was some news about her that morning, so when she stepped out on the field with her walker, she got a thunderous ovation. She underhanded the pitch, and she did it! This was an amazing moment, and this was an omen to the afternoon of baseball I was about to see.
The game started out very quickly with a baserunner here and there, and the first four innings took only an hour with a Padres homer as the only offense of the game. Entering the top of the 5th inning, I notice something on my scorebook, but don’t make any mention of it. Odrisamer Despaigne came in with a 2-1 record and a 1.35 ERA, so I knew he had some good stuff… but his arsenal was particularly electric on this Sunday afternoon. After a quick three outs in the 5th inning, I was glad that I had in-seat service because I wasn’t about to leave my seat. Still scoreless, Despaigne gets the first two outs quickly in the 6th inning before allowing a walk, his second base-runner of the game (the first was hit by a pitch). After striking out Daniel Murphy, even the crowd started to sense what was going on. Many of the fans around me were aware of what was taking place in front of them, but they didn’t say anything. All one fan said near me was, “Hey, look at that!” I nodded my head in agreement. I will let this picture of my scorebook speak for itself.
The Padres threaten in their half of the 6th, but Despaigne grounds out with a runner on third to end the inning. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, though as the Padres had a 1-0 lead and were witnessing something special.
Nine outs to go. Despaigne gets the first two outs of the 7th, but then walks the bases loaded! However, he still had something incredible going, so he remained in the game with seven outs to go. This was probably the most tense I’ve seen any ballpark in a very long time. The San Diego Padres are a team without a no-hitter, and this pitching prodigy could be the first ray of hope for this franchise. Finally, Ruben Tejada hits it back to Despaigne, and the crowd erupts. Six outs to go! God Bless America!
The Padres don’t score in their half of the 7th, so now we move on to the 8th inning, and the crowd buzzes with anticipation as Odrisamer Despaigne gets back on the hill to possibly achieve history. After fouling off a pitch, Kirk Nieuwenhuis finally strikes out swinging. Five outs to go. Curtis Granderson battles and gets a piece of a couple pitches before finally striking out looking.
Four outs away. Could this possibly go into the 9th inning?
Despaigne gets Daniel Murphy to a 2-2 count, and the crowd as at its loudest. One strike away from getting out of this inning.
CRACK! Aw no! Murphy hits a laser into left-center field, and this crowd is stunned. A few seconds later, that first hit goes on the scoreboard, and Despaigne gets a loud standing ovation. The 31,513 at Petco Park show him the love, and even manager Bud Black elects to keep his pitcher in the game confident that he will get that final out. However, David Wright ties the game on an RBI single, and now we have a new ball game. Despaigne leaves the game to a thunderous applause, and it looked like many fans stuck around for this one. They would not be disappointed as Seth Smith gets a walk-off RBI single to win the game, and most of those fans simply exhaled. Everybody was talking about it in the park, and even out on the streets after the game. We nearly saw history occur at Petco Park, and every fan that I encountered had their own thoughts on it: “I can’t believe how electric that crowd was,” “Man, only four outs away!” “What a ride. Just… what a ride.” “It almost happened again, and we still don’t have a no-no.”
These fans knew what they were talking about. No Padre has thrown a no-hitter in the franchise’s 45 year history. The only time a Padre had a no-hitter going into the 9th inning was Chris Young back in 2006 at Petco Park. This is definitely a pitcher’s ballpark, so we might see one at some point here.
This game and this ballpark are going to be very tough to top, especially after witnessing a game like that. Be sure to check out some of the awesome food fare there, and arrive early that way you can have enough time to make up your mind! If you can, get to an early Sunday game and take advantage of the free parking if you can get there at least a couple hours before the game, it will be worth it because you’ll spend the first hour exploring all the nooks and crannies of this park, and the other hour trying to decide what to eat! Plan accordingly, and you could end up with a wonderful ballpark experience in San Diego. With that, I will end this post with some words of wisdom from 105 year old Agnes McKee; words of wisdom that, in a sense, sum up how I feel about this most ambitious adventure:
“Be happy. Take advantage of everything that comes along. Don’t pass up anything because life is too short… whatever comes along, I’m ready.”
