One of the perks of being a baseball player in the City Section has been the chance to play at Dodger Stadium. For 51 consecutive years, from 1969 through 2019, the section held its championship game at Dodger Stadium. Then the pandemic came and for two years Dodger Stadium went empty.
The City Section had to make a difficult decision last month. With COVID-19 still around, should the City Section agree to use Dodger Stadium for a fee of nearly $27,000 not knowing whether attendance would be enough to cover the costs when cheaper college stadiums were available? The Dodgers don’t charge the City Section for use of its facility, only labor.
The decision wasn’t unanimous, but the executive committee of the Board of Managers said yes to Dodger Stadium, taking into account the tradition and history involved.
On Saturday, Lake Balboa Birmingham will play Chatsworth for the Open Division championship at 1 p.m., with Garfield taking on Harbor City Narbonne for the Division I title at 10 a.m. Gates open at 9 a.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.
Players and coaches are grateful.
“Playing at Dodger Stadium means everything,” Garfield pitcher Anthony Cardenas said. “This has been our goal. My coach in his office has his door open every day and there’s a picture of Dodger Stadium, and every time we walk in we know what the goal is.”
The Open Division final is a rematch of West Valley League rivals. Chatsworth, the No. 9 seed, is going for a record 10th City title. It lost to Birmingham, then beat Birmingham in league play, only to have a protest for use of an illegal bat upheld. Then the Chancellors won the game that resumed in the third inning. Birmingham, the No. 2 seed, is seeking its eighth City title.
Chatsworth has its two best pitchers rested and ready, Jose Ruedas and Josh Pollack. Birmingham has pitching depth but ace Daniel Flores is unavailable after throwing seven innings on Wednesday. Chatsworth has struggled in recent years playing at Dodger Stadium, hitting too many fly-ball outs. Look for bunts and play at the catcher position to be decisive in this evenly matched game.
Cardenas threw a shutout in the semifinals for Garfield and is available to pitch after getting three days off. Narbonne coach Bill Dillon has his son, Brandon, as a freshman outfielder. The last time the Gauchos played at Dodger Stadium and won the Division I title in 2019, Brandon was watching from the stands.