What happens when you move to your team's hometown.

The stadium scene.
Aug. 10 2006 4:29 PM

Honey, the Dodgers Are Coming Over

What happens when you move to your team's hometown.

L.A. Dodger Greg Maddux. Click image to expand.
L.A. Dodger Greg Maddux

One afternoon a couple of months ago, I was getting ready to go pick up my son from preschool when the phone rang. It was a producer friend of mine, a wonderful woman who's been supportive of my quixotic efforts to make a dime in this town. Her husband's mother also just happens to be an original Dodger Stadium season-ticket holder. They own eight seats, 27 games a year, right behind the home dugout.

"Do you want to go to the game tonight? I've got four tickets."

"Do I? Do I? Yes!!!! It's just that my kid … and … I've got …."

"I thought of you first because I know you're a big fan."

There were some plans for that night, but they'd have to be canceled. I arranged to take my wife, my son, and my son's best friend, a 3-year-old who's the biggest Dodger fan I know other than myself. Anyone who's ever taken two 3-year-olds to a baseball game will agree that it's hardly the ideal circumstance. I ended up, as I knew I would, spending the fifth and sixth innings with the kids running around the concession area, roaring, while I pretended to be a bear. But come on! Who cares? It's the Dodgers!

*****

The Dodgers were my team growing up in suburban Phoenix. Those years, 1977 to 1988, were comfortable ones in Dodgerland. We almost always fielded a winning team, went to the playoffs more often than not, and enjoyed Fernandomania. I'd just headed off to college when Kirk Gibson hit his miracle shot to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. That homer felt like the ultimate return on a long boyhood of bleeding blue.

Eighteen years passed, and the Dodgers declined. During this period, the team won only one playoff contest, a 2004 complete-game effort by a pitcher whose biggest contribution that season had been singing the national anthem. I lived thousands of miles east, and my connection dissipated. I cheated on the team for years with the Cubs. I even had a brief, sordid dalliance with the Phillies.

Then this January, I moved. For the first time in nearly 30 years as a Dodger fan, I would actually be in L.A. Despite the fact that Frank and Jamie McCourt, the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos of baseball, now own the Dodgers, I still count myself as a fan. I've come home to the Blue.

My family, sadly, didn't understand that our move West meant that the Dodgers would be shacking up with us. I've molded my life to suit the needs of the team. One Wednesday in mid-April, the Dodgers had a 10 a.m. Pacific start time in Pittsburgh. I chose that day to "work" in bed so I could watch the game. My wife passed by the room.

"Shit," she said.

"What?"

"I just realized what it means that you moved here."

More than anything, it now means that I have a Dodger routine. In addition to the occasional bonus tickets from my friend, I split a 25-game package with a paralegal named Craig who I met on the Dodger Thoughts bulletin board. My seats are in the infield reserve, pretty high up, but they're Section 1, right on home plate, the best that a regular guy can afford more than twice a year.

A few days before the game, I'll contact one lucky friend, telling him or her that I'll cover the ticket and parking if they pay for refreshments. Also, they have to drive, because I like to get stoned before the game. I tell them that they need to pick me up at least 45 minutes before the opening pitch, because unlike many Dodger fans, I refuse to arrive late. And I never miss anything, because I rented my house based on its proximity to Dodger Stadium. It's a 10-minute straight shot down the 2, the breeziest freeway in town.

Usually, we're there in plenty of time. I found a special parking spot where we can get high in peace, without worrying about corrupting the morals of a child or getting caught by lot security. And then it's a little hike up to the infield reserve level, with a quick stop at the Gordon Biersch stand for a bratwurst and a Hefeweizen, and maybe a pretzel. I'm a bit of a crank about the food at Dodger Stadium. Dodger Dogs are, in my judgment, disgusting, though I have a soft spot for Carnation malt cups and usually succumb to one in the fourth inning.

We head off to my seats, though we never actually sit in them. I'm next to two very nice women, who, unfortunately, both weigh at least 350 pounds, and therefore crowd me out. I know of two aisle seats down in the fourth row that, for some reason, are never occupied, so we head to those instead. And then I whip out the binoculars as the Blue takes the field.

But whether I'm at the game or not, the Dodgers are an integral part of my daily life. The family has adjusted. If we go to the beach on a Sunday, I try to get us there early so I can listen to a couple of innings on the way home. And I always schedule my highly aggressive daily romp with my son so I can watch the game as he hurls himself at me and I pummel him with pillows. Elijah, in revenge, has manipulated the romp so that I have to wear my Dodgers cap and he has to attempt to knock it off. Anything to get him interested.

But it's not all frolic. Moving in with the Dodgers has made me a moodier person, if that were possible. One evening, in the midst of a miserable stretch where the team lost 12 of 13, my wife, Regina, approached. The Dodgers were about to drop one to the Padres, an extra-inning job that had been mistakenly entrusted to Danys Baez, an overrated reliever now mercifully in Atlanta.

"WHAT?" I said. "What the hell do you want, goddamn it?"

"I was wondering if you could drive Elijah to school tomorrow," she said. "And hey, asshole, it's not my fault that your team sucks. Do not take it out on me!

"They do suck," I said. "They suck so bad. I'm sorry."

At the moment, I'd agree to carry the kid to school on my back if she asked me. The Dodgers can do no wrong, and they now feature Greg Maddux, one of my favorite players of all time. I'm a happy man. My team, as of this writing, has won 11 out of 12, and I have tickets for tonight. I'm taking my kid, so I won't be stoned, and I'll probably have to spend half the game pretending to be a bear. But it doesn't matter, because I've also got tickets for Monday. And I might buy tickets for Sunday night. The Giants are in town, and it's on ESPN. I'll just leave that going-away party early. I'm sure my family won't mind.

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