Our car parked on a hillside apt. neighborhood overlooking Chavez Ravine. I stepped out of the car looking at a vast parking lot leading up to Dodger Stadium. It was the first time I’d seen a baseball stadium not clustered into a city, massive parking, and pre game tailgating. Running late, we hurried to the main entrance, as we passed alignments of towering palm trees, and statues of Dodger Legends. This evenings baseball game featured an inner city rivalry as the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in inter league. Tonight’s game would be a historic moment for Major League Baseball as it’s best position player in Mike Trout(Angels) and pitcher Clayton Kershaw(Dodgers) would face each other for the first time. Baseball values its history, both would win awards for being the best pitcher and position player in 2014, and it was special to see the best of a generation finally meet, amidst their dominant campaigns.
Kershaw, at age twenty-six, was on his way to winning his third Cy Young(Best Pitcher in baseball) and Mike Trout, still twenty-two, would win his first Most Value Player Award, as he turned twenty-three. Trouts and Kershaw’s meeting added excitement to Los Angeles’s major baseball market, as the Dodgers held the highest payroll from a two billion dollar TV deal, and the Angels had signed a couple former MVPs. When receiving the TV deal, the Dodgers were bought by an ownership group featuring Los Angeles Lakers Basketball Legend Erving “Magic Johnson. Both teams featured other baseball stars such Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Zach Greinke, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp. Legendary Broadcaster Vin Scully, who has illustrated Dodger Baseball for over sixty years, would broadcast this historic face off, as these major market teams looked to make a statement for Los Angeles Baseball.
My friend and I sat in the upper decks of right field, the foul pole signaled we were barely in fair territory, and the retired numbers hanging around the park made me realize there were numerous Hall of Fame Dodger Players. At seven o’ clock in the evening, the sun set over the park’s left field wall, it’s red and yellow rays peaked through the alignment of palm trees, but not enough to affect the overview of the game. When watching TV, it’s hard to decipher how full Dodgers Stadium crowds are, but the waves of sea and blue, and botches of red for the Angels showed both Los Angeles teams tonight. Los Angeles has no humidity, the temperature quickly cools with the setting of the sun, and sets up an ideal night for baseball.
Mike Trout stepped into the batter’s box against Kershaw. Several pitches into the at bat, hits a ground down the third base line, veteran third baseman Juan Uribe made a diving stop, but his throw couldn’t beat Trout, who carries a bulky build, but moves with immense speed for his size.
Trout in the second at bat, hammered a first pitch line drive over the head of Uribe for a double, and immediately drive in by Pujols for a run. In his final at bat of the evening, Trout fell to Kershaw 0-2, and Kershaw reared back for extra velocity, wasting no time, struck out Trout looking on an aggressive outside fastball. As a baseball fan, it’s special to be a part of any history a game can offer, both players deserved their awards for that year, franchise players for their organizations, and the figureheads of major market Los Angeles Baseball.
What was more unusual about this night was to see Kershaw struggle. For an almost flawless age twenty-six season, Kershaw experienced an off night, as the Angels stacked their lineup with righties who hit hard ground balls, and line drives down both baselines. Most of Kershaw’s runs weren’t earned, but his slow start to mowing down Angels batters gave their fans a liveliness in the crowd, before he could find his rhytmn. After the 5th inning, with a 3-3 tie, Dodgers Stadium’s volume rose as both sides of the Los Angeles Teams roared, jeered, and chanted for their teams. Majority of the fans around me were of Spanish descent, my time in California taught me of their pride for their Los Angeles heritage, and the noise escalated as the game went into later innings.
Going into the top of the 8th inning, The Dodgers led 4-3, and Albert Pujols, who was declining, but was once the best player in baseball, stepped to the plate. Albert still had power, he turned on an inside pitch, and sent a line drive home run into the left field bullpen. The man who will have a plaque in Cooperstown made Dodgers Stadium gasp as he tied the game 4-4. The screaming went into the bottom of the 9th, tied 4-4, Veteran Left Hander Andre Ethier stepped up to the plate with runners on the corners. Ethier chopped a week ground ball to third, with Juan Uribe running home on contact, Third Baseman David Freese made the throw to the plate, but as the slow running Uribe made it home, Catch Chris Iannetta dropped the ball, and the game ended on a walk off error at home!
I couldn’t believe it. As the stadium exploded with noise, I screamed for the home team, and to this day still have to process what my first west coast baseball game turned out to be. From being at historic Dodgers Stadium, to seeing an interleague, inner city rivalry. The best pitcher and position player facing each other for the first time in history could be featured on sports station as a “Classic” decades from now. The atmosphere was incredible, it felt like the World Series. I don’t know if I’ll see a game as exciting, but I highly recommend Dodgers Stadium, the market should only grow, and I hope to journey there again.