Stars come out for pregame ceremony in LA
Dodgers legend Lasorda throws out first pitch; Judd sings national anthem
LOS ANGELES -- The loudest ovation on Friday at Dodger Stadium went to the one person in the ballpark who was probably too focused to even notice, but those two elements alone -- a crowd's enthusiasm and a pitcher's concentration -- are two of the best things about Major League Baseball's postseason.
Shortly before the first pitch of Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and Cardinals was thrown, and with reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw warming up in the bullpen, Dodger Stadium, not exactly known for its early-arriving crowd, was packed to the gills. With most of the 50,000-plus already in their seats, the Dodgers began their pregame ceremony, a regular postseason exercise that allows teams to show off their history, pay homage to the military and showcase celebrities by way of first pitches and national anthems.
In that respect, Friday's ceremony had it all.
A gigantic flag was unfurled by representatives from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Country music singer Wynonna Judd performed the national anthem, and the first pitch was thrown by -- who else? -- Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda, whose tenure with the club dates to Aug. 5, 1954, when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Lasorda is in his seventh decade with the organization, during which he has served as a player, manager and ambassador. As manager, he guided the Dodgers to their last World Series title in 1988 and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Lasorda is waiting -- somewhat anxiously -- for the Dodgers to add another title to their storied history. He'd like them to do so before he goes, as he puts it, to see "the big Dodger in the sky." (He has said many times in the past that when he does get there, the first person he will look for is Don Drysdale.)
The 87-year-old Lasorda is not a stranger to throwing out first pitches. After all, with as many times as the Dodgers have been to the playoffs in the not so distant past, Lasorda is the logical choice to kick things off. This time, he came up with a new game plan for getting the pitch to the plate that, well, may make a little more sense for a man his age.
Although Lasorda initially strode to the pitcher's mound, he soon slowly inched his way up closer, and closer, and closer to home plate, until he was a mere few feet away from his catcher. He then sent a low underhand toss, which arrived safely and without incident, much to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd that included Magic Johnson, Cedric the Entertainer, Danny DeVito and Larry King.
The pregame activities ended when Lasorda bellowed into a mic, "Let's show these players how much we love them today. Fans, it's time for Dodger Baseball!"
And with that, October baseball at one of baseball's most historic ballparks was underway.