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Finally, The Wait Is Over

WS G6 (featured)

by Mark Jent

Finally. 

No more waiting until next year. No more wondering when the drought will end. No more Octobers will pass me by as I anxiously await on them to win their first World Series since I became a fan in ‘91.

Finally. The wait is over. 

It’s been nearly a month since the Dodgers won the World Series. The origins of me penning this piece were stirring around my head that night of October 27th after Game 6 as I stood there at Globe Life Field in Arlington taking it all in. Yet as I kept thinking about where to start writing this long-awaited story, I found myself continually procrastinating for no good reason other than I had never written about my team winning the World Series before. It’s different than meeting a legend. It’s different than a card shop adventure. It’s different than editing and posting someone else’s story. This was not just any story, this was the pinnacle of my baseball bucket list – my Dodgers had won the World Series and I was fortunate to be there in person to see it happen.

Don’t let that build up give you any grand expectations of the forthcoming literary component. There has been plenty written by journalists across the country about the Dodgers’ victory – the comeback, gamesmanship, the characters, etc…all of which I can’t get enough of. But I also wanted to tell my story as well, from a fan’s perspective, without analyzing bullpen decisions, baserunning strategy or managerial gaffes. Enjoy. 

My Dodger Story
I have been a Dodger fan since 1991. As you know, they last won the World Series in 1988. So you do the quick math – my Dodgers have never hoisted the World Series trophy since they had my allegiance.

Quick Fun Fact Rewind. I became a baseball fan in October 1986. I was 9 years old. It was the week of the Mets-Red Sox World Series. I had never watched baseball before, but something captured our family’s attention that week to where my brother and I got to stay up late each night. My first baseball memory is Mookie Wilson’s ground ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6. I remember my brother and I wildly screaming as we jumped up and down in our family den. I became a baseball fan that night. The Mets would win Game Seven the next day.

Therefore because I didn’t know any different, the Mets became my favorite team and their star RF Darryl Strawberry became my favorite player. Fast forward to November 1990 when Strawberry would leave the Mets and sign a free agent contract with the Dodgers. I found myself torn, do I stay with my favorite team or follow my favorite player? Decisions! I was 13 years old. I chose the player. It was then that I began to have a deep appreciation for the Dodgers’ history and tradition. Strawberry’s days as a Dodger were short-lived, yet he gets the credit for my fandom. As my friend Patrick Cameron says, “Darryl Strawberry stole $20 million from the Dodgers. But the best thing that came out of that really bad contract is that Mark became a Dodgers fan.” I’m sure former Dodgers GM Fred Claire sees that as an even trade off. 

I’ve bled Dodger blue ever since. 

(I felt like you need the history lesson as to why I wasn’t a Dodger fan in ‘88!)


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The Goal 
After the Dodgers came back in the NLCS to beat the Braves in seven games and advance to the World Series, I had one goal: To attend the game after they win their third game; to just go and see what happens. I’ve checked several items off my baseball bucket list in recent years, but seeing the Dodgers win the World Series in person sat atop the list. 

I’ve been to other playoff games in the past and have been fortunate to attend Dodgers’ World Series games in recent years (2017 Game One Los Angeles, 2018 Game One Boston). But the logistics, timing, planning that goes into “trying to time” your team winning the fourth game of the World Series is a bit tricky to say the least. By their nature, playoff baseball trips are always spontaneous adventures, but throw in a world-wide pandemic that reduces capacity to only 11,500 tickets available, and there are several added obstacles and uncontrollable factors.

It was Saturday night of Game 4. I’m sitting in our den in Nashville with the family as the Dodgers go into the bottom of the 9th inning with a 7-6 lead. Only three more outs to go and we’ll be up 3 games to 1! I had a 7 a.m. flight booked to Dallas for Sunday’s Game 5 with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Then, the infamous error-filled meltdown occurred – the Brett Phillips bloop single, the ball kicked around in CF, the relay throw to 1B, the runner fell down, the throw home is wide left, the runner scores laying down at home plate banging it incessantly. Just like that, the series is tied 2-2.

As most everyone else, no matter their baseball loyalty, I was stunned at what just took place. Absolutely speechless. After several minutes of silence, I cancelled my hotel reservations and my flight that was supposed to leave in a mere 7 hours! Thinking ahead to a hopeful Game 5 victory, I re-booked it all for Tuesday’s Game 6. Kershaw and the bullpen pitched a gem on Sunday night to put the Dodgers up 3-2, in position to clinch on Tuesday. 

A trip to Game 6 was now in less than 48 hours! Last minute Simply A Fan promotions had to be blitzed out to sell enough spots and logistics had to be arranged including flights, hotels and game tickets. 

