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T.J. SIMERS

When things head south, T.J. Simers goes too

Remembering the good old days of baseball, columnist decides to see minor league game — Dodgers versus Padres.

August 02, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws back an autographed ball to a young fan prior to the start of Tuesday's game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws back an autographed ball to a young… (Jake Roth / U.S. Presswire )

From San Diego — There was a youngster eating lunch with his father in our newspaper cafeteria the other day, the kid proudly wearing what looked like a new Dodgers' T-shirt.

Father and son had been to a game recently, maybe the single best thing about going to a baseball game no matter who owns the team.

I got in this business, in part, because I remember those wonderful days when baseball was fun, a glove in one hand, food in the other and overwhelmed by the way the players zipped the ball around during infield practice.

They don't do infield practice anymore for the most part, and while I always seem to still have food in one hand, it's been a long time since I just stopped to savor it all again.

So I got in the car and drove right past Angel Stadium.

If I went there Tuesday night, I would quickly become the columnist again, telling everyone if the Angels didn't care to improve at the trading deadline with a chance to make the playoffs, why should I?

I kept on going, passing a car on the freeway with the license plate that read: "DGR PRID."

I tried to see who was driving, but if your license plate read: DGR PRID, you'd probably have your windows tinted too.

I kept on going all the way to San Diego, stopping in front of a very nice baseball stadium, a little surprised that a minor league team would have such a nice home.

I can't tell you how many times I have thought about going to a minor league game, everyone telling me what a blast it can be, so I was pretty excited about watching the Dodgers and Padres.

What a beautiful night, a slight breeze, the advertisements all over the ballpark so colorful under the lights. It was only $10 to sit in the "Beachers" beyond the 400-foot sign in center field and dangle your feet in the sand.

Minor league teams are so good at giving fans something extra, anything they can to make up for the fact the players are not what you might expect.

To start the evening, they brought out a Marine Corps color guard, and any chance to applaud those serving our country is an uplifting experience. It was nice to see both teams remain standing in place after the national anthem, waiting for the Marine Corps color guard to leave the field.

The first batter was Dee Gordon, a player they tell me the Dodgers are banking on to make the major league roster some day. I have pens fatter than Gordon, but then the players with the best chance of making it to the majors are usually the ones most hungry.

The Dodgers had little Aaron Miles hitting third. Baseball's top innovator, Bill Veeck, tried this a long time ago, batting 3-foot 7-inch Eddie Gaedel, who promptly walked.

Miles hit into a double play. Now you would think Gaedel would've been the one with the best chance of making it big in the majors, but as it turns out Miles is the one with more upside.

I guess you can credit Don Mattingly for knowing that, Miles later in the game tripling to center. Some day Donnie Baseball might be called on to really be a big league manager, so what a treat it was to watch him practice being one in a game that might not mean much to most.

As for the atmosphere in this game really not counting, they announced a crowd of more than 22,000, which is pretty good when you think about people paying money to watch wannabe ballplayers.

Promotions help. The Padres are playing a guy with the last name Blanks, who has struck out 15 of the 29 times he's come to the plate. Imagine the fun they might have if they gave a gun to everyone who enters the stadium, and every time Blanks whiffs, the fans would shoot their guns, armed with blanks, of course.

The Padres' big league team is already best known for shooting blanks, and as long as someone makes it clear to Blanks they aren't really talking about shooting him, he might really get the crowd going.

As it was, the matchup didn't look fair. The Dodgers seemed to be playing a ringer in Matt Kemp. He doesn't belong with the rest of these poor kids.

OK, so Kemp just got picked off second, but when you're a man playing with boys, it's easy to think you can do almost anything you want. He looks like a keeper, all right, but I bet one day we see him playing for the Yankees.

Now I don't know why I thought about a hot dog after writing about Kemp, but don't hot dogs just seem to taste better in a ballpark? I thought about getting one and also keep score like I did as a kid. But these days I have to go to the bathroom so often I'd probably miss too many plays.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time as the night rolled along, the Dodgers actually scoring a run and the Padres making the night memorable for so many mothers and fathers who never thought they'd ever see their sons play baseball at this level.

I thought about hanging out with some of the Padres' fans after the game, but I'm sure I'll see some of them next year when they come north to attend a Los Angeles Chargers' game.

I know that will leave San Diego with only a minor league baseball team, but down here they seem to be just fine with that.

As for the Dodgers … please, I'm still trying to enjoy myself.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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