My first baby will arrive a couple of weeks before the start of the regular season, so I’m feeling some type of way about baseball this year. I wonder what the Dodgers will look like when she’s old enough to start paying attention to them — or if she will at all, since she’ll grow up closer to Boston — and how different the game will be from when I first started going to Dodger Stadium with my dad. Will Dodger Stadium even be there for her to enjoy? Which rule changes and trades will she have strong opinions about? Who will be her favorite player, and how long until his picture shows up in her locker (freshman year, Russell Martin, yes, I was obsessed)? So allow me to get sentimental here for a minute and share a note to her and the next generation of Dodger fans as we gear up for a season designed to hold their attention a little bit more.
- I can’t promise you that the Dodgers will always be as good as they are now. What I can promise, though, is a team with deep history and a drive to always improve, which should make you feel good about them during the hard parts. And to my daughter in particular, I promise to get you a chocolate malt and Dodger Dog at every home game you attend.
- Let’s talk about that history. This is the team that said yes to Jackie Robinson, not just when he was first signed, but over and over after that. Vin Scully will always be one of our biggest heroes — yes, you’ll hear about him a lot, and no, he wasn’t a ballplayer. Kirk Gibson made history with one swing, Orel Hershiser did it in 59 consecutive innings, and Kershaw is doing it right now in 14 seasons. It’s a rich, rich legacy that makes it fun to be a fan.
- Some people have a problem with the Dodgers, whether because the team spends too much or is just located in the wrong city. Get into the habit of asking them how their team did in the playoffs, because chances are, the Dodgers will have done better. And if not, well, you’ll be smart and think of something. Simply rolling your eyes and moving on works, too, but sometimes it’s fun to give ’em a little bit of sass.
- Dodger Stadium will feel like home. In a league of busy parks with gimmicks and distractions, it’s a classic. Assuming it’s still around and hasn’t been razed for a flashier structure, I hope you get to visit often and enjoy every minute of every summer night you get to spend there.
- There’s a certain camaraderie that comes along with being a Dodger fan. Even in New England, there are familiar blue caps dotting the landscape on Opening Day or during the playoffs — and trust me, out here, you don’t wear those unless you’re committed. Seeing one makes you feel good, almost like you’ve unexpectedly found a friend.
- When it comes to baseball in general, my dad likes to say that it’s a thinking person’s game, and I’m inclined to agree. I think the kind of strategy involved in baseball is on another level from just about any other sport, and it’s fascinating to watch it all play out. Yes, the games can be long, and yes, there are times where it feels like nothing is happening. There are moments to enjoy even then, and when things do get more exciting — when you’re holding your breath during a tense at bat and waiting to see who blinks first or watching a fielder try to outrun the ball for an almost-impossible catch — it’s magic.
So, future fans, I’ll leave you with a baseball blessing: May your Dodgers always have a winning record, may your baseball-less winters feel short, may you never have to endure a strike or lockout, and may you always feel a little better when there’s a game on the air.
And to everyone else — see you after the All-Star break, friends!