Shawn Evans shoulders a bag of baseballs and weaves a path through departing fans toward the umpires' locker room.
He pushes open the door and is immediately greeted by John McSherry, home plate umpire for this Dodger game.
"Here he is!" McSherry bellows. "Batboy of the year!"
If there were such an award, Evans would be a likely candidate.
At 23, Evans has pretty much reached his peak as a batboy. In this, his fourth year at Chavez Ravine, the former pitcher for Pasadena City College has learned all the nuances of his job and has gained insights into the major league game that can only be learned in the locker room.
No Longer 'Boy'
According to his father, Phil Evans, he isn't even a batboy anymore--he has graduated to bat man status. He's now older than some of the players whose bats he shags.
Taking all that into account, Evans, who still lives in his parents' Pasadena home, has decided it's time to move on from every kid's dream job to a real career. He's planning to sell real estate.
Even though Evans' stint with the team is unrelated to his future pursuits, Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda feels that it has developed his character.
"We try to teach him a lot of things, not only about baseball but about life," Lasorda said. "We know that whatever he undertakes, the training he got here--mixing with the players--is going to be beneficial to him for the rest of his life."
When Evans retires at the end of this season, the front office shouldn't have problems filling his spot. The batboy applicant pool is already huge. Although the work is intermittent and only pays $5 an hour--plus end-of-the-year tips that range from $20 to $200--its allure is its perks: among them, better home-game seats than Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda.
View of the Action
Evans has discovered some of the best perks unexpectedly. Earlier this season he had to retrieve the bat that Pedro Guerrero threw at New York Mets pitcher David Cone. By walking around the mound, Evans got a close-up view of the melee.
But the glamour of high-fiving players and picking up bats in front of 50,000 fans ends abruptly with the game's final out.
When the players have showered, dressed and left, the crew of six batboys begins a ritual that would surprise most fans.
"People just think we work the game, we shower, we leave," said Evans, who has changed out of his uniform into shorts and a T-shirt. "They don't realize that when we're done with the game we don't even get to shower. We've got to go right to work."
Evans stuffs a load of dirty jerseys into a large washer. Another batboy distributes freshly washed pants from locker to locker. Three others sift through a large crate of just-polished cleats. Still another vacuums the locker room carpet. Dave Wright, the Dodger's assistant equipment manager, quietly orchestrates the cleaning.
Eating Dodger Leftovers
After the uniforms have been washed and the shoes have been polished and returned to their proper lockers, the group waits for dinner, which consists of leftovers from the players' postgame spread. Tonight, the fare is chicken and ribs and is served in Lasorda's office.
The batboys finish dinner at 1 a.m.
After eating, Evans takes the clubhouse elevator to his parking level. His car isn't hard to find--it's the only one left in the lot.
Home-game shifts are far better than those immediately after the team returns from a series of road games. Sometimes, Evans meets a laundry truck at the stadium at midnight and washes clothes until dawn.
But he's not complaining. He's thoroughly devoted to the team--from his Dodger baseball cap, a fixture in his wardrobe, to his license plate, EVANS 88, which stands for his uniform number, not the year.
Maybe it is Evans' own zeal for the game that allows him to keep at the dirty work for a taste of the big leagues. Although he pitched for Pasadena City College and UC Irvine after graduating from La Canada High School, he didn't catch the eye of the professional scouts.
Evans found his way to the Dodger locker room while he was pitching for Pasadena City College. He was approached by a teammate who was working as a batboy and needed someone to fill in for a game. The offer was a baseball player's ultimate fantasy--a loophole into the big leagues.
"I was going wild," Evans said. "I came home and told my parents, and they just couldn't believe it."
On his first day, his stomach was doing more flips than the Cardinals' acrobatic shortstop Ozzie Smith.
"I was nervous the minute I walked in the clubhouse," he said. "You see all these players out of uniform walking around, reading the newspaper. I was hesitant to go up and talk to anybody, so I just went in and got dressed right away."
Evans was asked to stay on with the Dodgers, and it didn't take long for him to feel like a part of the team.
"We consider him one of the players," first baseman Danny Heep said. "He's on everybody's level, and he knows exactly what's going on. We consider him a friend."