Part I: Dodger Stadium
Folks, I’m not going to beat around the bush, the Dodgers are my favorite team in the major leagues, and always have been. I couldn’t think of a better place to start my tour than my second home for over twenty years. I’ve been going to games there since I was six, and have seen many fantastic games and have attended some historic events there. One of my first baseball memories is getting to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch at the Ravine, and a very major memory for me took place in 1991 when the Montreal Expos’ Denny Martinez pitched a perfect game against my home team. I will honestly say that was the only time I openly rooted against the Dodgers at my home stadium because I wanted to see the perfect game happen. Needless to say, I have a love for this old stadium, but I will try to be as un-biased as possible for this particular trip.
Ballpark 1: Dodger Stadium, elevation 502 feet.
The game: Padres @ Dodgers on July 13, 2014.
Here is what you should know about Chavez Ravine, it was built in the early 1960’s on top of a hill in the Elysian Park area. The area around the ballpark is very hilly, and there are tiered parking lots around the perimeter of the stadium. Unless you have preferred parking, expect to walk a bit! Since I prefer to spend my money on food and talk to you guys about it, I decided to go the inexpensive route and park outside at Stadium Way. Keep in mind, this is street parking and this parking comes at a “first come, first serve” basis, so arrive early if you want to save fifteen dollars. Believe me, with the raised food prices, you’re going to want to think about this option. Since I’m a long-distance runner, I don’t mind the long walk, but it is about a ¾ mile walk on average, depending on where you’re sitting. This is usually the way to go for me, and you do get some great pictures of the entrance into Dodger Stadium. Of course, making this trek is much more difficult on a badly sprained ankle…
Arriving at Chavez Ravine was a breeze, and I wanted to arrive early not just for the free parking, but also for the awesome giveaway, which was a Dodgers portable speaker. It has already been put to good use. This is one plus about the Dodgers, especially under new ownership, the giveaways have been really good. Earlier in the season, I got a replica Don Newcombe #53 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey as the free giveaway, so you can see that the quality of giveaways are quite excellent.
As I arrived, the first thing I did was snag a couple Dodger Dogs and make my way to my seat… which was still in sunlight. Fortunately, these are Dodger fans coming to the games, so I was able to move to shade easily, but more on the fans later. As I mentioned before, the food prices have risen this season, but there is also more variety. The main sell for everybody is the world-famous Dodger Dog, now $5.50! Even worse, the Super Dodger Dog is now over $7 (That used to be $5.50). Now there are Mexican “Doyer Dogs” sold that includes Pico de Gallo on it, burgers, garlic fries, Italian “Brooklyn style” pizza, and even the locally-famous Cool-A-Coo ice cream sandwiches, which are excellent, if you ask me.
Ticket prices: While regular ticket prices for the Los Angeles Dodgers are not too shabby, this is definitely a place where the secondary market consistently has incredible deals on tickets, and this is mainly due to the fact that there are a plethora of season ticket holders that end up selling their tickets at a decent price. For this particular game, ticket prices were well below face value. My ticket was a lower-row seat in Inner Reserve, section 19, for only $8.49 after the awesome Wendy’s discount. Yep, I got a good seat for under ten bucks! But for most Dodgers games that don’t have an extremely popular giveaway, ticket prices on StubHub are beyond cheap, so your best bet is to look there for most games. For parking (or lack thereof) and the ticket, I only spent $8.49. With the two Dodger Dogs and a drink, I only spent about $25 for the whole game!
The fans: The stereotype is true that fans typically “arrive in the 3rd inning, and leave in the 7th inning.” However, because my seat was drenched in sunlight and many of the seats above me had not arrived yet, I quickly moved up to the last row of that section and kept fairly cool in the shade. Still, it is a sad fact that fans don’t show up early, and that gives Dodger fans a bad rap. I don’t think this has to do with a lack of support, and it didn’t sound like a lack of support based on what the people below me said. Apparently, there was some particularly nasty traffic on the I-5 freeway, a route I never take (nor would I recommend taking). This family had to deal with a couple bad accidents on their way to the Stadium, but that is something that could be easily avoided by taking better routes, or just simply avoid the same route everyone else goes. Better yet, your best bet is to ARRIVE EARLY.
