To say the last road trip of 2023 or the last five calendar days going back to September 15 have been an emotional whirlwind would be one of the greatest understatements of my life.
First, let us address the emotional elephant in the room: my father, Dr. Javier G. Elizondo, passed away from pancreatic cancer approximately 13 months after his initial diagnosis. This post is not a memorial like I have written in the past. Moreover, Dad would want the show to go on and he would not want a page of the Guide dedicated to him — tough, he gets Seattle — but there is a reason we will focus on Dodger baseball first.
At the time of this road trip, he was still alive and his final words to me were “Have fun.” So let it be written... Overall, these weekend games had a playoff feel to them. Personally, September baseball between two playoff teams is the best.
Ever seen ugly crying at a baseball game?
T-Mobile Park is quite a nice park, especially if you like to be social and especially if you like to party. If you are like me, and the prospect of a cocktail or a college party fills you with mild to moderate existential dread, you will enjoy the park less.
T-Mobile Park is still a fine experience though.
Truthfully, Game 1 on Friday was a classic “look-away” game, with nothing happening in the first part of the game until I could not ignore the hunger that stems from not eating all day. While I was scrounging for food the score went from a scoreless tie to 4-1 Dodgers. Almost as if on cue, once I had stopped looking away, the offensive stalemate continued.
Ultimately, Bobby Miller let that lead shrink to 4-3 Dodgers before the Dodgers’ bullpen and offense carried the rest of the day, resulting in a 6-3 victory. The heavy emotions aside, it was a fun evening. The hardest part was walking back to the hotel, which took longer over more uneven terrain than I initially thought.
Miller impressed but he still needs work on avoiding the big inning.
How the West was Fun
As a fan, I think we all dream of going to a game where something important happens. Individual greatness is one thing, but watching a clincher is a different animal entirely. But coupled with the energy of a possible division title was something far more sober: the end of Clayton Kershaw.
It has not been a secret that Kershaw has not been the same since returning from the Injured List. It is an open question whether Kershaw will come back to any team in 2024. There was a palpable roar when Kershaw walked onto the field before the game. Everyone knows that we are collectively far closer to the end of Kershaw’s first ballot, Hall of Fame career than the beginning.
Any injury now could spell the end of Kershaw’s career. Any pitch could theoretically be Kershaw’s final pitch. Baseball careers can end either quietly or loudly. An example of a quiet exit is simply retiring in the offseason. Examples of a loud exit are an injury or ineffectiveness.
Regardless of how Kershaw departs, he would return to his fortune, his loving family, and his charitable foundation. While we, as fans, would have to move on, Kershaw will be fine.
Ultimately, the game itself was a scoreless affair until the late innings. The Dodgers sealed the win by dropping five runs in the eleventh inning, snapping my personal five-year losing streak for extra-inning games.
As I did not plan to utilize the company’s press pass, I had to make do with celebrating among the Seattle citizenry, which was not all that bad, to be honest.
The Pedialyte Game
Backup games are often wildly variable. Sometimes you can get a game where you were better off staying in bed, sometimes you get absolute bedlam in Tampa, and sometimes you get the absolute randomness of this past Sunday.
I started the day first thing in the morning by going to the ballpark first thing to take the tour. It is hard to recommend this tour due to the inflated cost and the tour’s omission of the Press Box. Tours are hard to screw up in my opinion but costing too much without even going to the press box is a quick way to do it.
After meeting with some fans from Dodger Twitter, I settled in for some afternoon baseball. Honestly, I was expecting a hangover from the Dodgers, instead, the backups came to play.
Ahmed Rosario was a home run shy of the cycle, Austin Barnes hit a home run, there was a successful outing to Yarbrough Fair, and Gavin Stone had a Heart of Stone in getting a three-and-a-third-inning save. Sometimes wackiness ensues when one actually gives Freddie Freeman a day off.
While all those shenanigans were fun, I have not mentioned the highlight of this game.
After literally 97 lifetime Dodger games (including 67 games over the past three seasons), I finally was able to tick off an accomplishment upon visiting my 23rd stadium: I caught a foul ball. I even caught it on camera off the bat of James Outman. He hit it out...of bounds...into my bare hands.
I got the photo, I caught the ball, and I planned to give to it my father upon my return. He passed away before I could give it to him.
Normally, I race home and do these write-ups, but finishing this write-up has been hard. Because as soon as I hit submit, one more aspect of Dad’s death figuratively becomes real.
The Dodgers clinching the division right in front of me was neat, and it was especially sweet that it was a division title that no one (including me) expected. But that moment, along with my father’s death, one would expect a greater sense of gravitas and theater.
But, life just keeps keeping on.
Dad’s final words to me, apart from telling me he loved me, were to “have fun.” Not bad, as far as final words go. As I wrote when Vin Scully died, the show must go on. But we can stop for a moment with a musical tribute.
Speaking of keeping on, road coverage for True Blue LA is not over yet. There is one last game and one last adventure for 2023: returning to Oracle Park with family in tow for the final Kershaw start of the regular season.
Whether there will be added significance is an open (yet unlikely) question, but as of now, the Giants are theoretically a playoff contender, which is a harder sentence to say with a straight face with each passing day.