A few months ago, my family decided we would take a vacation to San Diego this July. Immediately, I looked at the baseball schedule, and suggested dates that would maximize my opportunities to go to games. At first, I thought I would be able to hit the SoCal trifecta (Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego), but due to time constraints and the inflexibility in our schedule, I was only able to hit up Dodger Stadium and PETCO Park.The Phillies-Dodgers matchup was schuduled to start at 12:10 on Wednesday, so it fit perfectly into our schedule as we arrived at LAX that morning.
Compared to other stadiums I’ve been to, particularly those in smaller markets, Dodger Stadium is pricey. For $32 per ticket, we sat in the “Infield Reserved” section, three decks up, almost directly behind home plate (for comparison, the following night I would sit at field level for $19 at PETCO). It turned out to be slightly too high for foul balls, yet the view was very nice. Dodger Stadium is built into a hill, so the seating sections are very steep. Therefore, despite our being in the third deck, we could look almost straight down onto the action.
About that hill thing… Dodger Stadium might as well be on the bucket lists of gung-ho mountain climbers. From the expansive parking lots surrounding the stadium, we made an ascent to the gates outside the section. Since the Dodgers’ front office is paranoid about who knows what, every seating bowl has its own entrance, meaning one can only enter the stadium at the concourse of one’s ticketed section. Therefore, we had to climb the mountain before even getting into the park. Since our seats were in the third deck, I never saw the concourses of the higher-priced sections, but the one outside the infield reserved sections was noticeably narrow, which made me realize another characteristic of this legendary park:
It is all business. There are no extras built into Dodger Stadium. No Xbox arcades in the outfield, no lounges out of view from the field, and there is not even a fancy jumbotron. This is largely due to the fact that Dodger Stadium is the third oldest ballpark in baseball. Excluding RFK stadium, this was the first time I had been to a major league park built before 1992.
The game was a pitchers’ duel between Cliff Lee and Clayton Kershaw-it proceeded to extra innings tied at one apiece. The two runs that were scored in regulation were both the results of bad defensive plays. The Dodgers scored early on home run be Juan Rivera. The ball bounced on top of the left-centerfield wall and could easily have been caught by left fielder John Mayberry, but he slowed up as he approached the wall and did not make an earnest attempt to catch it. The Phillies scored their run on a single to center on which Shane Victorino rounded third and headed toward the plate. Victorino did not slide, and would have been out had L.A.’s catcher, A.J. Ellis, been in proper position. Ellis was several feet behind the plate and, when he fielded the throw from center, was not close enough to tag Victorino.
After a dramatic ninth inning full of pitching changes that easily took 40 minutes, we decided it was time to head out. It was hot sitting in the midday sun and since the game was not all that interesting, I did not feel so attracted to staying for an indefinite amount of time. As I suspected, the Dodgers won on a walk-off home run by Matt Kemp, who had struck out three times in the game before he jacked a 12th-inning shot to win it 5-3. If only he had been able to do that in the ninth when we were still there.
Anyway, that was the second time in my life I had missed a dramatic finish. On June 22, 2006 the Marlins came back to beat the Orioles 8-5 at Camden Yards. I asked to leave early because I was nine years old, bored, and ignorant. The Orioles were winning 5-1 in the eighth inning when we departed. The Fish tied it in the ninth and won in the tenth. I missed back-to-back home runs and witnessing Miguel Cabrera single during an intentional walk attempt. That was much more painful to miss than an irrelevant midsummer game between two teams I have no feelings for.
For the record, I have seen two walk off home runs in person. The first was by Tony Bautista in Baltimore sometime in 2003. It was the first MLB game I remember going to (I apparently attended a game at Turner Field before I turned two), and the Orioles beat the Devil Rays in 10 innings. The other was just two years ago at Nationals Park when Ryan Zimmerman walked off against the Padres on a lead-off bomb in the ninth inning.
As far as Dodger Stadium goes, there are a few reasons why I don’t like it. I really don’t care for the “history and tradition” that supposedly make a Park better than what it appears to be in an intangible way. Frankly, the stadium is ugly in almost every aspect except for the view of the San Gabriel Mountains that it gives to fans looking towards the outfield. I really do not like how the stadium sits in the middle of gigantic parking lots. This is the way most football stadiums are, and I think they look much uglier standing out like a sore thumb in the middle of flat lots. PETCO Park is the exact opposite of Dodger Stadium, in my opinion, particularly because of its urban characteristics as it is nestled right in the heart of downtown San Diego. I’ll get to PETCO much more in the next two entries.
So far the ranking of my favorite stadiums that I have attended games at in person:
1) Houston: Minute Maid Park
2) Baltimore: Camden Yards
3) Washington: Nationals Park
4) Miami: Marlins Park
5) Los Angeles: Dodger Stadium
6) Washington: RFK Stadium
Finally, I thought this tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson was very appropriate given the city I was in. And I agree 100%!
Does it disturb anyone else that “The Los Angeles Angels” baseball team translates directly to “The The Angels Angels”?
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 11, 2012