Saturday was supposed to be the day for the City Section baseball championship game at Dodger Stadium. A streak of 51 consecutive years playing the final at Dodger Stadium will be one of the biggest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. High school sports competitions this spring were canceled, so the class of 2020 will be denied the opportunity to experience one of the greatest moments available to a City Section athlete.
Even the losing teams in the final eventually understand how fortunate they were to play at Dodger Stadium and end up cherishing the memory, whether sitting in the dugout where Tommy Lasorda used to hang out, taking some dirt from the infield and putting it in a plastic bag or looking up into the bleachers to wave to their smiling mom and dad.
Incredibly, players from Birmingham were the first to participate in a City final at Dodger Stadium in 1969 and players from Birmingham were the last to play at Dodger Stadium in 2019. Birmingham had won three consecutive championships and was gearing up to challenge for a fourth straight this season when everything came to a halt.
Sebastian Cueva is the hero on the mound. 2 2/3 shutout innings. Birmingham wins its third consecutive City title 9-5 over Palisades. pic.twitter.com/Y0KBiojH3W
— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) May 25, 2019
One of the greatest moments is the dog pile when the final out is recorded. There are swan dives that look like they were choreographed in someone’s dream or perhaps practiced in the dark in case the moment really happened.
Having seen so many of the City finals at Dodger Stadium, I always rate the dog piles to see who really knows what they’re doing. Some teams have been to Dodger Stadium so often that they became experts, such as the days when Chatsworth and El Camino Real were dominating.
El Camino Real defeats San Pedro for title.
Birmingham coach Matt Mowry is still trying to get through this time of year when high school baseball coaches start feeling differently.
“It’s just crazy,” he said. “This is that crunch time of the year. We spend the first two-thirds of the school year preparing for the season. There’s just nothing to do.”
Mowry said experiencing the Dodger Stadium moment can’t be replicated for a high school student or even a coach.
Birmingham baseball players celebrate title victory.
“Even as a non-Dodger fans, it’s pretty special,” he said. “You’re on one of the biggest stages. You have more people in the stands than you’ve had all season. It gives you chills over the body how special it is because you realize how hard it is to get there and how hard it is to win. These kids are having the experiences of a lifetime. Even when I was at Birmingham as a player, I was dreaming about it.”
2020 will end up being a lost season, but baseball will be back, and the City final at Dodger Stadium should return in 2021.