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Manny Ramirez is just the ticket for Dodgers fans

Sales surge at the Dodger Stadium box office three days after the team re-signs its star left fielder.

March 08, 2009|Kevin Baxter

Edwin Gomez woke about dawn Saturday, made the long drive from Riverside, and by 11 a.m. found himself standing in a Dodger Stadium parking lot holding an envelope containing 23 baseball tickets.

Yet if the Dodgers hadn't signed Manny Ramirez three days earlier, Gomez probably would have slept in.

"I'm a Manny fan," said Gomez, layered in a pair of new Ramirez jerseys and a bright blue Dodgers cap. "It's more exciting with him. He makes the games more exciting."

Apparently Gomez isn't the only one who feels that way. Several thousand fans, some of whom arrived late Friday night, lined up to buy some of the approximately 49,000 tickets the team sold online and at the ballpark Saturday, the first day single-game tickets were available for purchase. That's 12,000 more than the team sold on the first day of single-game sales last year, and many of those tickets went to fans who said they were eager to see Ramirez, not the Dodgers.

"As soon as they signed him I felt an excitement all over L.A.," said Hugo Pena, who dressed as Ramirez last Halloween, wearing a Dodgers jersey and dreadlocks. "It seems like people really fell in love with this guy."

The Dodgers finished third in the majors in home attendance last season, averaging 46,059 a game. And Ramirez was responsible for some of that after coming over in a July trade with Boston and leading the team to the National League Championship Series.

So when the Dodgers and Ramirez reached agreement Wednesday on a two-year, $45-million contract only three days before single-game tickets went on sale for the coming season, the club expected to get a boost at the box office.

"From a momentum perspective, it couldn't have happened at a better time," said David Siegel, the Dodgers' director of ticket sales. "The atmosphere is completely electric."

A stilt walker and a clown making balloon animals wandered the parking lot, where recorded music blared from loudspeakers and concession stands sold breakfasts of Dodger Dogs and nachos. In the stadium gift shop, the biggest sellers were Ramirez jerseys, T-shirts and dreadlock wigs.

Junior Salazar of Artesia already has a Dodgers jersey, though he has held off on putting Ramirez's name and his No. 99 on the back.

He says his dresser drawer at home is evidence of how fickle baseball love affairs can be; it's filled with replicas of jerseys worn by Nomar Garciaparra, Eric Gagne and Brad Penny, none of whom is still with the team.

"He just brings the Dodgers up to a whole other level," Salazar, who bought $300 worth of tickets, said of Ramirez. "He makes them a contender."

The Angels also put single-game tickets on sale at Angel Stadium on Saturday morning, drawing a steady crowd and selling about 50,000 tickets in person and on the Internet.

The Angels won their fourth division title in five years while leading the majors with 100 wins last season, when they finished second in the American League in attendance, averaging 41,194 a game at home. But though the Angels drew nearly 5,000 fewer fans a game than the Dodgers, they actually did better at the gate, playing to 91% of capacity in a smaller ballpark.

The Dodgers played to 82% of capacity at their 56,000-seat stadium.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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