As a die-hard Dodgers fan living deep in Orange County, when I make it to Dodgers games, I make a day of it. I show up as early as possible, I enter the park in a hurry and I find my seat first, then deal with the fallout (food/restroom location/etc) after. That seat instantly becomes my spiritual center; my nirvana.
There was a long stretch of time where I was nervous going to a game even draped in all Dodger gear, due to the aggressive nature of the stands, and fans that occupy them. It was not unheard of to find fans getting things thrown at them, taunted and even beat up, simply for not cheering for the right player, not wearing the right gear, or just being. I remember a night where I paid around $60 per seat, thinking that would insulate me and my girlfriend from the, uh, rougher crowd. We were in the same level as Vin’s press box, only further down the baseline. The 3rd inning was the first fight, then the next inning, 2 girls got into it in front of us, and there was a big scuffle in the snack bar line that literally went on for what seemed like 10 minutes before any security showed up.
When the geek squad (Friedman, Zaidi, etc) took ownership of the Dodgers, one of the first things they did was look at Chavez Ravine, and what they could do to make it a safer, more family friendly environment. Gone were the days when you could sneak in a 5th of tequila into the game, and witness more fights in the stands than innings played. The aroma of marijuana smoke would waft in the air between pitches, and there was more than one way to sneak down into the lower levels without getting caught, or being asked for tickets.
Thankfully, those days are behind us, and I couldn’t be happier. Last year, a friend and I, who happens to support that orange and black wearing squad that cannot stop winning, decided to go to a game at Chavez Ravine. It was a Saturday day game, 1pm start. Dodgers vs. Giants. Carlos Frias vs Tim Hudson.
Now, normally, I would tell my buddy to not wear any visible Giants gear. Maybe wear a t-shirt underneath another shirt or hoodie, and then just put take the cover off once we get in. My guy? Nope. In fact, he came draped in orange and black, head to toe. Even his damn glove was orange and black, and, as much as it kills me, I gotta respect that.
We show up around noon for the 1pm start, and the parking lot is full. The ratio of Dodgers fans vs. Giants fans is about 50:50, which isn’t unusual. There’s light banter as we walk from his truck to the gate, and right away, I can tell there’s something different…uniforms.
There are uniforms everywhere. Some private security guys assisting in parking, full uniform LAPD just hanging around, answering questions, even giving directions. As we approach the gates, personal space becomes frighteningly sparse, and we look to get in line to enter the game, except there is another positive change I hadn’t witnessed yet; dozens of lines are open to enter. Literally dozens. Nobody needs to wait in line, and it seems like I’m not alone in not seeing that one coming. People are stopping before the frisk line, looking confused and fumbling for their phones, as if to let their friends know that there’s no wait to get inside.
Our seats are in the left field bleachers. We stop on the way up and watch Carlos Frias warm up, and some kid is begging him for an autograph. Carlos seems to be in the zone, and pays no mind to him at all. I see Rick Honeycutt, and let him know I appreciate the work he’s done with that staff, and he looks up and gives me the nod. The kid looks at me like I stabbed him in the back, and I tell him that his time will come soon enough.
We get our fill at the snack bar, grab some seeds, and head up to the seats. Along the way, there are more security guards posted about, and more uniformed officers, walking around, talking with people. Really cool to see that they’re engaging with the folks at the park, and not just walking around with a chip on their shoulders.
Our sun-drenched bleacher seats are on the aisle, which is where I prefer to sit. We’re 2 rows from the walkway below us, and as the seats fill, the parade of people walking by are either cheered by the home crowd because of their gorgeous Dodger blue attire, or hissed at because of their inability to see that black and orange do not go well together. One dad walks by with a 3yr old, both draped in Giants gear…I couldn’t help but let out ‘I’m calling child protective services’, which garners a smile from the pops as well as my friend.
Scantily dressed ladies walk by, and the crowd reacts to each one with a grumble of disapproval, or a round of applause. They look annoyed, but, this is the bleachers, so you have to see some of that coming. As first pitch approaches, I notice 3 uniformed LAPD officers lingering at the top of the stairs up from the snack bar/gate area. One is pointing out seats, evidently moonlighting as an usher.
The game starts and it’s in the high 70’s and the crowd is rowdy. The bleacher crowd lets the Giant’s left fielder know what we thought of him, and he returned the favor by throwing his warm up ball to only Giants fans before the inning started. The game went south quick, as the bad guys jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers battled back with back to back home runs by Joc and JT, but that was it as far as the Dodgers offense goes (sound familiar?). As the game went on, the sun mercilessly beat down on the crowd, especially those of us without any shade in the bleachers. A lot of sun, plus a few cold beers usually leads to someone saying something they shouldn’t have, or throwing something they shouldn’t have, etc.
Not this day, and since, in my experience. The surplus of security, all over the park, allowed us to cheer for our respective teams, throw out some one-sided stats to thrill those around us, and root for our guys like any fan would. The difference? We did it in a safe, family friendly environment called Dodger Stadium.