18 March 2008

Dodgertown is closing up shop. It's probably impossible to describe what Dodgertown meant to me, even though I was only there for a day. I was 10 or 11 years old, the age when you're old enough to understand a sport and young enough to keep all the idealism and sense of fantasy that are necessary to be a true fan. The place was like heaven - perfect weather, the whole town painted Dodger Blue, and players so close you could talk to them (I was too shy, of course, which is probably just as well, since I don't know what I'd do with a Darryl Strawberry autograph these days). In the outfield, instead of bleachers, fans sat on a grassy hill right behind the fence. I watched a game between the Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds, and when we got bored, my brothers and I got up and started throwing a ball to each other. After the game, we went to the beach and swam. I always vowed I'd go back.

A few years ago, the Dodgers drew up plans to move their spring training facility to Las Vegas, and I was crushed. Those plans fell through somehow, but by that time I realized I'd never be able to go back to the Dodgertown I knew as a kid. Sure, I still like sports, and every year I predict the Dodgers will win the World Series, but I can't live the simple fantasy that Dodgertown represented. If were to go back, I'd wonder about the sanity of the fans, and I'd also think about the racism that black baseball players faced during spring training in Florida in the 1950s and 60s (well documented in the new biography Clemente by David Maraniss). Still, it would have been nice to sit on the grassy hill with a picnic lunch and a baseball glove one last time.

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