Baseball for baseball’s sake

Today at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the CIF North Coast Section will have its finals. As I understand, tickets are $9 and cover the whole day – four games of championship high school baseball. By now, the Division IV game has finished, leaving only the Divisions I-III games. If I wasn’t in LA for the weekend, I would’ve gone up to the Coli to check it out.

Decent crowd for the final game of the night

The California Interscholastic Federation is comprised of 10 regional sections, including four city-specific sections: San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego. (Late-growing cities such as San Jose and Sacramento are part of regional sections.) The SF and Oakland city championships were held at AT&T Park and the Coliseum,  respectively. LA’s city championship is being held now at Dodger Stadium. I still had a couple of days on my Amtrak California Rail Pass to kill, so I decided on a whim to head down to LA to catch the Southern Section championships. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for how incredible the experience would be.

Also held at Dodger Stadium this year, the Southern Section championships covers just about every school that’s in SoCal but isn’t in either LA or SD. That makes for a very competitive playoffs, and it showed last night. The Division II final between Orange County schools Aliso Niguel and Pacifica (Garden Grove) was a masterpiece, with the latter winning 3-2 in 10 innings (7 is regulation). The D I final was no slouch as Newbury Park upset powerhouse Mater Dei coming in and outlasted Corona to win the title.

With a starting time of 1 PM, many fans at the D III final, given the choice, sat underneath the short overhang. Note the infamously narrow aisle.

My chief motivation for going was simple: having no rooting interest as a parent or alumnus of any of these schools, I simply wanted to catch a ballgame (or three) in some of the best seats at Dodger Stadium. And it was fabulous. Only the infield part of the lower deck was open for seating. The club section behind the plate was closed and off limits, a policy which created tension later as some kids from one of the winning schools climbed over some walls and through the club sections to jump onto the field. The closures effectively limited the capacity to around 5,000, which didn’t matter much as nearly all of the schools provided solid supporting sections. It was fun to see and hear small, vocal groups of fans on either side of the plate rooting against each other juxtaposed against the soaring backdrop at Chavez Ravine. Nothing quite prepared me for hearing pep bands at baseball games, a practice which I have to say – painfully as a former pep band member – should be banned.

My view for the D I and D II championships

I managed to get a seat in the front row of Section 2 behind the plate. Somehow I felt extremely fortunate as I had never sat this close (single game price for a Dodger game: $115) before and probably never would again. One of the nice, unexpected baseball fan treats was that the starting pitcher for Newbury Park threw with a three-quarter delivery (Eck, Huston Street, Rod Beck), so his arm angle was right in my line of sight. It made his breaking pitches look that much more outrageous.

Concessions were half-price, although only three stands were open, leading to long, concourse-clogging lines. Still, a half-price Dodger Dog is about the right price IMHO. The lower concourse, stands, and restrooms were properly renovated (waterfree urinals, no troughs), but with no space to widen the concourses, circulation was as cramped an affair as ever.

Towards the end of the Division I final with fog having descended on Dodger Stadium

I’ve been to a few games at Dodger Stadium in the past at different times during the season and both hot and cool weather. I didn’t expect the ballpark’s transformation as day turned to twilight and then into nightfall. Unlike AT&T Park and the Coliseum, where you can easily see the fog coming in as a sort of gloom settling over the place, when I sat down low here the marine layer seemed to sneak up on the me. It was almost as if someone flipped a switch for a fog machine. As would be expected, the moist, cool, dense air knocked down fly ball after fly ball, including a couple of shots that should’ve been homers. At the same time, San Gabriel Mountains receded into blackness and the whole game seemed to be played in a hazy mist, a halycon dream. The picture above doesn’t do it justice, and it’s hard to appreciate from the upper levels of the park, where I had almost always previously sat. The fog created a magical, movie-like quality to the event, similar to what I felt during the on-location filming of Moneyball two years ago – except not constantly interrupted by the process of filmmaking. The crowds were boisterous, the players intense and yet all too human, the coaches animated. I soaked up the whole thing, and when it was over at 10:30, I was sorry to leave. Now I finally see why Hollywood shoots here so frequently. They couldn’t have dreamed up this environment with a billion dollars of CGI and their wildest dreams. The new Dodger ownership group would have to be absolutely insane to even entertain the thought of leaving this place.

