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Bill Dwyre

Dodgers go from glitz to dissolve

April 10, 2007|Bill Dwyre

The most overused phrase in sports is the one about putting it behind you. When athletes say that, it means they screwed up and don't want to talk about it. The past is painful, the future rosy.

The Dodgers played their home opener Monday and need to put it behind them.

This 6-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies, before a Dodger Stadium record-tying 56,000 people, was a case of the pregame outshining the game.

Before they threw the first pitch, there were flags and flyovers -- by both jets and helicopters. Navy parachutists kept falling out of the sky. There was a country singer who did her songs and then twanged the national anthem. When she twanged "the rockets red glare," there were the predictable fireworks, and when the whole thing hit a fever pitch, they released the predictable white doves, who, predictably, scattered as if scared for their lives.

There were military heroes honored as such and another military man singing "God Bless America." He did it without a twang.

The freeways were jammed and the parking lots jumbled. The journey along Sunset Boulevard toward the Elysian Park entrance consumed more than an hour for the last five westbound blocks, but inching along allowed time to soak in the surroundings.

There was the Vic the Brick billboard, covered with graffiti -- that is also known as artistic improvement. Also, there was the Hustler Casino sign at the turnoff and the ever-present T-shirt sellers. Buy your kid a memory of Dodgers opening day, but don't wash it more than twice.

In so many respects, this was a day that went over the top before it even got underway.

Afterward, a slightly hassled Ned Colletti, Dodgers general manager, admitted it had been quite a beginning, before the beginning.

"Sometimes, it is better for the visiting team," Colletti said. "All they have to do is just come out and play."

That was an option for the Dodgers too, but they rejected it.

On this fairly strange day, their highlight on offense was a home run by their pitcher, Jason Schmidt, who later got a cramp in his right leg while sprinting hard to cover first base. He sprinted hard to cover first base because first baseman Nomar Garciaparra had dropped a ground ball that he lost when it landed in front of him.

The runner was safe at first and Schmidt, the big bat in Monday's Dodgers lineup, was soon walking gingerly toward the dugout with the trainer.

The meat part of the Dodgers' lineup, hitters Nos. 3, 4 and 5 -- Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez -- combined for one hit, struck out four times and, not including Kent's single, hoisted the ball out of the infield twice. Their combined salaries would buy several Lear jets, but there is always tomorrow.

Or, as Manager Grady Little said about his Murderers' Row, "That's not gonna happen very often."

It was difficult to interpret whether that was a threat or a promise.

The day got stranger. In the eighth, Little brought right-hander Rudy Seanez out of the bullpen, and he stood on the mound at Dodger Stadium as a Dodger for the first time since 1995. He is 38, has pitched for eight major league teams, several twice, and is in his 21st professional season, 16 in the big leagues.

Had he not made the Dodgers' roster, he would have been in El Centro on Monday, helping with his wife's ice cream store.

Sadly, for such a nice guy, his future may be more in pistachios than pitching.

He added two-thirds of an inning to his two-decade record, giving up two hits, one walk and a key run that made the Rockies' lead 5-2.

"My wife is trying to get another store in Brawley," Seanez said.

Seanez also smiled when the discussion got around to the pregame pomp, acknowledging, as a California native, that he understood how Dodgers opening days somehow needed to be different. That this is, after all, Hollywood.

"Tomorrow," he said, "we can just relax and play."

Here's hoping.

*

Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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