The last day of February 2009, wasn't just a beautiful sunshiny So Cal winter day, but a fine sports day. While many chillaxed at home to watch the epic USA vs. Canada Olympic ice hockey game, or see the Lakers play the Nuggets at Staples Center, the Militant got an opportunity to watch a baseball game and enjoy a Dodger Dog at Chavez Ravine.
In what was the first day of baseball at the Stadium in 2010, Sunday was the day of the inaugural Dodgertown Classic, a day of NCAA college baseball played in a major league environment.
The day began with a 10 a.m. game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and Oklahoma State Cowboys (both in town to play both the Trojans and Bruins this week), which the Militant cared even less for than the Winter Olympic Curling semifinals. A whopping 1,220 attended that game. But for those curious, the Commodores edged the Cowboys 7-6. The winning pitcher was Lionel Richie.
The real game was the 2 p.m. crosstown rivalry showdown between the UCLA Bruin and the USC Trojan baseball teams in what was a Why-Didn't-They-Think-Of-It-Before match on not only neutral ground, but a hallowed ground for both Bruin and Trojan alike.
As you may or may not know, the Militant, a proud alum of one of those local universities, and obviously a Dodger fan (in case you didn't know already) couldn't pass up this chance, especially since the tickets to the game were all but $5 each (at either schools' box offices; $10 at the Stadium). Also, parking for the game was completely free, even with the RV show taking place at one of the Stadium lots.
The Militant carpooled to the game with an operative whom he went to college with and painlessly found a parking space in Lot F (only lots 2, 3, F and G were open for the event). The throngs of blue and gold and cardinal and gold filed into field level, which was the only section open for the game as everyone had first-come-first-served General Admission tickets. The Bruin team took the home field dugout, the Trojans took the visitor dugout and their respective bands, students, alumni and fans sat accordingly, though there were lots of "the other" sprinkled in on each side. Later in the game, the left and then right-field pavilions opened up (no, there was no All You Can Eat in effect today).
Speaking of concessions, prices were knocked down a bit (Dodger dogs were $3.75 for this game), but the notoriously long lines were there as expected (Hurrah, Levy Restaurants Not!). The Militant's operative volunteered to get the food and was absent for a good two innings. But the operative, a Los Angeles native who now lives in the frigid northeast for career reasons and is visiting his home town for family reasons, told the Militant that he was willing to wait in line as he told the Militant that this was his only chance to enjoy a Dodger Dog for a while. The Militant understood. And besides, a Dodger Dog (and them garlic fries) in the Stadium - in February?! That concept is beyond awesome.
The game itself was a slight paradigm shift. Unlike 56,000 loud, screaming Dodger fans, this game had some 14,500 spirited attendees, most of which arrived before the 1st inning, thank you.
The respective defensive and offensive plays for each team was cheered on of course, but the big league stadium crowd participation effects - i.e. the "Day-O"s, the "Car Wash" claps, even the venerable "Charge!" and the "Let's Go - - " chants were met with a lukewarm response from both sides. The Militant thanks the Stadium staff for not attempting to use the "Let's Get Loud"-O-Meter. But both teams got equal home field treatment with at-bat music and the like.
And even though this was a heated crosstown rivalry and engaged in good-natured ribbing of the other side's fans, it was a very chill event. The Militant Bowl this definitely was not. No obnoxious drunken fights between the schools, and the one time the crowd got distracted due to a ruckus emanating from behind the stands -- was only due to the excitement caused by the USA hockey team scoring the tying goal, as seen on the TV screens.
During the 7th inning stretch, though, the fans were not treated to the warm-and-fuzzy organ of Nancy Bea Hefley, but a cheap-sounding karaoke background track of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." And you can bet your bottom dollar that the name of the home team one was inclined to "Root, root, root" for in the song was met with a suddenly boisterous cacophonic chant that resembled a mashed-up amalgam of "Bruins" and "Trojans."
But perhaps the thing the Militant couldn't get used to the most was the "ding" of the aluminum bats. So shrill, at times resulting in a sustained whistling tone. Since they're in a big league park, couldn't they use the wooden ones, at least for today?
As for the game, it was scoreless for five innings until Trojan DH Cade Kreuter (Son of USC baseball coach and former Dodger catcher Chad Kreuter) hit an RBI double. But the Bruins tied the score in the bottom of the 5th and ran away with the game, scoring two runs in the 7th, and three in the 8th (including a homer by Niko Gallego) and the UCLA beat USC 6-1. Of course, in the name of anonymity, the Militant will have to refrain from voicing his personal feeling towards that score.
But what he can tell you was that he hopes the Dodgers will make this a tradition; 14,500 fans ain't bad at all, and it can only grow. Fans from both sides thought this was a fun event, and all proceeds of the game's ticket sales went to the Dodgers Dream Foundation. Of course, it was also a slick way for the Dodgers to promote their upcoming USC and UCLA "My Town" nights on April 29 and 30, respectively to a captive audience.
Honestly speaking, even the Militant, a proud alum of one of these schools, will admit that both UCLA and USC played rather mediocre baseball (with a game that lasted nearly 4 hours) and that the best college baseball teams in Southern California these days are not from places like West Adams or Westwood, but from places like Long Beach or Fullerton. Those Cal State teams definitely got it goin' on.
Still, Dodger Stadium is all about tradition and history, and no matter what, the college match meant for the Ravine will always be the team that boasts alums like Jackie Robinson, Eric Karros and Dave Roberts, versus the team that owes its legacy to former Brooklyn Dodger Rod Dedeaux and produced all-stars alumni such as Tom Seaver, Fred Lynn, Randy Johnson and Mark McGwire.
Go [Militant Angeleno's unspecified alma mater]!