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Batboy in Final Innings of Big Leagues

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Shawn Evans shoulders a bag of baseballs and weaves a path through departing fans toward the umpires’ locker room.

He pushes open the door and is immediately greeted by John McSherry, home plate umpire for this Dodger game.

“Here he is,” McSherry bellows. “Batboy of the year.”

If there were such an award, Evans would be a likely candidate.

At 23, Evans has pretty much reached his peak as a batboy. In this, his fourth year at Chavez Ravine, the former pitcher for Pasadena City College has learned all the nuances of his job and gained insight into the major league game that can only be learned in the locker room.

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According to his father, Phil Evans, he isn’t even a batboy anymore--he has graduated to bat man status. He’s now older than some of the players whose bats he shags.

Taking all that into account, Evans, who still lives in his parents’ Pasadena home, has decided it’s time to move on from every kid’s dream job to a real career. He’s planning to sell real estate.

When Evans retires at the end of this season, the front office shouldn’t have problems filling his spot. The batboy applicant pool is already huge. Although the work is intermittent and only pays $5 an hour--plus end-of-the-year tips that range from $20 to $200--its allure is its perks, among them better home-game seats than Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda.

But the glamour of high-fiving players and picking up bats in front of 50,000 fans ends abruptly with the game’s final out.

When the players have showered, dressed and left, the crew of six batboys begins a ritual that would surprise most fans.

“People just think we work the game, we shower, we leave,” said Evans, who has changed out of his uniform into shorts and a T-shirt. “They don’t realize that when we’re done with the game we don’t even get to shower. We’ve got to go right to work.”

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Evans stuffs a load of dirty jerseys into a large, silver washer. Another batboy distributes freshly washed pants from locker to locker. Three others sift through a large crate of just-polished cleats. Still another vacuums the locker room carpet. Dave Wright, the Dodger’s assistant equipment manager, quietly orchestrates the cleaning.

After the uniforms have been washed and the shoes have been polished and returned to their proper lockers, the group waits for dinner, which consists of leftovers from the players’ postgame spread. Tonight, the fare is chicken and ribs and is served in Lasorda’s office.

The batboys finish dinner at 1 a.m.

After eating, Evans takes the clubhouse elevator to his parking level. His car isn’t hard to find--it’s the only one left in the lot.

Home-game work hours are far better than those immediately after the team returns from a series on the road. Sometimes, Evans meets a laundry truck at the stadium at midnight and washes clothes until dawn.

But he’s not complaining. He’s thoroughly devoted to the team--from his Dodgers’ baseball cap, a fixture in his wardrobe, to his license plate, EVANS 88, which stands for his uniform number, not the year.

Evans found his way to the Dodger locker room while he was pitching for Pasadena City College. He was approached by a teammate who was working as a batboy and needed someone to fill in for a game. The offer was a baseball player’s ultimate fantasy--a loophole into the big leagues.

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“I was going wild,” Evans said. “I came home and told my parents and they just couldn’t believe it.”

On his first day, his stomach was doing more flips than the Cardinals’ acrobatic shortstop Ozzie Smith.

Evans was asked to stay on with the Dodgers, and it didn’t take long for him to feel like an integral part of the team.

“We consider him one of the players,” first baseman Danny Heep said. “He’s on everybody’s level and he knows exactly what’s going on. We consider him a friend.”

Evans’ baseball background has made him a favorite of left fielder Kirk Gibson. Gibson often makes a special request to throw with him in pregame warm-ups.

Each batboy gets to travel with the team once each season. On his road trip last year, Evans went to New York, Montreal and Philadelphia. In the other team’s park, the traveling batboy doesn’t get stuck with the laundry, so after the game, he can do what the players do.

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“We try to take them out and show them a good time,” shortstop Dave Anderson said. “A lot of them are close to our age and it’s a way we can show them that we appreciate all they do for us.”

And, Evans says, when he is out to dinner or a nightclub with a group of players, he is frequently mistaken for a player himself. Although he usually attempts to deflect fans who approach him by explaining he is only a batboy, he has signed a few autographs.

Being recognized can be embarrassing. Once, while leaving a college football game, Evans was spotted by a Dodger fan.

“He comes up to me. ‘Don’t you work for the Dodgers?’ ” Evans said. “I said ‘Yeah’ and he said ‘You’re the one who wouldn’t give me a ball.’ ”

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