The game: Because of the blazing sun, I moved up to the empty top rows for the first four innings of the game (since they went so quickly), and then moved down to my original seat for the rest of the game. The Dodgers had a couple base-runners in the 2nd inning, but weren’t able to cash in a run. Ryu actually pitched a very solid game for the Dodgers only allowing two hits over six innings.
All of his pitches were working, although he did make 20 pitches in the top of the 6th. The game was moving very quickly until the bottom of the 6th when All-Star Yasiel Puig scored fellow All-Star Dee Gordon on a solid RBI single. That was the only run scored of the game. The game came to a crawl when Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly decided to pull Ryu after six innings, and it nearly cost them the game. But, aside from that, this was a fairly routine win for the Dodgers who were in first place in the NL West at the All-Star break!
This ended up being a very fun game, and if you plan it right, you can attend a Dodgers game at an affordable price, if you do a slight bit of research on StubHub beforehand, and if you’re willing to walk and save fifteen bucks. Of course, this is one of my favorite stadiums, and I don’t know if it’s the relatively cheap prices, or the beautiful hike up the entrance, the recorded voice of the legendary Vin Scully greeting you at the entrance, or the Dodger Dogs, but there are few ballparks better than this one, and that’s a main reason why this ballpark is consistenly rated highly amongst players and fans alike. While there are many food options, not much can beat a good old-fashioned Dodger Dog. Just don’t forget the condiments…
It’s time to enjoy an East Coast thunderstorm as I continue writing. Next stop, San Diego. The next post will come tomorrow, Sunday evening!
The Beginning of a Grand Adventure
Hey hey! I’m back!
I know it has been over half a decade since I last wrote on here, but this monumental trip I’m just beginning is more than enough of a reason to bring back the Chavez Chronicles. Appropriately enough, the first part of this trip would take place on the home stadium that this particular blog is based on. That second home is Dodger Stadium.
This blog is taking a detour and will focus on an ambitious trip across, at least, nine different consecutive Major League Baseball ballparks across the country. I call this, “JD’s Ballpark Tour” (#JDsBaseballTour on twitter and instagram). Before we begin, I must mention this short story on how this all started. Unbelievably, this adventure started last December. Actually, it all began Christmas morning. My mother and sister got me a cool gift that I couldn’t really use until April of this year. They got me the laminated poster of a map of all the MLB ballparks.
We had already planned on going to Boston in April for Boston Marathon weekend, and they knew that I had already seen games in a dozen different stadiums in my lifetime. In fact, I have visited over a dozen stadiums, including a few that are no longer baseball stadiums (one of them is about to be torn down in San Francisco). This poster includes a set of stickers that says “Been here” denoting where I have gone. With this gift included the specific directions that I place stickers on where I’ve gone, and that I need to put this to good use when the baseball season begins, starting with my new visit, Fenway Park, in April for Boston Marathon weekend. Maybe on another separate post, I will post about my travels to Boston, but this series is about my immediate travels in July and August and the many different places in such a short span of time.
