Dodgers fan Lowell Rubio, left, and his son, Dominic, try on hats at the Dodgers… (Christina House / For The…)
The first day of the Magic Johnson era was an unqualified success for the Dodgers, who not only sold out next month's home opener but did a brisk business in season-ticket sales as well.
"With the announcement last night, our fans are so excited," said David Siegel, the team's senior director of ticket sales. "The phones have been ringing literally off the hook. The buzz has been incredible. The energy's been incredible."
Siegel, who has run the Dodgers' ticket department for 16 years — and four owners — said the fan reaction Wednesday was similar to what the team experienced when it acquired Manny Ramirez in 2008. In the 24 hours after that trade was announced, the Dodgers sold 30,000 single-game tickets, the largest one-day surge since the halcyon days of Fernandomania.
"Several season-seat holders, who flat-out canceled their seats just a month or two ago, have actually called us to see if their season seats are still available," said Siegel, who said specific numbers for tickets sold were still being compiled. "It's been a really positive day for the organization all the way around."
Especially for the team's ticket agents, who are no longer having trouble getting fans to call back.
"There's a lot of smiles on their faces," Siegel said. "It has not been an easy go for them lately. The electricity in the office is something that I haven't seen in a long time. Everyone's got a spring in their step."
Alex Rubio, a legal courier from Echo Park, was among the thousands of fans who bought an opening-day ticket Wednesday, something he said he wouldn't have done if Frank McCourt still owned the team.
"And I wouldn't park inside either," said Rubio as he walked from the Dodger Stadium box office to his car, which was parked in the stadium's upper-most lot. "I'm real happy."
Phil Jennerjahn was also in a spending mood. Decked out in a Kirk Gibson jersey and blue Dodgers cap, he waited impatiently for the stadium gift shop to open so he could "spend some money on the Dodgers."
"I'm feeling happy and in a good mood," said Jennerjahn, a political consultant and congressional candidate from the 28th District. "I've always hated the McCourts.
"I'm glad they're gone. This new team — with one of them being Magic, he's so well-loved in town — I think it's going to be great. Magic's going to put his own personal stamp on it. It should be a happy day for all of Los Angeles."
A few miles away, Edward Lizama of East Los Angeles, wearing a blue Dodgers T-shirt, was staring up at the Magic Johnson statue outside Staples Center. When he was a kid, Lizama went to watch Johnson play for the Lakers at the Forum. And the fact Johnson is now part of the group that owns Lizama's favorite baseball team is a big step toward rebuilding trust among the fan base.
"I'm real happy," he said. "There's going to be a lot of changes. I wish I could just shake his hand."
James Smith, a casual baseball fan in an oversized T-shirt and white Dodgers cap, agreed.
"Definitely," said Smith, who stood nearby as friend Dante Jacobs snapped pictures of the Johnson statue. "It makes you feel good knowing you've got somebody like Magic representing the Dodgers now. Especially after having the gentleman that's about to leave and all the mess he brought to the team.
"Having somebody like Magic representing the Dodgers, being the face of the organization now, is a blessing. He's going to bring some new fans."