Opening Day

Opening Day and My Rebirth as a Fan

I’m a grown-ass man. I covered baseball, specifically the Dodgers, from 2009 to 2013. Yet here I am watching the Dodgers home opener completely excited and enthralled.

Of course with Clayton Kershaw pitching for the Dodgers, it had the making of a perfect day. I still remember the home opener in 2013 against the Giants as he dueled against Matt Cain. They exchanged 0s for six innings when Cain parted for George Kontos in the seventh inning. Kontos got through one inning unscathed. In the bottom of the eighth inning with the game still a scoreless tie, Kershaw led off. The first pitch he saw, Kershaw deposited it over the centerfield wall opening the floodgates. The Dodgers scored three more in the inning to support Kershaw who pitched the ninth for the complete game shutout.

I didn’t quite envision that happening today, but I certainly didn’t expect to see Kershaw’s slider being an enigma. The reigning Cy Young and MVP winner looked mortal, and it was a bit unsettling as the new-look Padres kept fighting off pitch after pitch they saw. Perhaps it’s because it’s so early in the season, but Kershaw didn’t have these hitters under his spell.

Matt Kemp, now wearing a different shade of blue, had a single and double off of Kershaw and was responsible for driving in the three runs the Padres scored. Meanwhile the Dodger hitters were kept under control by James Shield. While his game wasn’t big, his only hiccup came in the fourth inning when he gave up a homer, triple and double to Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick and Carl Crawford respectively that gave the Dodgers their two runs.

With the bullpens entered in the seventh inning, it’s ridiculous that I felt miffed by the 3-2 deficit. Again: grown-ass man, sportswriter’s cynicism. I shouldn’t be getting so grouchy over one game that wasn’t even over. I know better than this!

Then the newcomers did their job. Kendrick doubled home Gonzalez in the seventh to tie the game, and the palpitations stopped for a second. And in the eighth inning to save the fingernails of all of us in the Southland, Jimmy Rollins — who killed the Dodgers in 2008 and 2009 in the playoffs alongside his Phillies teammates — puts the game on ice with a three-run bomb to right field for the 6-3 lead.

I stood up and cheered. And even though this was the first time since 2005 I wasn’t in attendance at Dodger Stadium for the home opener, there were plenty of folks in my ‘hood who were whoopin’ it up just the same.

In 2007 when I started writing for LAist, I was a big Dodger fan. The more I covered them, the closer I got to them, the more I saw how the sausage was made, the more cynical I became. There’s plenty there to be upset about. The new television deal that has heaped tons of money upon the team but has ripped the team away from 70% of the televisions in the Southland. Lon Rosen’s decisions in hiring shrill deafening in-stadium hostesses for between-inning entertainment, for getting mascots “unique performance characters”, for continually reducing organist Nancy Bea Hefley’s workload year after year against her wishes.

But there I was in the eighth inning cheering that MY DODGERS had the 6-3 lead. The Dodgers are more than Time Warner Cable, more than Lon Rosen, more than any individual or issue. They are the blue, the team of Jackie Robinson, of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Newcombe, Fernando Valenzuela.

Not only did the Dodgers win the game, they have won me back as a fan. This is going to be a fun season.