Los Angeles has taken the Noah’s Ark approach to professional sports by lining up teams two-by-two in professional baseball, basketball, hockey, and football, and during the past eleven years while I have called L.A. home, one franchise has at least made it to the championship game(s) in each respective sport. Kobe and the Lakers won the NBA Finals in 2009 and 2010. Quick and the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. Kershaw and the Dodgers came up just short in the World Series in 2017 and 2018. And just in time to round off the set before I head to Music City, Goff and the Rams go and give the Patriots a run for their money in the Super Bowl in 2019. Not a bad record for a single city.
So I don’t complain about L.A. as a sports city—the quality and quantity is really amazing. The only odd thing is that (rabid Laker/King/Dodger/Ram fans notwithstanding) there is so much going on in this great American city that Sports-mania never really takes over the town. It would be crazy to know how many Angelenos were unaware that the Super Bowl was yesterday—I suspect far more than there would be in other smaller market cities with a team in the big game.
This is neither bad nor good—just odd—and I attribute it entirely to the sheer size and diversity of Los Angeles. Over 100 million people watched the Super Bowl yesterday, a mind-boggling number, but even crazier is that over 10 million people live in Los Angeles County (a recent graph showed that 43 states have a smaller population than L.A. County!).
So there’s a lot happening here. That’s one of the things I have really enjoyed about living in the City of Angels. But it is possible to miss remarkable things happening in your own backyard because there is so much going on.
There’s your life lesson: Keep your eyes open. The extraordinary is all around us.
There is nothing quite like minor league baseball. Young and hopeful talent, goofy small-town promotions, and unsurpassed fan access all wrapped up in a classic sport. On my recent stay in Ogden, Utah, I could not pass up the opportunity to see the hometown rookie league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers in action, so I splurged the twelve bucks required for the best seat in the house and sat on the second row behind home plate in the middle of scouts with radar guns evaluating the 18-24 year old athletes on the field. It was awesome.
Lindquist Field is reportedly the most picturesque venue in the league, and I cannot argue. The view from my high-priced seat featured the centerfield flagpole, which stood in front of the city’s Mormon temple, which stood in front of a gorgeous mountain range lit up by the evening sun.
It was clearly the minor leagues, however, complete with the civilization-insulting Chicken Dance, a corny hometown announcer, and a grounds crew consisting of a grown man dressed like Elvis and two unfortunate children dressed like a Dalmatian and some sort of hound dog. If I was the kid dressed like a hound dog sweeping the dirt, I would be crying all the time, too, simply from sheer embarrassment.
I ignored sound nutritional advice and downed a hot dog, nachos, and churro and root, root, rooted for the home team Ogden Raptors like I was a local. There was no shame in Ogden that evening since a couple of teenagers planted home runs over the sponsorship-laden wall en route to a 3-1 victory over the Grand Junction Rockies in exciting Pioneer League action.
I couldn’t help but think of my trip to Dodger Stadium earlier in the summer when I paid much more than twelve bucks to sit about as far away from home plate as one can manage and still be in the ballpark. The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball this year and are the darling of a star-studded city, and not that long ago their crazy good all-star rookie Cody Bellinger was just a kid playing for the Ogden Raptors. As was their all-star closer Kenley Jansen. Even the legendary Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda, once managed the Raptors, too.
The road to the big show always begins in much smaller places. To me, those small places where dreamers set their sights on the distant mountaintops are more fun than the actual object of their dreams.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged baseball, chicken dance, cody bellinger, dodgers, dreamers, dreams, elvis, grand junction rockies, kenley jansen, lindquist field, los angeles, minor league baseball, minor leagues, mountains, ogden, ogden raptors, pioneer league, tommy lasorda, utah