Fans at Dodgers' home opener feel more ‘positive energy’
A sold-out crowd of fans buoyed by the hope of new ownership helped the Los Angeles Dodgers usher in a new season and finally turn the page on last season, marred by the team's bankruptcy and the brutal parking lot beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow.
As the team prepared to take the field Tuesday afternoon, many fans at Dodgers Stadium spoke of the renewed loyalty that comes with a new baseball season.
Randy Padilla surveyed the scene from the top deck of Dodger Stadium. He said he supported the team even when others had turned their backs, disgusted with owner Frank McCourt.
"I was hurt as a Dodgers fan," said Padilla, a Metropolitan Water District employee who was attending the game with friends and family and has been coming to the stadium since the late 1960s. "But the Dodgers are more than ownership. Owners come and go. I didn't want to leave my players. This is my team. It's in my heart. It's in my blood. We weathered this and I want to get to the next chapter."
The mood among fans was light-hearted as they waited for the game to begin. Many spoke of optimism about the team's fortunes with new ownership on the horizon.
Many also took note of the heavy police presence. Feelings about the heightened security were mixed. Fans said they understood the purpose but some were disheartened that the number of officers on site curtailed their opportunities for tailgate parties.
Mark Vasquez, 33, met up with a group of friends in Boyle Heights before the game, where they had breakfast and a few beers instead of tailgating on site. Vasquez, with a beer and hot dog in hand, said opening day is an annual tradition.
"You kind of see all the security and it's like, wow, we're not that bad as Angelenos, but I understand why it has to be," he said.
But Erick Reyes, 49, who took his 6-year-old son out of school to attend the game, said the heightened security was a positive thing.
"I feel safe with my little boy," he said.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Abby Sewell at Dodger Stadium
Photo: Relief pitcher Javvy Guerra tips his cap to members of the U.S. Army L.A. Recruiting Battalion after signing autographs moments before the home opener for the Dodgers. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times