By Monday night four people had cleared their schedules last minute to go to Game 6 with Simply A Fan! Seeing that I had no one to go to Game 5, this made me thankful for the Rays’ Brett Phillips newfound stardom as Simply A Fan had the chance to take others along for the ride. I had never met any of them. Sean and Elizabeth from Nashville heard about me taking a group to Arlington and they were Rays fans. Simply A Fan does not discriminate when selling spots on trips. They jumped aboard. Darryl Williams from Franklin (TN) saw a post I made in a Facebook group called Vanderbilt Baseball Nation and he was not only a Vandy fan, but a big Dodgers fan. Then Monday night I had a fourth and final ticket I REALLY needed to sell. I texted a few people who came to mind, not thinking any of them would either (a) be able to go so last minute or (b) respond in time before I sold it elsewhere. So I did what any good trip planner would do and posted it on Twitter at 10:40 p.m. By 11:30 it was sold to my new friend Jacob Cuevas, a senior Biology major at Baylor University out of Waco. He’s a lifelong Dodger fan and was only a couple hours drive from the ballpark.  

I went to bed Monday night barely able to sleep at the thought that in less than 24 hours I would not only be watching the Dodgers in the World Series, but that they would have a chance to clinch. Eventually I closed my eyes and got some sleep. I couldn’t imagine being more excited and this getting any better. But it did.
 

Coach McGehee and I at Nashville airport. At the moment we took this picture, the first pitch in Arlington was in less than four hours.

The Adventure
At 6:15 on Tuesday morning my friend and high school basketball coach, Kevin McGehee, called me and wanted to go to Game 6 that night in Arlington. Although he’s been invited to these type adventures before, he’s one of the least spontaneous people I know which made his call all the more surprising. Remember I sold my last ticket and spot on Monday night at 11:30 to Jacob in Waco! I had no game ticket to offer Coach. I quickly searched Southwest to see if there was an open spot on my 3:55 direct flight, which there was. I told him to pack a bag and meet me in Nashville at 2 p.m. and I would have him both an airline ticket and a game ticket. For some reason he questioned me, but I assured him to trust me – this wasn’t my first rodeo. (He later told me that when he called that morning that his wife Amy was in the background urging him to go, that these opportunities don’t come around that often!)

Coach has been a Dodger fan for over 40 years going back to when he was 10 years old in the late 70’s. He had never been to a MLB Playoff game, and now he was going to a potential championship clincher for our Dodgers! He has had a tremendous influence in my life, having made an indelible impact on me during my high school years. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to share this experience with him.

As if my adrenaline was not already through the roof, it kicked up a notch once he committed.

It was going to be a tight schedule for us to make first pitch but I was confident that unless something went awry, we could do it! 

Here is how our day unfolded.
2 p.m. meet in Nashville
2:30 arrive Nashville airport
3:25 board Southwest flight
3:55 Southwest flight departs for Dallas
5:45 flight lands in Dallas
6:05 Uber ride to nearby hotel
6:10 hotel to drop off luggage
6:12 Uber ride to Globe Life Field
6:42 Uber arrives to ballpark
6:45 we walked through the gates
7:08 first pitch

We got to the park with 23 minutes to spare and settled into our left field seats.

World Series Game 6 | First Pitch | Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin

The Fellowship
Due to COVID-19 protocols, Major League Baseball only sold tickets in pods of four scattered throughout Globe Life Field. All other seats were bound together by unbreakable zip-ties. So even though I was their travel agent and tour guide, I would not be sitting with the people who bought tickets through Simply A Fan.

with Andrew Buzan, friend from childhood

In early October when MLB put tickets on sale to the public my friend Andrew Buzan purchased a pod of four to Game Six and told me he had an extra ticket should the Dodgers make it and I wanted to join him. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but he continued to remind me with each passing win. It was him, his uncle and brother-in-law. If I didn’t want the ticket at face value he was just going to sit on it. After the Game 5 victory, I took him up on his offer. We’ve known each other for over 30 years going back to our church youth group days in our hometown of Lewisburg, Tennessee. Andrew is a White Sox fan, but is also just a huge baseball fan. Last year he made an epic solo trip where he saw 10 games in 10 day in 10 parks. (This was six weeks before he became a first time Dad!) Knowing that we were going to be watching a World Series game together was awesome in and of itself.

with Lauren & Nathan Wilson, our World Series journeys

I met Nathan and Lauren Wilson two years ago. They are both Dodger fans who live in Nashville. This father-daughter duo went to the 2018 World Series Game One at Fenway with Simply A Fan, which was another last minute thrill-seeking adventure. We’ve since become friends and keep in touch often about our Dodgers. Although they were technically not with “my group” for this adventure since Nathan arranged their own logistics, I claim them as part of the family. (Nathan regretfully didn’t go through Simply A Fan seeing that he accidentally booked their hotel in Arlington, Virginia, not Arlington, Texas! See Lauren’s Facebook post in above collage.)

left to right: myself, Jacob, Darryl, Elizabeth, Sean

In the 7th inning, I ventured up to visit the pod that consisted of Sean, Elizabeth, Darryl and Jacob who were sitting to the right of home plate. When I found them, I never would have guessed they had only met a few hours before. I met them for the first time, thanked them for coming and we enjoyed the 7th inning stretch together. 

