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Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Season's partings


The offseason was calling, and I needed to answer.

It was Back to School Night tonight at my eldest kids' elementary school, so I missed the first part of tonight's Dodger game. Then, when we got home, the place was a mess, the two big kids were hopped up on Wii, our youngest had a stomachache. And this was all before we found out he stuck a tiny bead up his nose.

Before I became a parent, I used to hate to see the baseball season end. I recall watching the Marlins-Indians World Series back in '97 (I'm not looking the details up, but I think I've got 'em right) in my bachelor apartment – Game 7, extra innings, a thrilling, exhausting night, long after the Dodgers had bid farewell to the year – and being in disbelief that there wasn't more coming the next day, let alone the next year.

Now, the offseason comes as a relief. An exhale. It's not that I have stopped enjoying the game, but it really takes the pressure off when the Dodgers pack it up. (It's not that I don't watch any postseason games, but I can watch as much or as little as I want, completely passively.) I'm pulled in so many different directions that it's nice to have one of them release me.

Especially now. My kids haven't been at their best lately. When you're already questioning your parenting as much as I was today, you don't feel good about parking yourself in front of the TV and the computer before their bedtime.

So don't tell my bosses, but even though I knew I had plans Wednesday evening that would prevent me from seeing the Dodgers' final game of the season, I didn't turn tonight's game on. Not until the last kid was asleep, not until my wife and I scarfed down a 9:15 p.m. meal of McDonald's while watching "New Girl," not until I had spent another halfhour talking to my wife about how out of control things seemed.

The game should have been over by the time I had lumbered upstairs, where I planned to put the finishing touches on a post I have planned for Thursday, the first day of Dodger winter, but according to MLB Gameday on my cellphone, it was the 10th inning. And even then, I wasn't going to turn the game on – the only reason I did was that I realized after a few moments that this would be my last chance to hear Vin Scully for the rest of the year.

The first play I saw was a baseball that hit, in rapid succession, the swinging bat of A.J. Ellis, the right-field wall at Arizona's Chase Field and the face of Diamondbacks rightfielder Justin Upton.

Upton slumped as the ball ricocheted away from him. He had suffered a concussion, I believe, thanks to a Tim Lincecum pitch Sunday, and what I gathered is that it was all he could do not to curl up into the fetal position. But Ellis was running, and the ball was rolling, and Upton realized after a palpable few seconds that the play hadn't stopped. He had to get up and keep going.

Ellis made it to third base with a triple (a career first, I'd predict, or maybe his second - but again, I'm not looking it up), driving in two runs to give the Dodgers a 6-1 lead in the 10th inning. Upton was walked off the field to the Arizona clubhouse, where he'll essentially remain, I suspect, until the National League Division Series begins.

I stuck with Vin for the remainder of the game, which went not completely unlike the 4+1 game from five years ago. Javy Guerra, who had been warming up before Ellis' triple, sat down. Blake Hawksworth, in the role of Jon Adkins, entered in Guerra/Trevor Hoffman's place, but got in trouble – starting with two out and the bases empty – when he was late covering first base on a grounder to James Loney. Guerra ended up coming into the game anyway, like Hoffman did, and it ended with a game-winning grand slam by Ryan Roberts.

Los Angeles had scored five runs in the 10th inning and lost. And also, this: Matt Kemp had entered the game with a three-homer lead on Prince Fielder for 2011, and had been tied.

The Dodgers have played too well of late and Kemp has played too well all season for me to have any ill feelings about tonight's result. It's just one of those things, and honestly, the timing could have been a lot worse. And also, I've just had too many other worries. It's still strange for me to say, but I feel the Dodgers have given me more pleasure than I had a right to expect this summer. With Kemp and Kershaw in particular, it's been a season with heights that I'm not sure I'll experience again for a long time.

I need to get my parenting legs back, though, and I'm hopeful the changing of the seasons will help.