On Opening Day at Dodger Stadium it was also April Fools’ Day, so the Dodgers decided to play a joke on the sellout crowd.
After owner Magic Johnson took the mound for the ceremonial first pitch, manager Don Mattingly approached the mound and pointed to the dugout (as if he were pointing to the bullpen). To everyone’s surprise, Sandy Koufax emerged from the dugout and replaced Magic on the mound to become the first “relief” pitcher of the season.
“I was working on my acting skills today, pretty much,” Mattingly said after the game. “I was thinking, ‘This wouldn’t be a bad lefty to bring in.”
Koufax was a pleasant surprise, but even more surprising was pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s career-first home run over the centerfield wall, a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth. Three more runs that same inning gave Kershaw his first complete game and shutout of the season as the Dodgers went on to defeat their arch rival and defending World Series champion Giants, 4-0.
“You’ve got to switch gears a little bit,” Kershaw said. “You’re excited. You want to take your teammates’ high fives, but as soon as I sat down I had to think about how to get three outs again (in the ninth inning).”
He became the first pitcher since Joe Magrane in 1988 and the first Dodgers pitcher since Don Drysdale in 1965 to hit an opening day home run.
Another highlight was left fielder Carl Crawford making his debut, going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Due to Tommy John surgery last season, Crawford didn’t see any playing time after the big trade with the Red Sox in August.
“I’m here to help set the tone for this team,” Crawford said.
Fans were pleased not only with the play on the field, but also enjoyed the $100 million dollar stadium renovation. They were treated to two new HD video boards, food service upgrades, life-size bobbleheads in the new entry plazas, kids play areas, expanded and renovated bathrooms, wider concourses and drink rails, among many other features.
The players were also pleased with the offseason stadium enhancements. They now dress for the game in their new state-of-the-art home clubhouse and have expanded and enhanced training/conditioning areas and batting cages.
Ownership also had a media interview room built in the clubhouse corridor so members of the media now don’t have to squeeze into Mattingly’s office.
Not only did ownership pour big bucks into the stadium makeover, but now the Dodgers have a record $230 million dollar player payroll.
It’s early in the season, but so far the fans are getting their “$230 million” dollars’ worth.