6 thoughts on “Baseball for baseball’s sake

  1. It’s funny, but Dodger Stadium has always kinda reminded me of the Coliseum before they destroyed it in 1995, just bigger and with fansa bit closer to the field. In fact it’s as close to the old Coliseum experience visually as you can get in MLB.

  2. Mater dei is a powerhouse no matter the sport

  3. I have one distinct memory of Dodger Stadium and you all will see why I have never returned.

    It was April 2001 and I was a freshman in college out at UC Irvine. My buddy (who is a 6″9 water polo player) and I went to a Giants-Dodgers game on a Friday night.

    My boy lagged like such a woman we did not arrive until 815-830 and by that time it was bottom of the 4th inning 7-0 Dodgers with Shawn Estes getting roughed up.

    We were sitting on the left field line in the lower level about 10 rows back. Pretty good seats if you ask most people.

    First of all, Dodger fans love Barry Bonds more than Giants fans do. They chant his name “Barry, Barry, Barry etc…” every inning when he is in left field without fail. My buddy is a Giants fan from Santa Rosa and we both laughed and agreed this was 100% true…..It was like they wished they could have him on their team.

    That was the only good thing we saw as it was the most terrible atmosphere we ever saw. We both were unmarked not wearing any Giants gear and as it turns out it was a good thing.

    There were Giants fans who stood up and took bows and got tossed on them beer, cotton candy, peanuts, soda etc…. and got cursed by gang related Dodger fans…..Granted that was a dumb move by those Giants fans but it went further than that.

    Fans wearing Giants gear simply sitting down and watching the game wearing hats or jackets got pelted for no reason…..My buddy and I were thankful we decided not to sport any kind of Giants gear as it was despicable to watch this.

    Even kids wearing Giants gear got pelted with beer, objects and got cursed at, and it made us sick to watch these idiot Dodger fans show such disrespect and not get reprimanded by anyone for this.

    It was like security did not give a flying shit and I see why Bryan Stow got beaten the way he did. It actually did not surprise me when I heard about it for the first time.

    It was horrendous to see even little kids get pelted with similar objects. My buddy and I were shocked at how bad it was.

    At Giants-Dodgers games in San Francisco this would never be the case at either ATT Park or Candlestick for that matter. We both left after the 7th inning as we had seen enough and the score 10-0 Dodgers.

    I vowed to never go to a game again at Chavez Ravine as I have been to other stadiums and never seen such a low level of ineptitude of class and fansmanship. I hate the Dodgers with such a passion and hope they never win a World Series again after my experience.

    It is just a game, and win or lose it is fun as just to be a fan to be there and be a part of it. There is no reason to show such disrespect to another team’s fans regardless if they are a rival or not.

    Dodgers fans have no class and I have zero respect for them. These were expensive seats and this was happening with no regard……I wonder how the bleachers and upper deck are?

  4. @Sid I saw similar shenanigans happening at AT&T to the Rangers fans in my section during the 2010 World Series. Bozos are everywhere.

  5. Sid’s experience would’ve been much worse as a Dodger fan at Candlestick in the 70′s/80′s. However, LA has gotten grittier since then and SF has gotten yuppier, and now the roles are reversed. For my part, my dad took me to A’s games during the Bash Brothers era (I was born in 1980 and grew up in Redwood City) because it was a more family-oriented atmosphere than at the Giants. Now, probably not.

  6. “At Giants-Dodgers games in San Francisco this would never be the case at either ATT Park or Candlestick for that matter. ”
    Pretty sure Giant fans had the moniker “battery chuckers” for a reason. No fan base is devoid of the caveman crowd, unfortunately.

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