Drama. History. Family. Welcome to L.A.
Fans of baseball from around the globe gathered this weekend to catch a glimpse of such stars as Clayton Kershaw and Shohei Ohtani, who headlined the first MLB All-Star Game at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium since 1980 on Tuesday, July 19.
They loved the baseball elite. They loved the stunning, sun-steeped setting. But mostly, the historic event that was particularly special to the families who were able to enjoy the moment with loved ones at their sides.
Opened more than 60 years ago, Dodger Stadium stands as one of the largest and most beautiful ballparks to visit in America. And yet this weekend’s affair was the area’s first Major League Baseball All-Star Game hosted in 42 years.
The number holds special significance in the world of baseball, but particularly in Los Angeles where Jackie Robinson’s 42 jersey is a regular sight in the stands and trophy cases sitting atop Chavez Ravine.
Rachel Robinson, the wife of the late Jackie Robinson, coincidentally celebrated her 100th birthday on the same day thousands of fans from countries around the globe descended upon L.A. to enjoy a spectacle that’s grown to be more than a game – partly because of Robinson’s efforts but also because the love of the sport has been fostered in families of fans and players alike.
The recognition of Robinson’s birthday before and during the MLB All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium only added to the feeling that this weekend, and the sport of baseball as a whole, is best enjoyed as a family.
Andrew Reynolds – son of former major league Second Baseman Harold Reynolds – said as he wandered the field this weekend that the day has been one of the best experiences of his life.
“It’s hard to take everything in. The fact that I’m just at the All-Star game – in L.A. – on the field – is just already a kid’s dream,” Reynolds said, noting he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father and one day make a return to Dodger Stadium as a player in a future.
As a casual fan, Julian Vosberg has little hope of making it onto an All-Star game roster one day. But the Los Angeles resident still considered himself one of the luckiest fans in attendance this weekend after snagging an autographed baseball signed by a MLB All-Star participant and Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Moments after, he snagged another ball that happened to escape the batting cage net and roll right to where he was standing in a crowd of spectators.
“It’s a pretty neat experience,” Vosberg said, wearing a Seattle Mariners jersey representing Julio Rodriguez, who participated in the Home Run Derby held the prior night.
Angels’ perennial All-Star Mike Trout – prevented from playing in year’s game by back spasms – said during an interview that this was one of the most “special” All Star festivities he’s participated in because he got to bring his son along.
“I think that’s one of the coolest things,” Trout said. “Obviously, 10 All-Star Games is great but being able to share it with my son for the first time is even more special.”
While he, Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and others continued practicing and engaging interviews before the big game, Anne Marie Pastoral and her son Matthew Becerra – season ticket holders for more than a decade – took their seats up in the suites. They explained how All-Star weekend is much more than a regular game..
“The vibes are just different. It’s more like a party than anything else because of the DJs, everybody is singing and they’re really a lot more into it, I think, than during regular games,” Becerra said.
So even though it was a bit costly to attend, neither regretted paying for the experience,
“It’s just a beautiful game,” Reynolds said. “And a lot of people that aren’t playing it should really look into it.”
A colorfully dressed Blake Grice from Colorado stood nearby, eagerly interviewing the towering figures who walked past him to take their practice swings in the batting cage. He agreed with the need to inspire fellow youth to get involved in the game by playing, collecting cards or experiencing games like today’s.
“If there’s no next generation that’s into baseball, how will it survive?” said the 10 year old, who claimed to be the youngest media member in attendance during All-Star weekend. He represented the Blakedown, a YouTube show that seeks to increase the number of youth who are interested in the sport of baseball and trading cards.
Later during Clayton Kershaw’s All-Star Game press conference, he told the Dodgers’ star about his grandfather who passed away in 2014 from cancer. Grice acknowledged he’s living out his grandfather’s bucket list by meeting Kershaw, which reminded all in attendance that baseball remains a family affair.
Pastoral invited all to come experience the lore of Dodger Stadium.
“I can’t stop appreciating all of the history because there’s so much that’s happened here,” she said. “The jerseys from all of the other states are amazing because you start to think of all the names who’ve played here since it was built. And this is literally the grounds where they played.”
Though his grandfather Stan Kasten, president and CEO of the L.A. Dodgers organization, regularly finds himself walking among such stars as Mookie Betts and Trea Turner, Reese Sonenshine said standing near the dugout while players warmed up Monday was one for the ages.
“We flew out here for the weekend to experience all of the amazing All-Star Game festivities,” Sonenshine said. “And it’s been great. I’ve loved playing at playball park, watching the Home Run Derby and being on the field while players warm up.”
But the Dodger fan from Atlanta noted the best part of the weekend was the fact he’s out in California, living out a baseball fantasy of-sorts with his loved ones.
“Baseball is a sport that every single type of person can play. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how young you are – it’s just a great way for the community to get together,” Sonenshine said. “It’s very special and fun to be around my grandfather and making all these memories with my brother.”