Don’t Stop Believing

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I am very excited that the Los Angeles Dodgers are NL West Champions for the second year in a row. It seemed the Division title was in our hands for the whole season until the Dodgers went on a five-game losing streak needing only one win to clinch the division.

Last week I went down to San Diego on Wednesday hoping to see the boys in blue claim the NL West title by beating the Padres (who haven’t done very well this season), but that was a rather frustrating game with the Dodgers getting only one hit for the whole game! I returned to Chavez Ravine on Saturday night hoping that the Dodgers would finish the season strong as champions, though I knew they would be in the playoffs as the wildcard no matter how the series with the Rockies ended. I was not disappointed and the Dodgers won in a spectacular five-run seventh inning blowout to trump the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers play the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of playoffs this Wednesday.

Baseball season is my favorite time of the year. I have been a Dodger fan since I was in second grade when I watched a Tuesday night game against the Marlins and I got a free Dodger watch. I remember the good old days when Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, Raul Mondesi, and of course, my favorite Dodger of all time, Hideo Nomo played in the mid 90’s. I grew up watching Dodger baseball. When I was little, my family and I frequently ate in Little Tokyo, and I remember spotting Nomo’s white Mercedes Benz with an “LA” hat in the back window at Japanese Village Plaza. I always hoped to bump into him while we were walking around. When I was in high school, I recall convincing my friends that it was a good idea to study for English tests at Dodger Stadium. (Mind you, these were the days when tickets were only $5 for top deck or pavilion and parking was only $10). I especially like freebie days and I have quite a collection of Dodger memorabilia.

There is something about the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium that is like no other park I have ever visited; it is one of my most favorite places to be. I always tell everyone that when I am older and have money to spend that I want to buy season tickets so I could go all the time. Although Dodger Stadium has a bad reputation for being rowdy, I appreciate the true passion that Dodger fans have for their team. The “wave” is my favorite part of going to Dodger games. I always get goosebumps when the wave finally reaches me and gains momentum with the entire stadium.

I reminisce about that splendid night, Sept. 18, 2006, when I was sitting top deck and the Dodgers were trailing 9-5 against the Padres in the 9th inning, the crowds were dispersing, and I almost wanted to go home too. But I’m so glad I stayed, I would have regretted it forever if I had gone home early.

After four home runs in a row to tie the game, Nomar Garciaparra hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. I was in shock and disbelief of what I had just witnessed. A lot of cheering and hi-fives and hugging strangers ensued.

When I exited the stadium, a man sitting behind me told me “Alright, you have a great night and Go Dodgers.” My heart was warmed that night and it was at that moment when I decided to buy a SHIBATA jersey even though it cost me $80. It is the best investment I have made in my 21 years of life.

The post-season for the Dodgers will be all about pitching; but we’ve had our share of problems from the Dodger bullpen, with neck injuries to closing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and with Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton both had bad pitching streaks. Youngster Clayton Kershaw was clutch Saturday night, and I hope he can continue his excellent pitching throughout the playoffs.

I think that Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Clayton Kershaw are all destined for illustrious careers in the MLB, and I hope they shine this season too. If we can get into a good momentum, then there’s no telling how far the Dodgers can go in the playoffs. We forget that to start this season, the Dodgers set the MLB record of home wins at 13-0. The Cardinals are a really strong team, with all-stars like Pujols and up-and-comers like Carpenter, and although some gurus might say that the Dodgers don’t have a chance to get to the World Series, I BELIEVE.

(Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

(Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

—By Stephanie Shibata, Rafu Intern

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