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DODGERS : Game in Mexico Becomes a Carnival

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The “Duel of the Titans,” as the Dodgers’ exhibition against Industriales de Monterrey is being called here, began Saturday with the duel at the batting cage.

The Dodgers wanted to take batting practice, but fans crowding the home plate area wanted their autographs.

“This is wild . . . maybe I should have just stayed home,” outfielder Darryl Strawberry said after one fan put a half-nelson headlock on him so a friend could snap their picture together.

Then there was the duel between the outfielders and the outfield at Estadio Monterrey.

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“I’m going to pull a Dorothy on this one--there is no place like home,” center fielder Brett Butler said after inspecting several divots. “That outfield looks like the meadows Dorothy used to play in.”

There was also the duel between third baseman Lenny Harris and the infield. During the fifth inning, a ground ball hit a hole and nearly separated Harris from his left ear.

“I was very, very scared,” Harris said. “Didn’t you see me playing every ball after that to the side?”

Then there was the duel between the hitters and their vision. With hundreds of light shirts filling the center field bleachers, it became nearly impossible for the Dodgers to see the ball.

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“I still haven’t seen one of those pitches,” Strawberry said after striking out in a pinch-hitting appearance. “I just swung and guessed.”

But after the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory against the Mexican League team, hard feelings were forgotten.

After all, the Dodgers agreed, major league baseball’s first official venture to Mexico since 1964 was impressive.

The 27,000 who packed the modern stadium danced, sang, shook rattles, whistled, and even did the wave while the Dodgers played in what felt more like a World Series game than an exhibition game.

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The Dodgers were given a three-motorcycle police escort from the airport into this city Saturday morning. They were swarmed by 150 members of the local media before the game.

Then they were besieged by children in the dugout during the game.

“This is great, this is the way baseball is supposed to be,” said relief pitcher Dennis Cook, who was seen dancing to the salsa music on the dugout steps. “This ain’t no fashion show or nothing like that. This is just a bunch of people drinking beer and watching hardball.

“I’ve never been asked for an autograph during the game before, but what the heck. I signed them.”

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Said Butler: “It’s so loud out there, all I want to do now is find a solitary, quiet room and stay there.”

And Saturday’s game wasn’t even why the Dodgers came here.

That reason could be found in the three hours’ worth of smiles and waves given by the short, chubby man who hasn’t looked this happy in several years.

Yes, the Dodgers are here because of Fernando Valenzuela, who has returned to pitch in his homeland for the first time since 1979. The highlight of the Dodgers’ visit will come today at 12:30 p.m. PST, when Valenzuela will face Milwaukee.

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Valenzuela was given a hint of today’s welcome when he took a pregame stroll around the field Saturday, followed by a fifth-inning pinch-hit appearance.

With each of his short steps, there was a standing ovation. With every glimpse of him through the throng of cameras and reporters, the fans screamed and whistled.

Even when he grounded out in the fifth inning, a standing ovation followed him back to the dugout. The attention was finally too much, and Valenzuela quietly left the ballpark in the fifth inning.

“It is so great to be able to see what one man means to a country,” pitcher Jim Gott said. “I mean, Fernando means something to a whole country.”

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Dodger Notes

The Dodgers defeated the Industriales on a seventh-inning home run by Henry Rodriguez and an eight-inning homer by Lenny Harris. Jim Neidlinger gave up one run in five innings while Dave Walsh and Jim Gott combined on four hitless innings of relief. . . . The Dodger squad that stayed in Florida lost to Montreal, 2-0. Loser Mike Hartley walked four in two innings after Bob Ojeda started with five scoreless innings. Jeff Hamilton went two for three after going hitless in his first 12 spring at-bats. . . . Darryl Strawberry said his right hamstring felt better, but that he would probably need to test it in a few minor league games at Vero Beach before returning to the Dodger lineup.


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