My passion for the Los Angeles Dodgers began when I was five.
I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and while most of my friends were loyal to the Reds or the Indians, I took a different path.
My parents were transplants from Los Angeles. Brought to Ohio for work, they still loved the Dodgers, and fully intended on passing that love down to me.
On July 24, 2003, I went to Dodger Stadium for the first time, and I was enchanted. “Blue Heaven on Earth” captivated me then, and I’ve been amazed by it ever since.
That day, I sat in the upper deck with my family. The game was a pitcher’s duel, with the Dodgers going toe-to-toe with the Rockies. Kevin Brown threw an eight-inning scoreless masterpiece, but the Dodgers couldn’t place any runs to support him, and it went to extras tied 0-0.
That tie was broken in the 11th. With Alex Cora on second, Shawn Green shot a single up the middle and Cora came around to score.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. As soon as Green hit the ball, the stadium erupted, and my dad lifted me up so I could see past the now-standing sellout crowd. Cora crossed the plate, and I got my first dose of how amazing being a Dodgers fan could be.
I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.
There have certainly been plenty of great times as a Dodgers fan throughout my life; every season has brought its own new storylines, players and moments.
Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Manny Ramirez, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Éric Gagné, Andre Ethier, Kenley Jansen, and others have always kept me coming back for more. Their ability to take over a baseball game have enthralled and amazed me, and I constantly fall for different star players.
I distinctly remember watching Steve Finley’s playoff-clinching walk-off grand slam on my mom’s desktop, and Juan Uribe’s go-ahead homer to win the 2013 NLDS will be etched in my mind forever.
I was in the crowd for Justin Turner’s walk-off bomb in the NLCS last season, and I bear-hugged the strangers sitting next to me like they were family. I was there for Game One of the World Series, sitting right next to my dad, who flew out to see Kershaw win the Dodgers’ first Fall Classic game since he was in college, back in 1988.
But overall, my life as a Dodgers’ fan has been clouded by horrific October heartbreak.
It started in 2004, with the Dodgers’ early NLDS exit at the hands of the Cardinals. My 6-year-old self sat at the foot of the TV watching in horror as Odalis Perez got chased after an inning and a third. Little did I know how much worse it would get.
In 2008 and 2009, I was inconsolable in mid-October, as the Phillies’ three-headed monster of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels picked us apart in back-to-back NLCS matchups.
I watched floundering teams from 2010 through 2012, as the McCourt ownership fiasco wasted Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier’s best seasons.
While 2013 brought a whole new cast of characters and a return to the postseason, it also introduced to me a brand new monster: playoff Kershaw. My heart broke watching my favorite player get crushed in St. Louis, and the horror of Game Six that season will never leave me.
My nightmares returned the following year, as the Cardinals unleashed some sick déjà vu on me, once again defeating Kershaw in the most important moment.
It only got worse in 2015, as this time, Daniel Murphy and the Mets became the villain. Re-watching Murphy’s home-runs of Kershaw and Zack Greinke became my newest form of torture.
While some part of me knew all season long that the Cubs would win it in 2016, the Dodgers still found a way to make me believe, and then break my heart again.
I was at Wrigley Field for Game One of the NLCS, and felt the century-old stadium shake when Miguel Montero sent Joe Blanton’s 0-2 pitch far into the Chicago night for a game-winning grand slam. And once again, my Kershaw-in-the-playoffs nightmare reared its ugly head, this time in the deciding Game Six.
Last fall, I moved to Southern California, and started my first year at Claremont McKenna College. The Dodgers were in the midst of one of their best regular seasons of all time, and things were looking good. And although I had become accustomed to the pain, and learned not to get my hopes up, I still somehow held a glimmer of hope.
This is how I found myself sitting in the top row at Game Seven of the World Series, watching the Astros celebrate on the field with 53,000 other silent Dodgers fans looking on.
My bank account was empty, having spent nearly everything I had on tickets to six of the eight home playoff games, and my head felt numb. I drove back to Claremont that night with an all-too-familiar feeling of disappointment and loss.
I got back to campus and took a shower, trying to wash away the pain. I shaved off the disgusting playoff beard I’d been growing for a month, staring at myself in the mirror with a blank face. I then laid down in my bed and wrote an article about the game, ineffectively trying to relate my pain into words. I felt like a zombie for weeks. A broke zombie.
However, as I’ve sat through this long offseason, I’ve had plenty of time to come to terms with what happened last fall. After deep consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that last year was different.
For one, the Dodgers had come so much closer than I’d ever seen before.
I recall sitting in the stands that fateful November night, right before first pitch, thinking to myself, “I’m nine innings away from witnessing a Dodgers’ World Series title. Holy shit.”
I could taste it.
And that made it so much worse when they fell short.
But 2017 also felt different for a completely separate, and somewhat unlikely reason: last season gave me hope.
I understand that my hope should be trampled, crushed, and destroyed forever. I’ve experienced so much heartbreak with this team that I should never expect anything good to ever happen.
Yet, for some reason, as this season rolls around, I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been. The Dodgers return a near-identical team to last season, and the difference between winning and losing the World Series came down to one measly game.
All they have to do is win one more game this year, and the World Series drought will be over. This is why I’ll be watching Kershaw throw out the first pitch of the season Thursday, with the unwavering hope that I’ll be seeing him hoist the Commissioner's Trophy come October.
Ultimately, this is why I’ll always be a Dodgers fan, even if they keep breaking my heart. Because somehow, every single crushing, terrible finish leaves me more optimistic than I’ve ever been.
Call me stupid, or just blind to reality, but the Boys in Blue will always keep me coming back for more. And maybe, one day, we might just win a World Series.