Legend Valenzuela throws out ceremonial first pitch before victory at home
LOS ANGELES -- The Major League Baseball postseason always brings out A-list fans regardless of the city where the game's being played, but let's face it, there's no better place to stargaze in October than Los Angeles.
Dodger Stadium is always a who's who of Hollywood types, but throw a playoff flavor into the mix and there's no limit to who you may spot in the good seats.
Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet, born and raised a Royals and Chiefs fan in Kansas City, has been a Dodger season ticket holder for a couple of years and considers them his team-away-from-home. Until the Royals and Dodgers play in a meaningful game, he's pretty much off the hook, free to root for his adopted home team during a postseason filled with high expectations.
"If the Dodgers and Royals played, I would have to root for the Royals," he said. "I'm from Kansas City and that's the way it goes. They would deserve me rooting for them. I'm involved with a charity the Royals sponsor in Kansas City. But I live in L.A., so I get to root for the Dodgers too."
As the Dodgers stockpiled top players and added huge commitments to their payroll. Stonestreet watched with approval.
"I love that they're aggressive that way," he said. "The ownership and management have made the choice that L.A. deserves a winning team. It takes spending money and getting good players and players that have made an impact, like [Michael] Young and [Nick] Punto and [Skip] Schumaker. They came in and made a difference."
A few rows in front of Stonestreet, comedian, producer and Yankees fan Larry David was feeling pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay good about the vantage point he had from his cushy seats behind home plate. But David, a New York native, is a Yankees fan, and there's really no negotiating this. He's a Don Mattingly fan, so in some ways, he's pulling for the Dodgers, but in truth, he's not emotionally invested in this series either way.
Especially if it means leaving the links early, which apparently he had to do to get to this game.
"I skipped golf for this," he said.
The Dodgers have a good shot at the National League pennant, but even if he was rooting for them, he wouldn't have any expectations for them to win. That's just how he is -- he never thinks the team he's pulling for is actually going to win anything. This isn't a reverse psychology thing. This is just his doom-and-gloomy outlook on life, which, come to think of it, has worked endearingly well for him in his comedic endeavors.
After all, isn't the George Costanza character from "Seinfeld" largely based on David in real life, where inappropriateness and uncomfortable situations are simply a way of getting through the day?
"I am naturally pessimistic," he said. "So, I root for whoever the Yankees are playing." (Except the Red Sox. He never roots for the Red Sox.)
Meanwhile, on the field, a beloved Dodger legend gearing up to throw the ceremonial first pitch strode to the mound to the loudest ovation of all of the introductions made during the pregame ceremony on the field.
Fernando Valenzuela, who led the Dodgers to a World Series championship at the age of 20 in 1981 and won both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award that season -- the only time in history that's ever happened -- was seemingly the logical choice to throw out the very first of what the Dodgers hope will be many ceremonial first pitches at Chavez Ravine this month.
The '80s craze, "Fernandomania" -- a nod to his youth, his signature scroogie, his burly physique and his connection to Los Angeles' large Latino community -- has not been forgotten among Dodgers fans all of these decades later. Valenzuela is now an announcer for the Dodger's Spanish-language broadcasts.
"They asked me [to throw out the first pitch] before we went to Atlanta," he said. "They asked me if I wanted to do it and I was very honored, especially since it's the first postseason game back home, and with the Dodger tradition they have. It's great."
The anthem was performed by former "American Idol" contestant Jessica Sanchez. The 18-year-old Chula Vista native also sang "God Bless America" in the seventh inning.
"There's what, 50,000 people here?" she said, just before singing the anthem. "So I'm definitely nervous. But I brought my family, so we'll have some fun and watch the Dodgers win." It ended up being a blowout win, so it's likely all fans, famous or not, went home happy. Except for David, who's probably indifferent.