Standing at home plate in Dodger Stadium for the first time, I pause a moment to take it all in. The first and third base lines stretching away to the foul poles. The pitcher's mound that will deliver up a 100-mph fastball. And the 56,000 spectators whose attention will be on me.
It's intimidating to be sure - but the nerves are just my imagination. It's the week before Opening Day. There's no pitcher. No fans. Nothing on the scoreboard. Just me and three dozen classmates on a field trip to tour Dodger Stadium.
It's funny to stand at the plate and think about how similar it is in some ways to my own experience as a Dodger. I play at Valencia Travel Village, which is a lot smaller, of course. But the foul lines, bases and mound provide a familiar symmetry that remind me of my own field.
I'm lucky enough to catch a Dodgers game every season with my dad. We've sat behind home plate and even at field level where the outfielders would throw the warm-up balls into the stands between innings. But I'd never seen the stadium like this.
"The real sights, however, are in the CLUB HOUSE, where you can connect with the team's storied past: 58 years in Los Angeles and 75 years in Brooklyn."
Walking the quiet concourse, normally bustling with nacho-and-beer-carrying fans, and looking out over the rows of empty seats made the stadium seem so much bigger.
The real sights, however, are in the club house, where you can connect with the team's storied past: 58 years in Los Angeles and 75 years in Brooklyn.
On one side are 44 gleaming gold gloves, starting with Gil Hodges in 1957 all the way to Zack Greinke in 2015. On the other side are the 12 Cy Young Awards, from Don Newcombe in 1956 to Clayton Kershaw's most recent three.
And just down the way are the awards commemorating six Dodgers world championships, although only two - 1981 and 1988 - are the icnoic World Series trophies. The others - 1955, 1959, 1963, and 1965 - are simple wooden bats.
Of course, no discussion of Dodgers history is complete without talking about the man who made baseball history by breaking the color barrier. Our tour guide took the time to tell us about Jackie Robinson and noted that number 42 is the only one to be retired throughout the entire league.
We visited the Dodgers dugout, and it was ... well, a dugout. Since it wasn't a game day, there wasn't much to see. No bats, helmets or gloves - just empty benches and a drinking fountain.
The highlight of the tour for me was the press box - not because it was the press box but because of the views. It was amazing to sit there in the third row and overlook the stadium. You could see everything. The field. The stands. It was all laid out on display.
I imagined myself reporting a game, having the best view possible. Notes in front of me. Reporters chattering away. Vin Scully's commentary in the background and Dave's Diner behind me to keep me fed while I'm working.
Last season, my dad and I stuck around after the game and went down on the field. Not for Yoga Night - my dad didn't tell me to bring my mat - but for Kids Run the Bases. We entered in the outfield and walked along the warning track to get to the bases.
But it wasn't until this tour that I learned why it's called the warning track. The soft grass stops and the hard dirt starts, warning a sprinting outfielder that he's nearing the wall without him having to take his eyes off the fly ball he's chasing.
With a new season started, I can't wait to catch a game. I won't get to watch from the press box. But I'll know what the view looks like for a batter stepping into the box to face Kershaw. And I know that hitter will be more nervous than I was.
Eric Harnish, Jr., aka Drew, lives in Castaic and plays center field for the Dodgers - the Santa Clarita Youth Baseball Dodgers.
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