They were two men and one woman.
They looked to be in their mid-30s. The men had matching dark blue blazers with tan khaki pants. She was dressed in matching attire but with a beautiful purple scarf fashionably wrapped around her neck.
Their body language was that of a child going to Disneyland for the first time. And although I didn’t understand a single word they were saying, their quizzical excitement did not need translating.
The badges hanging from their necks showed they were media from Japan. I was sitting alone on a tall stool on the brim of the “Top Deck” overlooking the storied infield of Dodger Stadium when I first noticed them approaching.
You can’t sit any place higher or have a more unobstructed view of downtown Los Angeles or a better panoramic view of Dodger Stadium from the Top Deck. Or as someone famously said about sitting there, “You could direct LAX air traffic from those seats.”
What was I doing at Dodger Stadium this past Sunday? I was taking my daughter to the ladies room.
Let me explain.
My daughter Nikki, son-in-law Carlos and I were ostensibly heading to the Toy District in downtown Los Angeles to purchase give-aways for our Wavehog campsite at this weekend’s Campout Against Cancer event.
As we neared Los Angeles, my daughter said she needed to stretch her legs and to take a bathroom break. No problem. I will pull into the next gas station. My 40-year-old daughter morphed into her 11-year-old persona that melts my heart and said, “Dad, would you mind if we used the bathrooms at Dodger Stadium?”
That’s women code for, “I will be shopping at the Dodger gift shop.”
Not sure if you remember, but my family members are die-hard Dodger fans. And Nikki leads the Dodger Blue wolf pack in our home.
So I gladly obliged Nikki, and we drove up Vin Scully Way with her taking pictures of everything Dodger-related. The parking lot was empty. It was like we had the whole stadium to ourselves. What we did not know was that particular Sunday, Dodger Stadium was preparing for the World Baseball Classic.
There was international media checking into the press area next to the gift shop at the Retired Number Plaza. The plaza is the gateway to the “Top Deck” seating area. Nikki and Carlos went inside to shop and I went to sit alone on a tall stool overlooking the beautifully manicured stadium.
On this perfect Chamber of Commerce weather Sunday, all you could hear were the faint sounds of multiple lawn mowers crisscrossing the green infield. It was eerily quiet as I sat there remembering when Fernando Valenzuela pitched in the 1981 World Series against the New York Yankees.
My fantasy of batting for Dodger third baseman Ron Cey in that World Series was broken by the shuffling and audible excitement of the three Japanese visitors.
If you ever visit the Retired Numbers Plaza at Dodger Stadium, you will notice that even though you are at Dodger Stadium, you can’t really see Dodger Stadium from that view — not until you walk to the edge of the “Top Deck.” It’s like going to the Grand Canyon. You can enjoy the glorious panoramic view, but not until you look down into the canyon does its magnificence draw you in and truly reveal itself.
As our international visitors approached the brim of the “Top Deck,” they stopped short of the edge and became silent. It was almost like they were approaching hallowed ground. They stopped and bowed in unison with what sounded like prayer. They took several steps closer and more of the stadium was revealed. Bowed and prayed. When they reached the edge and saw the majestic beauty of Dodger Stadium, their Disney child-like excitement returned.
Respect, honor and reverence — things we don’t often associate with professional sports anymore.
Although opening game isn’t for eight more days, our home has already officially clocked into Dodger season. I know we will be attending games at Dodger Stadium this year. And I also know I won’t forget my brief encounter with our Japanese visitors and the valuable baseball lesson they taught me that Sunday.