In preparing for this trip, I had to make sure I had some time off from work teaching older students the joys of mathematics, and also have enough time off from hockey. I also had to look at the MLB schedule and see when certain teams have home dates. One important thing I looked at was when I was in a large metropolitan area and able to see two different ballparks in consecutive days. This trip was carefully crafted out of a desire to, not only see the country, but to see games from different perspectives and look through the lenses of different fan bases. This doesn’t, in any way, mean I’m a bandwagon fan or will root for the home team wherever I go, especially if they’re playing against my Dodgers. However, I hope to make many friends across the country and get a sense of their community. So far, this is the breakdown of my trip:
July 13th for the Padres @ Dodgers game in Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium)
July 20th for the Mets @ Padres game in San Diego (Petco Park)
July 21st for the Tigers @ Diamondbacks game in Phoenix (Chase Field)
July 26th for the Diamondbacks @ Phillies game in Philadelphia (Citizens Bank Park)
July 29th and/or 30th for Angels @ Orioles game(s) in Baltimore (Camden Yards)
July 31st for the Phillies @ Nationals game in Washington, D.C. (Nationals Park)
August 4th for the Giants @ Mets day game in Flushing, NY (Citi Field)
August 4th for the Tigers @ Yankees night game in Bronx, NY (Yankee Stadium)
Home: Any Angels game in Anaheim (Angel Stadium)
Hopefully, this blog will inspire others to explore the country and maybe try this, also. The other hope is that I will get enough readers that other people will want to put me up at their flat for a night, and I could travel to even more ballparks! Nine different ballparks in such a short span is great, but I’d like to extend that, if possible. In this blog, I will discuss some of the different nuances of each ballpark, and explore which parks have the best bang for the buck food. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to “JD’s Ballpark Tour” with my first stop at my home town Dodger Stadium.
(Be sure to check the hash-tag, #JDsBallparkTour. My Twitter and Instagram is: @StimpyJD)
I’d like to take this time to congratulate the Philadelphia Phillies on winning the World Series over the surprising Tampa Bay Rays, four games to one. This is their first championship since 1980, and only their second world series title in franchise history. How about that? They proved to be a formidable opponent in the NLCS by beating my Dodgers, four games to one. They finish with an 11-3 mark in postseason play, losing one game in each of their three series (at Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and Tampa Bay). As much as I would have liked to see a different outcome, the Phillies definitely deserve to win after their incredible season they put together. Congrats to Jerry Manuel and his coaching staff, and his team for playing some excellent ball down the stretch.
After the Phillies beat the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, I was still proud of my team for making it to the NLCS for the first time in two decades. That was a major accomplishment to me. Hopefully, Manny Ramirez will come back next year, and be a cornerstone in the batting lineup for years to come. Heck, he may steal some more bases! This offseason could turn into a swift-moving whirlwind of trades, deals, and some heartbreak, perhaps. I just hope for a great offseason followed by a fantastic 2009 campaign.
With that, I will end this post for now, but come up with a season in review post when I have the time. Again, congrats to the Phillies. Enjoy this one, Philadephia. You’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. Enjoy it.
Keep thinking blue!
I know this post is coming a week late and a dollar short, but I wrote this out about a week ago, but never had the time to finish the post and put it up. This is how it was written a week ago. Enjoy!
So with a soft autumn breeze in the air, the Dodgers were behind two games to none, and I was arriving at the stadium about four hours before the game. I wanted to get a good parking spot out on the streets, and decided to blast the Dodgers music I brought, and bring some sandwiches. It was fun for a little over an hour, and then my friend, Matt, and I decided to get in the stadium early to see what was going down. Unfortunately, there was no early entry for batting practice down in the field level, but it was good for my friend who had never met Sweet Lou Johnson before. He got that special treat in autograph alley. As soon as we got to the front of the line, he recognized me from the last time I was there at the stadium (I had been there for the one NLDS game, as well as the Dodgers’ home season finale when they won the NL West title). Of course, who could mistake a Mexican Dodger fan with an easily recognizable orange Wheel of Fortune bag? That’s besides the point. After saying hello to Sweet Lou, Matt finally got his autograph and a picture with the former Dodger. After taking some batting practice along the outfield warning track, we made our way to our seats and sat back with a Dodger Dog, a drink, and the pregame ceremonies beginning shortly. It was nice to just sit back and watch all of this as the afternoon came to a slow and beautiful close.
The player introductions of the whole team was awesome, but there is nothing quite like seeing that enormous American flag waving in the outfield with the national anthem being sung so well. Yes, it was great last time in the division series… but this was with the sun setting on the third base side, and a bit of that golden sun shining on the flag. Moreso, this was the National League Championship Series! It was the first time the Dodgers had seen the NLCS in twenty years, the feelings were pretty overwhelming.
