Beat L.A.? Maybe. Keep Dodgers fans away? Good luck

Beat L.A.? Maybe. Keep Dodgers fans away? Good luck

Had he really heard that? He looked at the television, at the morning news in San Diego. Yes, he had indeed heard that.

Ban the Blue?

Bay Salmeron, a Dodgers fan, lives in Bellflower but works in San Diego. He wanted to watch his favorite team at Petco Park, and now a talking head on TV was telling him he was not welcome.

Salmeron did not cower. He went on StubHub and paid $200 for a ticket to Friday’s game at Petco Park , arguably the most anticipated sporting event in San Diego in the last decade.

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The suddenly star-studded Padres no longer wish to surrender home-field advantage to hordes of road-tripping Dodgers fans. The team begged season-ticket holders not to make a quick buck by putting their tickets on the resale market. The Padres did not use the words “Ban the Blue,” but they were not shy about hoping for a sea of brown in the stands.

On Friday, in the first of what Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner had called “19 World Series games,” the Padres’ fan base was loud, spirited and unusually large. The Dodgers’ fan base was here, undeterred, at higher cost and in fewer numbers but no less excited.

“I think that our fans will find their way in,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “I don’t think it will be the majority, like it has seemed in past years. I get the mindset of trying to have as many of your home fans. That should be the goal when you’re playing at home.

“I do think you’ll hear some ‘Let’s Go Dodgers.’ That will be echoing tonight, for sure.”

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You heard it before the Padres recorded an out, after Mookie Betts walked to lead off the game. You heard it for cult hero Zach McKinstry in the fifth.

You heard cheering when Fernando Tatis Jr. struck out in the first inning. You heard an eruption when Walker Buehler struck out consecutive batters with runners on second and third base and one out in the fourth, from Dodgers fans pounding the thunder sticks that the Padres had distributed to every fan.

And you heard a round of hollers for Luke Raley’s first major league home run in the fifth, followed by a louder round of boos from the fans in brown.

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You heard plenty of “Beat LA,” sometimes when the Petco Park video board demanded, more often and more excitedly when fans started the chant. Before the game, when the fans started with “Beat LA,” a Petco Park hype video drowned them out.

And, when Tatis hit his first home run after 10 days on the injured list, giving the Padres a one-run lead, Petco went nuts. The face of the team, and maybe the face of baseball, was beating L.A.

Gloria Rodriguez of Los Angeles paid $150 for a ticket on StubHub. The seller asked if the ticket would go to a Padres fan or to a Dodgers fan. She told the truth, and the truth won the day.

“He was nice about it,” she said.

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Albert and Leah Conlee drove down to visit their son at San Diego State. They bought tickets on eBay for $125 each. They like to see the Dodgers at Petco Park.

“This is a higher percentage of Padres fans than I’ve ever seen,” Leah Conlee said.

Conlee said she was not a fan of the home team restricting sales to Dodgers fans now that the Padres can field a quality product of their own.

“We’ve been supporting them for so many years,” she said. “We helped them build this team. They should be happy we come here.”

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Said Maria Kranda of Moreno Valley, who paid $150 for a ticket on SeatGeek: “They made a lot of money off us.”

The Padres had long hoped this day would come. In 2013, as he outlined the Padres’ rebuilding plans under new ownership, then-executive chairman Ron Fowler told The Times that the Padres in time would win, and would fill their seats with their fans. In the meantime, he said: “If the Dodgers want to send more people down, come on down. I’m glad they’re spending money in San Diego.”

It was a rollicking Friday night in San Diego, even with limited attendance due to coronavirus restrictions, with the crowd at an intensity level seldom seen before October, and almost never seen in April. The Dodgers return to Petco Park in late June, after Gov. Newsom has promised to lift coronavirus restrictions on seating capacity, and this place could be rocking: a full house for what might well be baseball’s two best teams.

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Salmeron, the Dodgers fan who heard “Ban the Blue” on TV here, said he respects the Padres for trying to develop loyalty among their fan base, even if it makes it more difficult for him to see his team here.

“They’re trying to create the culture we have up in L.A.,” Salmeron said. “That’s honorable.”

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