Fun-filled day for Dodger fans

GLENDALE — Tracey Weber may be a full-grown adult, but he felt like a little kid when he met Los Angeles Dodgers starting first baseman Adrián González Friday afternoon.

“I couldn’t believe it, I was tongue tied,” said Weber, the assistant director of Tobinworld, a school for autistic and special needs children in Glendale.

It was an exciting day for Dodger fans of all ages when Tobinworld played host to 15 Dodgers players and manager Don Mattingly for nearly two hours Friday. It was all part of the Major League Baseball team’s 10th annual community caravan dubbed “Pitching in the Community.”

“These guys came to town especially for today to be able to go around and be a part of the community,” Mattingly told the group of hundreds that gathered at Tobinworld. “The Dodgers are entrenched in the community, it’s been part of the history of our organization, and we want to thank you for allowing us to come in to your home today.”

It certainly put a smile on the face of the estimated 500 people packed into Tobinworld’s auditorium. Hundreds of kids sat in blue and white L.A. shirts waiting to meet the stars with Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” — the song that’s played after a Dodgers victory — playing loudly in the crowded room.

“We’re glad to see them,” said 10-year-old Joseph Herrera, a student at Tobinworld. “I’m happy for them being here.”

The community-wide event, which is presented by JC Penney, went all week with current and former members of the Dodgers appearing at eight locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area from Monday to Friday.

Herrera and his classmates were able to do much more than catch a glimpse of the stars. Players broke off into different groups to play catch, serve up ice cream from a Baskin Robbins ice cream store or challenge them in an arcade game.

“The interaction we’re having is awesome, most caravans you don’t get to interact as much,” González said. “I’ve been on six or seven caravans now and most of the times you go to the school, you speak and move on to the next one.”

While fans got plenty out of the day, so did the big leaguers. Clayton Kershaw, the ace of the Dodgers pitching rotation, said those events are a good reminder of how much people love the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

“Coming from Texas, I don’t see a lot of Dodger’s fans so I sometimes forget what a big following we have out here,” he said.

Charley Steiner, the radio voice of the Dodgers, said he and the players also end up getting something out of such days.

“You see tangible evidence of what we do for a living means to other people,” Steiner said. “It puts it all back into perspective. We go to the park everyday — they play, I talk — and you forget they’re actually people on the other end who are listening and watching.”

Steiner couldn’t help but get excited thinking about what Friday must have meant for all those young fans.

“I can only imagine what it means to them,” he said. “If I were one of those kids, I’d be as thrilled as they appear to be.”

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