I love the Dodgers. Since the age of three, I’ve taken in a game from almost every section of their iconic namesake stadium. The admiration continued throughout my school years. I wrote a 20-page paper during college about Fernandomania and the influence it had on the Latino population in Los Angeles, which my professor called “absolutely brilliant.” I’ve never quite understood why they have meant so much to me. I remember wanting to play for the Dodgers all the way until I was 23. There was more to that dream than wanting to be a professional baseball player with the Dodgers, and I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
There’s something special about their team this year. It’s not that they finished the season with 104 wins, tied most in LA Dodger history or on that they’re on their first trip to the World Series since 1988. It’s almost as if they are serving a greater purpose. This year feels like the appropriate year for them to win a World Series, making it their first in 29 years. I say this as more than just a fan. In this current political and social climate, where hardworking, legal immigrants are being detained and left feeling unwanted by the country that promised them so much and where our president, the leader of the free world, thinks it’s ok to let Neo-Nazis protest their right for white supremacy, it feels like the best time for this team to show us what America is really about.
Our country needs the Los Angeles Dodgers. The metaphorical microcosm of the absolute brilliance of the foundational principles of the United States can be found on top of the hill of Chavez Ravine, 81 times a year. To explain why let’s take a step back to the early 1950s.
When Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley decided to move them to LA in 1958, they wanted to build a new stadium. The same team that had included Jackie Robinson, the first black player on a major league roster in 1947, had chosen to build their new stadium at Chavez Ravine. On this land were hundreds of Mexican American families that were forcibly removed after being promised new housing, never to be made available (watch the brilliant ESPN 30 for 30, FerndandoNation, to learn more in-depth history). The Dodgers got their stadium, and from then on Mexican Americans in Los Angeles “stayed away from Dodger Stadium” (Luis Rodriguez) and “there had been a sense that Dodger fans didn’t represent Los Angeles. It was primarily white men.” (Stan Brooks) Fast forward to 1983 when Fernando Valenzuela, a pudgy Mexican kid from Sonora and the resulting Fernandomania took the league by storm by bringing droves of Mexican Americans to Dodger Stadium. From then on, the rest, as they say, is history.
As I walked into Dodger Stadium a few weeks back, I began to reflect on my time as a Dodger fan. The Dodgers on so many occasions had brought my family together to either celebrate or commiserate, often times with my grandma in the background saying, “They’re playing like a bunch of idiots.” Often times followed with the perfectly timed line, “you know who was really great? Fernando Valenzuela.” The memories of his playing days still so vivid in her memories. It’s always been something as Mexican Americans and Angelenos that we could always seem to agree upon, just like so many families of diverse cultural backgrounds around Los Angeles.
The Dodgers are a sign of all that is great about America—the diversity, the opportunity, the ideal “melting pot.” As you enter the parking lot, there are signs that read “piensa Azul” (Think Blue). There are jerseys of the players from Korea and Japan in their native languages available for purchase. Hell, look at the crowd and you’ll see a brash mix of Latinos, Koreans, Japanese, white folks…you name an ethnicity, they’re represented there, all rooting behind this one unified cause.
Diversity has been just as much of a dominating factor to the mix on the field as in the stands with players of the past such as Japanese and Dominican sensations, Hideo Nomo and Raul Mondesi, respectively, and currently with Cuban phenomenon, Yasiel Puig; Korean, Hin Jun Ryu; Japanese-Iranian ace, Yu Darvish; and Puerto Rican, Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez, and his beloved “rally banana”, Mexican-American legend Adrian Gonzalez, who can really make the crowd go nuts, as soon as the trumpets play his walk-up song “El Mariachi Loco” and Kenley Jensen, a shut down closer from Curacao that sends the crowd into a frenzy when he enters to the beats of Dr. Dre’s “California Love.” This crowd is exposed to all different walks of life, all different styles of play, all different ways of loving the game.
Behind the scenes, the Dodgers had the first openly gay executive running their Marketing department. Moreover, they were the first club to host a wildly successful LGBT night, and have continued to do so in years following. ¡Viva los Dodgers! has been a staple of mid-season celebrations with live mariachi performances and visits and speeches from Dodgers players past and present of Latino descent, celebrating the Latino influence on the Dodgers. Try and find some food during the game and you can have your choice of Dodger Dogs, Carne Asada Nachos, hamburgers, Italian food, Chinese Food, or a poke bowl, and the odds are in your favor.
The Dodgers have brought a new sense of purpose and hope in times when this country is in need of more love and a reengagement of its “melting pot” ideology that made this country so great. Since 1947, they’ve been a reminder that the American Dream is attainable – and a representation of all the great things America is supposed to offer but quite frankly is not providing right now. The Dodgers represent everything that makes America, foundationally, the greatest place in the world.
America needs this team; a team that has led the way in diversity, that has embraced every cultural background with the support of one of the most diverse fan bases in sports (comparable, arguably, only to the Yankees), to win this year. To show the world, with a world series championship, that diversity and grit are what makes this country such an amazing place to live. To show that even in a time in which neo-Nazis are given a platform to speak and unify, we as Americans will always be united behind true American values.
In our lowest points in recent history, Baseball, America’s past time has always been there to pick up the pieces. Now, America is calling desperately to its past time once again, to show the world, that our future lies in diversity and opportunity, not in hate and unilateralism. Interesting to see that America’s past time is the most diverse of all major American sports, isn’t it?
This team, this year, a pinnacle of diversity, may enter the echelons of one of the greatest team ever assembled in major league baseball history. We can show the world that different minds, different styles, and different colors, united behind one symbol – red, white, and [Dodger] Blue — is what wins. This is what made America great and will really make America great again. Let’s go Dodgers.
Photo: Getty Images