One of the best parts of the pregame festivities was the first pitches. The four star infielders from the Dodgers for nearly a decade in the 70s and early 80s came out for the first pitch. How awesome is that? We had Ron Cey at third, Bill Russell at shortstop, Davey Lopes at second, and Steve Garvey at first. Catching the first pitches from the legendary infielders were the current starting infielders for the NLCS: Casey Blake at third, Rafael Furcal at short, Blake DeWitt at second, and Nomar Garciaparra at first. What’s funny is that I’ve met three of the four legends this season and have all of their autographs in the same book! (I still haven’t met Davey Lopes yet) Fun times!
After all of that, the game finally started and so did the Dodgers’ offense. Right away, the Dodgers put up a run with Manny Ramirez driving in Furcal, followed by an RBI single by Casey Blake, and then a huge three-run triple from Blake DeWitt to put the Dodgers ahead 5-0 in the first. Talk about a quick start! So with the moon slowly rising up and the sun slowly setting, it was getting a little testy when Russell Martin nearly got hit by a pitch in the second inning, after he already got hit by a pitch in the first frame. He didn’t appreciate that inside pitch in the second, so we knew he would get even later.
In the top of the third inning, Shane Victorino came up to the plate, and he got an inside pitch that HE didn’t appreciate. At this point, both benches were warned. Shane and Russell were exchanging some words with each other, and then Shane and Hiroki Kuroda got into it a little bit. Shortly after that, Victorino slammed a 1-1 pitch towards first base. While Garciaparra easily got the force out at first, Kuroda went over to cover first base… and right after the play, Kuroda and Victorino crossed paths… and then it began.
They exchanged pleasantries, got into each other’s faces, and then right before any fists went flying, or any leg kicking occured, the benches began to clear. First, the players on the field came to their team’s defense. Then the players from the dugout came out and tried to make peace, but that wasn’t going to work. So then, finally, both bullpens emptied and the pitchers also charged down the field. Players had to be restrained to stop the pushing and shoving. No punches were thrown, but it looked like it was about to happen if people didn’t get in the middle of things. Also, the umpires did a great job of breaking up the fracas pretty quickly before it escalated. Of course, there were now six umpires instead of the usual four. At the time, this needed to happen. The Dodgers needed to show that they had a little fight in them, and they weren’t going to back down easily.
After that whole scene happened, Hiroki Kuroda really got in a groove and got Phillies retired left and right! He put on a masterful pitching performance that evening and deserved the standing ovation he got when he was finally pulled late in the game. Those final three innings were fun to watch because we knew that the Dodgers had this game. Finally, the final out was recorded and Angel Berroa caught the final ball of the game. Dodgers win!
Since I didn’t have tickets for the other two games of the NLCS (and was hoping the Dodgers would pull off the NLCS victory so I could go to the World Series), I had a feeling that this may be my last time at Chavez Ravine for a Dodger game, so I decided to take a bunch of pictures down in the loge level, and finally of that famous club level entrance. It looked pretty nice that night!
After the game, my friend was really in a celebratory mood since the Dodgers won. Even though I told him it was only one game, he still wanted to celebrate and I ran with it. So I finally gave him the idea to head out to Canter’s restaurant on Fairfax because I wanted some good dessert. When we got there, I quickly noticed a mural of one of my favorite all-time Dodgers, Sandy Koufax. I said at the end of the night, I would get a picture with the mural. When we got inside, that’s when I saw the poster that said “Canter’s Celebrates 60 Years on Fairfax.” On Tuesday, they would be offering 60-cent meals of corned beef sandwiches, and other little goodies! I knew I had to go back on Tuesday. After having a delicious Chocolate Napoleon dessert, I decided to have my friend take the picture outside with Sandy Koufax.
Pretty nice way to end the evening, I thought. It was quite the game, and a great memory etched in my mind. With that, I bid you all adieu, and I will post again soon!
PS: More pictures to come soon! (EDIT: Updated with pictures on 29 Oct. New post tomorrow!)
