California Dreaming – Part One

Here to recap a Los Angeles baseball experience, it’s Paul Mitchell…

Traffic in Los Angeles isn’t as bad as you may have heard – it’s worse.

A family holiday to California in July brought the opportunity to see some West Coast Baseball. Staying just a few minutes from Anaheim we would see our Tampa Bay Rays play the Angels later in the break, but our first trip was to Chavez Ravine, the fabled home of the Dodgers.

The concern about the journey between our base in Fullarton and LA was a factor in choosing a daytime rather than evening game. On Saturday 8th July, we headed for the 4.05pm start Royals at Dodgers.

We left in plenty time and with the aid of our Sat Nav (named Marvin, everybody gives their sat nav a name don’t they?) we navigated the traffic and, while it was busy, the drive proved uneventful.

Indeed, I was in a great mood when the traffic policeman waved us round the roundabout into the entrance to stadium – and that’s when the chaos began.

It was like the Wacky Races without the organisation.

The entrance road was eight lanes wide, but looked wider. The direction was uphill, and there at the top were eight booths ready to check your car through. Only when a little way up the hill, flanked in every direction by impatient traffic, did I realise that the lanes were different depending on if you were in reserved parking, pay on the day or a special “Lexus Club” member. Numerous people were scrambling to get into the correct lane, and even more numerous people seemed intent on not letting this happen.

We hadn’t yet decided who to support at the game, we didn’t have a preference, until a car with three Kansas City fans steadfastly ignored my indicator and refused to allow me to move across into their lane. Being fair, it would have set them back a whole car length and may have added 30 seconds to their journey. But we were, for the day at least, now baptised as true blue Dodgers.

Finally getting parked in a parking lot that was sprawling to say the least, the edge had been taken off the anticipation as a long walk was then required, which ended with an uphill climb. As the stadium came into view it was like having your spirits lifted. Dodger Stadium may look picturesque on television, but like true beauty, it must be seen to be believed.

A friendly welcome from Dodger staff and the giveaway gift of a Bluetooth speaker (with full LA crest and it lights in Dodger blue) continued to restore  the feel good factor as we awaited the moment we went through the tunnel and saw the field for the first time.

Another staff member pointed us to the right area and the lush green field came into view. We stood for a moment to take it in and then were guided to our seats, midway up on the right field side on the second tier – a perfect choice from a seat map.  It was perfect.

The iconic bleacher seats with their crinkled roofs were to our right and were filling up and given that the Dodgers were having a great run, there were to be no shortage of people out to watch.

But the opposite side, the third base side, of the stadium looked busier. We were shortly to find out why…

The sun was blazing, and we had no shade.

Additional caps had to be purchased (the Dodgers offer two different caps for just $10, bargain) as well as water as the supply we took in was quickly finished.

My only real complaint about both Dodger Stadium, Anaheim Stadium and the home of the LA Galaxy is the price of water. Between $4.50 and almost $6 for a bottle of water is scandalous. Buying 24 bottles at the supermarket for $3.49 several times on holiday made it hard to not feel ripped-off. (While this is not uncommon, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons is said to be planning charge only $2 for water).

The game itself was never dull. It had all you wish for – home runs, an ejection, passed ball excitement and some great catches but it was to end in a bizarre four-walk walk-off with the final walk being drawn by the soon to be superstar Cody Bellinger.

The Dodgers took an early 3-0 lead thanks in part to a two-run shot by Joc Pederson in the second inning against Ian Kennedy. Pederson then impressed with the glove in the fourth inning Pederson throwing out Jorge Bonifacio at the plate to keep the Royals scoreless to that point, much to the delight of home pitcher Brandon McCarthy.

Walking round the concourse to buy the first of the hats we still had a great view of the game while we enjoyed the ’buzz’ of the stadium. Few sporting events can beat the feel of a baseball game.

Credit must be given to the Dodgers in-game team. The between innings entertainment was slick and not overdone. The music balanced but not overpowering.

The Royals were not to be denied. With some patient and timely hitting they picked up a single run in 4th, 5th and 7th while the Dodger bats faded. Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain was ejected in the seventh for arguing a called third strike with the bases loaded and the game tied 3-all.

Salvador Perez hit a go ahead home run in the 8th only for Bellinger to reply in similar fashion in the bottom of the 8th.  Nothing beats seeing a ball escorted out of the field of play with such power.

As we basked (more like baked) in the sunshine the game remained tied. We had agreed that if it went to extra innings that we would leave (which I wouldn’t do for a Rays game) so as the 9th ended I reluctantly headed for the car.

On entering the car, it was straight on with the radio and the Dodgers voices of the experienced pairing of Rick Monday and Charley Steiner. One bright point was that very few people were leaving the game. I was comforted by the commitment of the home fans while relieved not to be stuck in the queues to get out.

It was a game that ended with an unusual whimper rather than a bang. Scott Alexander came in to pitch the 10th for KC. His first walk was to Chase Utley, the second to Corey Seager. With no one ready in the bullpen Alexander had to face Justin Turner and he promptly loaded the bases.

KC closer Kelvin Herrera came in with alarm bells ringing, bases loaded and no outs. He needed a miracle, he didn’t get one.

He probably didn’t mean to throw ball four, a slider off the plate (if it were me I’d rather thrown one down the middle and it be crushed for a walk-off grand slam, but at least it would give the chance of an out). A walk off walk to win a game is like landing a big fish that jumps into your boat rather you skilfully catching it.

If you are ever in LA and thinking about going to Dodger Stadium to take in a game then don’t think about it, just do it.

It is a wonderful place to watch a game and Anaheim Stadium had a lot to live up too.

It would do just that.

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