Fans celebrate as Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp rounds first base after… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
The Dodgers return to Dodger Stadium this week, but will their fans?
"I hope our fans come out and support us the way they have in past years," outfielder Matt Kemp said.
The Dodgers drew 2.93 million spectators to home games last season, marking the first time in 16 seasons that attendance was less than 3 million.
From 2010 to 2011, attendance at Dodger Stadium dropped 17.6%, something that was widely attributed to the unpopularity of owner Frank McCourt. With McCourt agreeing to sell the Dodgers to a group that includes Magic Johnson, players said they were hopeful the crowds would increase in size.
"You always want to pack the house," first baseman James Loney said. "You want to play in front of a lot of people, especially your fans. I think it's going to be a different vibe this year."
Loney said the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium noticeably changed last season.
"It was a little different, especially night games, not having that many people there," he said.
The first of the Dodgers' 81 home games is Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Manager Don Mattingly said it would take time for the Dodgers to learn whether they have regained the support of fans.
"Opening day probably won't be the best indicator," Mattingly said. "Opening day is always full of juice, you know. It's always pretty much packed. When you start getting into the regular games, when you get kind of the day-in-day-out-type crowds, that's when I think we're going to find out if it's going to be a little bit different."
On and off
Dee Gordon nearly single-handedly won a game for the Dodgers on Saturday night when he reached base five times, stole three bases, scored two runs and drove in the winning run against San Diego.
A day later, Gordon was 0 for 4 and made a fielding error that led to a run in a loss.
Such ups and downs should be expected of the 23-year-old rookie shortstop, Mattingly warned.
"I expect a lot from Dee," Mattingly said. "But I tell him, he has to stay humble. This game will quiet you down quick. The second you think that this guy's arrived, you're into an 0-for-20 slide and everybody's thinking, 'What's wrong?' "
Kemp was selected the National League player of the week after batting .412 with two home runs. He led the majors with six runs and tied for the lead with eight runs batted in. … Magic Johnson will not attend the Dodgers' home opener, according to a team spokesman. Johnson is in New York for the premiere of the play based on his rivalry with Larry Bird.