…and all through Chavez Ravine,
not a creature was stirring,
you know what I mean.
Wow… that was lame, I’ll admit. But it is definitely nervous time. I’m sitting here the night before the biggest series for the Dodgers in two decades, and I’m like most other loyal Dodger fans. I get very superstitious.
I grew out my playoff beard, and have not even shaved my playoff goatee since the regular season ended ten days ago. Fun times! Meanwhile, I’m looking at the matchups, and I think this is a very even matchup that could easily go six or seven games. Will the Dodgers power pitching snuff out the potent offensive firepower of the Phillies? What about the Phillies pitching? So many questions to be answered all in the matter of a week. Which team will make the World Series? My prediction: Dodgers in SIX.
To end this short blog, I love the postseason at Dodger Stadium. The grass is a little greener, and painted on with an always-marvelous logo signifying which series is being played. For the past two decades, the only thing we’ve seen painted on the grass during the postseason has been for a division series. How exciting will it be to see “NLCS 2008″ painted across from the dugouts? Also, I love how dressed up the awnings are for the postseason. They are always adorned in those cool red, white, and blue banners that make the stadium look so… majestic. Beautiful, isn’t it?
I’m off for the night. Feel free to comment away, and let’s go Dodgers! At least get a split in Philly!
Wow, my voice is pretty much gone at the current moment, and I think I may need to rest all day tomorrow to recover… but it was all worth it.
In three very exciting games, the Dodgers completed an improbable sweep over the cursed Chicago Cubs, winning game three, 3-1. This NLDS has been a thrilling one, and if you were there for that game…. you were among the lucky ones!
As you may have read from the previous post, the day started off with me meeting former Dodger, Bill Russell, and him being very excited that the Dodgers were about to sweep the Cubs. It was an omen… a sign, if you will. That early meeting in the morning was like a foreshadowing of just how great of a day it was going to be.
After taking a short and well-deserved nap, I had to leave the house early so I could visit my cousin, who was having his going-away party. The reason he was having a going-away party is because he’s off for military service. He’s in the Marines…. and he will be in Camp Pendleton for a short stint before… being shipped… overseas. Yeah. =/ Please wish him well. This picture I took before the game is for him.
Right after that, I headed off for the game. After darting my way around the packed freeways through the surface streets and taking shortcuts, I got slammed right as I was making my way through the gates. The way I look at it, if I had stayed on the freeway, I may have gotten to the stadium at 6:50pm, instead of around 6pm. Next time, I’m not taking any chances and getting there MUCH earlier. So we get to the stadium, and my buddy, Matthew, brought out his broom and waved it around like crazy before we headed to the stadium. We got in there with rally towels, got settled in, and saw an amazing introduction with the huge flag that you see above. Simply incredible.
I know that Dodger fans get a lot of crap about arriving late and leaving early. When I walked inside the stadium before the game, our section was almost full already! Before the game even started, there were already about 50,000 fans in the stadium watching the pre-game festivities. These are the true fans. The passionate fans. The fans that will always be behind their Dodgers through thick and thin. Through the victories and heartbreaks (notice that heartbreaks is underlined), they showed up.
Throughout the night, we had some drizzle here and there, but nothing too significant. But when the Dodgers took an early 2-0 lead thanks to our awesome offense, the fans didn’t seem to care.
By the way, I’d like to send a thank you note to Jim Reynolds for giving the Dodgers that close call at third base when Russell Martin slid into third while trying to avoid the tag. On the replays, it looked like it was a bang-bang play, but when I got home and looked at that play even closer… Martin was out by just an eyelash. But at full-speed, it looked like Martin was safe, and that call really could have gone either way. It’s not as obvious as the play from the Rays/White Sox game earlier this week, or the 1985 World Series. But let me say this one more time.
THANK YOU, Jim Reynolds!
