When the Crowd Comes Home (A sketch of the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers)

The crowd amassed, finding their seats after a march across the parking lot—that massive and frustrating parking lot at Dodger Stadium.  It is August 2013 and the Dodgers are back at the top of their division.  The crowd grows and grows in anticipation waiting for the tense moments and gentle lulls where nothing much is going on except the conversation right next to you.  The game is quiet.  People are out there playing a game where concentration is pivotal.  Three outfielders stand their position waiting for something to come their way—watching, waiting, hoping to pounce at the sound of the bat striking the ball.  The game is mostly quiet and yet, when all is well, is surrounded by the ear-splitting sounds of the crowd.  The crowd roars when their team scores and groans when the other team prevails.    

Last night, I realize that the ear-splitting sounds were back in Dodger Stadium.  The Dodgers came back with four runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Rays—a formidable AL East opponent.  There’s just so much magic in the air right now ever since June 22nd when the Dodgers were in last place.  At that point however the team would turn a discernable corner and march their way up.  The Baseball season unfurls unpredictably.  To be a Baseball fan is to know that anything can happen.  Last night, the crowd witnessed this simple truth.

I woke up on Saturday morning to check the scores, looking to see how the slaughter ended.  When I wrapped up my tiring night, the Dodgers were dead-in-the-water, down 6-0 after a lousy, sloppy couple of innings.   David Price, the Rays dominant lefty starter, was dominant for the most part and this was just supposed to be one of those games that the Dodgers would have to learn to move on from.  In the late innings, the magic became reality.  Skip Schumaker, the utility man with the quick speed and underwhelming glove, doubles to left field to score Jerry Hairston in the seventh inning.  The crowd began to stir but quietly so.

The Dodgers star rookie Outfield Yasiel Puig figured in this game as always, showing his youthful indiscretion and booming bat.  His talent is unbridled and overflowing.  Every throw he makes is as if that uncorked throw would bring the whole game to a final end.  He plays in order to make the crowd breathless.  He overthrew the cut-off man with that powerful arm twice leading to the Rays scoring.  Later, his double to right field scored Mark Ellis giving the Dodgers their second run of the Ballgame.

Juan Uribe—the veteran infielder with the World Series rings, graceful glove and once-booming bat—was, going into the 2011 season, the Dodgers big acquisition and desperate attempt to find infield power during the meager years of the Frank McCourt era.  He would flounder and flail and sputter for a couple of years, going from Disabled List to having a disabled bat for the bulk of two seasons.  In 2013, he has seen his career go through a mild resurgence as the Dodgers patch up third base with bits and pieces.  He hit a line drive single to score Puig for the Dodgers third run.

The ninth is when the crowd would be paid back for their patience and be swallowed up by the moment of a big comeback.  Dodger Stadium was a packed house in a game where they were down 3 heading into the ninth—a scene that would be improbable if it happened a couple of years ago when McCourt was the troubled owner.  The crowd was alert and alive and the Dodgers were on a roll.  Mark Ellis, the Dodgers’ slick fielding second baseman who began his career on the “Money Ball” A’s, hit a triple deep to left field scoring Schumaker.  Nick Punto, another undersized, dynamic player who fills that indispensable utility role, drove in Ellis with a line drive double also to left field.  After a coaching visit to the mound, Adrian Gonzalez, the star first baseman with amazing albeit declining power, doubled to bring in Punto and tie the game.  Fernando Rodney intentionally walked Puig to get to Jerry Hairston and then Baseball happened.  Rodney turns around attempting to start a double play and the ball sails to centerfield allowing Gonzalez to score and for that one brief moment causing Dodger Stadium to convulse into an uproarious state.  Singing cascades and the words “We love L.A.” drown the stadium.  These are the sounds you hear when the crowd comes home. 

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