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Dodger Fans Get an Early Start

The turnout is strong on the first day that single-game seats are made available.

March 07, 2004|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Frank Quesada stood out like a powerful hitter in the Dodger lineup.

Wearing a New York Yankee T-shirt and beanie amid thousands of fans clad in Dodger blue waiting for tickets Saturday morning in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, Quesada was immediately spotted by master of ceremonies Tommy Hawkins.

"What is this? What is this?" Hawkins, the Dodgers' vice president of external affairs, asked incredulously over loudspeakers.

"I love the Yankees!" Quesada exclaimed after taking the microphone from Hawkins. "That's my team."

Dodger fans booed and jeered Quesada, an accountant from North Hollywood.

Turned out Quesada, 33, got the last laugh. The native of New York City drew an excellent lottery number on the first day single-game tickets were made available, enabling him to buy tickets to the three-game Yankee-Dodger interleague series June 18-20.

Not everyone was so lucky. A line that formed in the early morning and snaked for what seemed like miles was still going strong late in the afternoon. By 4 p.m. Dodger officials announced that the home opener against San Diego on April 5 was a sellout.

Bill Hunter, the Dodgers' director of ticket operations, estimated sales of between 75,000 and 100,000 tickets Saturday, potentially doubling the 40,000 or so sold the first day tickets were made available last year.

"This will be our biggest year in memory," Hunter said. "I think it has a lot to do with the Yankees coming into town and our all-around strong schedule this year."

The robust turnout belied many Dodger fans' expectations for their team, which is still seeking a cleanup hitter less than a month before opening day.

"It's a little weak," Kerry Castillo, 38, of Sherman Oaks said of the Dodger lineup. "I don't know who's going to bat No. 4. I'd like to see them pick up a power hitter, a Gary Sheffield type, somebody who can get in the middle of that lineup and mix things up."

Said Ignacio Gonzalez of Eagle Rock: "They have not done anything. I don't know why they're not making any moves."

Having endured the hours-long wait for tickets in previous years, Gonzalez, 27, plunked down a poker table in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and played cards with friends while waiting for his number to be called.

The Dodgers distributed more than 4,000 wristbands with lottery numbers attached Saturday morning and took orders over the telephone and via the Internet. Former stars Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Lou Johnson signed autographs, and team officials gave away tickets to fans who correctly answered Dodger trivia questions.

Noemi Fernandez, a 17-year-old Gardena High student, arrived at midnight and slept in a car to get one of the first wristbands. Her persistence was rewarded when her number was called first, netting her four free tickets to an exhibition game against the Angels and a commemorative pin set featuring all the Dodgers whose jerseys have been retired.

Fernandez had been to only one Dodger game before but said her allegiance was strengthened by the gifts. "I'm a Dodger fan now after winning this," she said.

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