Those two runs seemed to be all we needed because we have awesome starting pitching. I’ve been saying this all season, but I love seeing Hiroki Kuroda starting at home because at any given home game, he can pitch a shutout. Last night, he had pretty much everything working for him. With every pitch, the crowd cheered, and with every strikeout, there was a definite roar across our section. Once it got into the fourth inning, the crowd could see Kuroda really settling down, and every Dodger fan there was behind him 100% of the way. At the end of each inning, when Hiroki had a two-strike count, everybody was standing up hoping for a strikeout, and he got it three innings in a row… all of them swinging! I’ve never heard the crowd so pumped up in all my years at Dodger Stadium. It was amazing.
That’s when I started counting down the number of outs for the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS.
Eight. Huge ovation for Kurdoa. Seven. Six.
With a three run lead, and Wade and Broxton closing the game out, there were at least two people that left the game early. The two Cubs fans that sat next to us during the game had enough, and one of them had that same sad look when they lost the NLCS in 2003, and the NLDS last year. Even though I was a little happy to see them leave, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sympathetic towards those fans. They haven’t seen a World Series title in over a century and counting. I felt for them. The countdown was back on.
Five. Four. Run scored… crowd gets a little tense. Broxton enters for Wade. Three outs to go!
The excitement level is rising very quickly throughout the stadium as the Dodgers are that close to clinching their first NLCS appearance in two decades. The Dodgers get out of the 8th inning very quickly, and the countdown is on!
Ryan Theriot up to bat. He quickly gets the count against him… he strikes out swinging. Two outs to go.
Alfonso Soriano is the Cubs’ last hope. He swings and misses for strike one. The dugout is looking on in anticipation. Almost everybody is on that front step!
I will admit this right now. I shed a couple tears. I could hardly contain myself. Imagine if they make it to the World Series? If they win the whole thing, I will probably lose it. I laughed, I jumped for joy. I high-fived everyone around me. Heck, I even hugged a few people. We were all united as a legion of Dodger fans. It was an amazing feeling. The last time my Dodgers made it this far was twenty years ago. Even though it’s been over a century since the Cubs won it all, 20 years is still a long time!
After watching some of the celebration, I was pretty adamant in my wanting to get a closer look of the celebration before all of the players came out from their locker room. We raced our way down the stairs from the top deck, to the reserve level, and finally arriving at the loge level since the ushers wouldn’t let us go down any further. That’s fine, I was totally okay with that.
*chuckles* …and to think, it all started when I met Bill Russell earlier that day. I told you it was an omen!
Once again, much congratulations to your division series winners, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bring on the Phillies!
So as I wrote on my last entry, Bill Russell was signing autographs and meeting people around town this Saturday morning. To say the least, it was an amazing experience. My mom got there pretty early, and there were only a few people in front of her, including a fellow Dodger blogger who happens to be among the top fan MLBloggers here! Anyway, my mom saved a spot for myself and my friend, Paul, and we got there around 9:40, with only a small handful of people behind us. It wasn’t until about 10am that the crowd started to form (and by crowd, I mean about 20 people).
Fortunately, where the signing took place was literally down the street from where my mom works, and she was very excited to meet one of her favorite former Dodgers. Here is that picture after he signed the ’81 World Series poster.
Yes, it was very cool indeed, and he was very excited to see the Dodgers ready to sweep the Cubs. This was a very fun morning, and now I’ll be headed to see my cousin, and then off to Dodger Stadium to see the boys in blue clinch their way into the NLCS!
Good luck to the Dodgers tonight, and I’ll see you guys at the stadium, perhaps!
Think Blue, and beat those Cubbies!
How about these playoffs we are having this season? For the second year in a row, the four division series all start off with a 2-0 lead. Before I talk about my boys in blue, I feel like I should give some attention to the other three series first.
Who could have ever imagined that the Tampa Bay Rays would be one win away from making their first trip to the ALCS? After being a perennial sub-.500 team for the better part of this decade, the Rays have transformed into a solid offensive and defensive team with a wacky stadium. I have to give props to Evan Longoria for being the man in this series, thusfar. This kid is a freakin’ stud, and his star will continue to rise for years to come. I think Tampa Bay will finish off the White Sox in 4, only because Ozzie Guillen won’t let his team get swept out of Chicago like that other team from the Windy City will.