And of course there is the aforementioned Coach McGehee.

The Final Out
The entire game was intense. I will not give you a play-by-play as you can find it elsewhere, but for the benefit of those who may not have tuned in…the Rays led 1-0 going into the bottom of the 6th inning. Rays Manager Kevin Cash will one day have a statue erected outside of Dodger Stadium for his decision to take out his starting pitcher Blake Snell who was pitching a one-hitter before his last batter. With the Rays bullpen on the mound, the Dodgers scored two runs on a single, double, pass ball and fielder’s choice. The scored stayed 2-1 until the bottom of the 8th when Mookie Betts hit a solo homerun to put the Dodgers up 3-1. 

It was in that moment that it hit me, the Dodgers are winning by two and are three outs away from winning the World Series. I physically found myself taking deep breaths. I got Coach McGehee to quit social-distancing from me in the other neighboring section to come over so we could stand together for the top of the 9th. My phone had been buzzing quite frequently throughout the game thanks to several family and friends. Yet knowing that I wanted to watch the top of the 9th inning uninterrupted, I put my phone on airplane mode to mute any incoming texts or calls.

The past few days had been such an adrenaline rush just to get there that I had not really stopped to think about my emotions or reaction should I find myself in this moment. Yet there I was….standing in section 137 in Arlington, Texas…watching my Dodgers play a neutral site World Series game…in a brand new ballpark with only 30% seating capacity…with everyone wearing masks…in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

I did my best to soak it all in, knowing that what I was experiencing and about to (hopefully) witness was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime moment. 

After Julio Urias struckout Mike Brosseau looking for the second out, I pulled out my phone and began recording what would become the final out. You can watch my 90 second final out video below. 

Other than what you see and hear in the video, I sit here nearly a month later and still can’t really describe it. To be there in person was unbelievable. To have lifelong friends on either side of me was amazing. It was an honor to have had the opportunity to bring others along who might not have come otherwise. To have seen the final pitch, to see the players rush the field, to see Clayton Kershaw run out of the bullpen, to see the presentation of the trophy and to see the thousands of Dodger fans congregate behind the dugouts are all takeaways that I will not soon forget.

I eventually took my phone off airplane mode and was grateful for all the congratulatory texts. I momentarily felt like I should be getting fitted for a World Series ring too.

Then I called home. I enjoy nothing more than having Beth and the kids want to Facetime me when I’m at a game, especially when they are at home watching it on television. I may not always be able to hear them, but at least I can flip the camera around so they can see the view from my seats while I give them some commentary. Seeing how their fandom had gone to another level this season (click here to read NLCS G7 story), the post-game call home was extra special to see and hear their excitement. (The final out video Beth recorded of them is epic, but not uploaded to the SAF YouTube Channel yet!)

My Mom had come up to lend a helping hand and was there taking in the game with them. Seeing that she and Dad helped foster my love of the game from an early age by taking me on numerous adventures as a kid, I was grateful she was at the house to see the kids priceless reaction. Then I later realized the greater significance of the moment. You see the last time “my team” won the World Series, my Mom (& Dad) were there watching with me in our den back home. Remember it was my first week of being a baseball fan, And this time when my team won the World Series, my Mom is there watching with my kids in our den. The irony doesn’t stop there. They both occurred on the same day, October 27th….the Mets 1986, the Dodgers 2020. This feat assures Mom a seat on the couch in any future potential World Series clinching affairs.

It has been fun relishing in the moment since that final out on October 27th. I read all the stories and watched all the post-game interviews. I bought the Sports Illustrated Commemorative Issue. I’ve watched this Dodgers Fan Reactions video around 55 times. We bought each member of our family a piece of World Series Champions apparel. I even spent $12 on a Dodgers World Series trophy Christmas ornament. (It was a last second addition to the checkout cart!)

Based on their current roster, the farm system pipeline and ownership’s commitment to winning, hopefully there will be more World Series titles in the Dodgers’ near future, but I’m not getting ahead of myself. No matter what lies ahead in that regard, there will always be something extra special about the first one in my Dodgers lifetime.  

Finally. The wait was over. 

FEATURED IMAGE:
Globe Life Field – Arlington, Texas
World Series Game Six
*special shout out to fellow Nashville Dodger Mike Jones for pinch hitting at the last minute on my wardrobe and letting me borrow this sweatshirt hoodie seeing that I misplaced my own Dodgers long sleeve apparel

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