Dodgers fans make themselves at home in Globe Life Field, and the players notice
Only one sentence of Andrew Friedman’s comments could be heard clearly.
“I’d like to thank all of our fans who are here tonight,” the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations shouted into a microphone Sunday night while standing atop a makeshift stage at Globe Life Field in the wake of the Dodgers’ Game 7 win in the National League Championship Series.
The rest of his address was drowned out. The first fans of this baseball season to witness a postgame celebration in-person were too loud. With most of the blue-clad contingent crowded around the police-tape barrier while maintaining 20 feet of distance between themselves and the field, their cheers echoed around a ballpark they’ve already begun to make their own.
Even as the Dodgers players left the field, the fans’ chants carried into the crisp Texas night.
These were scenes the Dodgers never thought they’d see this year. The COVID-19 pandemic first threatened the season, then prevented spectators from attending games until last week, when Major League Baseball made 11,500 tickets available for all NLCS and World Series games played in the 40,300-seat stadium.
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It’s fair to wonder whether fans should have been allowed in the ballpark after it became evident not everyone in attendance was following the health and safety protocols MLB outlined in its plans to bring back spectators.
Some parts of the concourses were jammed with people. Concession lines were often shoulder to shoulder. Ushers patrolled the aisles between innings and inevitably found unmasked fans who had to be asked to put on their face coverings.
If it was normalcy the baseball-starved spectators who made this North Texas pilgrimage craved, only the games themselves sufficed.
With the stands split close to even between Dodgers and Atlanta Braves supporters last week, the fan bases jockeyed for momentum almost as much as the teams did for the pennant. With the stakes heightened during Game 7, diehards from Atlanta began humming the menacing “chop” song — “Ohhhhhhhh oh Ohhhhhhhh” — when the Braves took an early lead.
As L.A. mounted its comeback, “Let’s go, Dodgers” chants accompanied every big play. Nervous anticipation turned to euphoric eruption after Kiké Hernández’s game-tying home run in the sixth inning. Then, the decibel levels spiked again as Cody Bellinger’s go-ahead home run sailed through the sky in the seventh.
“That was as much of a playoff feel as I’ve ever experienced,” third baseman Justin Turner said.
During the postgame ceremony, manager Dave Roberts was cheered the loudest, his voice cracking with emotion as he tipped his cap to the fans before him.
“We have a lot of work to do, but for the Dodgers fans who are here, the ones who aren’t here, we love you, we’re thinking about you, and this year is our year!” Roberts shouted. “This is our year!”
Roberts had longed for such an atmosphere all season. Having even a quarter of the stands filled made a difference.
“It’s so much better,” he said after Game 5. “You can pipe in as much music or sound and make it as loud as you want, but real, actual bodies — it was pretty cool. It’s been awesome.”
The Showtime Lakers wowed L.A. at the Fabulous Forum, and the fall produced indelible memories of Kirk Gibson’s fist pump and the Dodgers winning a World Series.
Closer Kenley Jansen felt the same effect.
“Oh, for sure,” he said when asked whether he had noticed the authentic noise. “I’m not gonna lie to that. It’s tough playing with no people, nobody in the stands. Whenever you have any sort of fans out there, definitely the adrenaline is gonna kick in and excitement, enthusiasm. It was a grind this year. But definitely having fans out there, it’s so much more fun to play this game.”
It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers not outnumbering Tampa Bay Rays fans for this week’s World Series. It won’t be the same as an October night at Chavez Ravine. But if Game 7 was any indication, this Fall Classic will have a frenetic environment of its own kind, a setting as unique as this reimagined season.
“You mean the world to us. Thank you,” Friedman said, calling out to the crowd Sunday night once more while extending every finger but his thumb on his raised right hand. “Four more wins!”
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