As for the Angels-Red Sox series… how disappointing is this?!? I expected better from the Halos. I really did. If a team wins 100 games in a season, they should not lose their first two games of a playoff series at home! I’m sorry, but that performance was pretty pathetic. Now they are in serious trouble and should probably start making plans for next week in Cabo San Lucas. Boston should sweep this series only because I don’t think the Rally Monkey will work at Fenway Park.
Now on to the Fightin’ Phillies. They look tough… very tough. Philadelphia is about to sweep the Brewers and they are looking primed and ready for the Dodgers.
Speaking of LA… how about that stunned crowd at Wrigley Field? Manny Ramirez.
What else can be said? Oh yeah, Chad Billingsley.
I expect a party-like atmosphere in the drizzling rain after the Dodgers sweep the Cubbies out of town. As always, I’ll be there early!
Before I head off into Dream Land, and on the off-chance that those of you reading this are in or near the Inland Valley, there will be a former Dodger making an appearance and signing autographs Saturday morning!
Former Dodger infielder, Bill Russell, will be signing free autographs (only one per person) at Honabach & Sons, 3857 Schaefer Ave. #G, Chino, CA 91710. This is taking place Saturday, October 4th. Lucky for me, that’s only five minutes from my house! He will there from 10am to noon, so be sure to get there early! That’s all from me for now. Have a great night, and let’s wrap it up at home with a sweet sweep!
How about that first game of the NLDS between the Cubbies and our Dodgers? In any ballpark, a sinkerball pitcher like Derek Lowe should be able to win and flourish against seven free passes. With that 7-2 victory in game one, the Dodgers have come to Wrigley Field and swiped away the homefield advantage from the hapless Cubs.
What went right for the Dodgers was definitely the pitching. Even though the major networks like ESPN and TBS will harp about the grand slam (which I will get to in a moment) and Manny’s solo golf-shot bomb, pitching was the key. Derek Lowe only made one mistake in his six innings of work. He gave up a home run that was given a very generous boost thanks to that famous Chicago wind. Only a few feet to the right, or a few feet short, and that would have either been a long fly out or a foul ball. I actually thought Lowe’s pinpoint accuracy with some of those sinkerball pitches were quite masterful throughout the first six innings, including that inning-ending double play in the bottom of the third. He induced another double play in the fifth, this one off D. Lee… with great control all around. If it wasn’t for that one pitch, he may have stayed in the game for another inning and hurled seven shutout innings. As it is, he gets credit with a nice quality start, and more importantly, his team up 1-love in the series.
I also must give a ton of credit to the excellent bullpen of the Dodgers. Where in the world did Cory Wade come from? This kid is a stud pitcher, and if he continues pitching the way he has been, Wade could become a very formidable set-up man for Jonathan Broxton, the closer. (Wade is only 25, and Broxton is only 24) I know I should be thinking about the current situation, but I smile when I think about what the future could possibly hold for the Dodgers with that pitching duo closing out games. Heck, imagine if Wade was the setup to the setup? What a trio of closers! Wade in the 7th, Broxton in the 8th, and Saito in the 9th. Of course, I could be getting way ahead of myself, but can you blame me? While I’m still going on about the pitching, big ups to Greg Maddux for coming in and shutting the door in the 9th. When it comes to big games, he’s still got it.
Now a brief snippet about the offense. James Loney is the man. That’s all that really needs to be said. He is the man. It takes moxy to step back into that batter’s box and either be the grand hero, or the grand goat. With a two-strike count and the bases loaded? Ryan Dempster was one pitch away from getting out of another bases loaded jam. Then James Loney lowered the boom and cranked one into left field for the grandest of grand slams. Wrigley Field went silent. It was the best sound ever. Those three walks finally caught up with Dempster and ultimately cost him. How sweet it is.
…and now the Dodgers are two games away from making their first NLCS in twenty years. Let’s hope LA can steal another game in Chicago and come back to Chavez Ravine with a 2-love series lead. Game 2 is later today!