“Hey Dad, where do you wanna sit, the 2nd row on the first base side or the 6th row on the third base side?”
“What are you talking about, Ev?” I said. “Your Father’s Day gift,” he replied. “I’m on Stub Hub right now. You know, Oakland, the Dodgers game on Tuesday.”
Something tells me I raised my boy right. At least I tried anyway. Evan W. Bladh Jr., he’s 23 years old now. I was convinced he was going to be my switch hitting slugging son playing AA ball right now. Things didn’t quite work out on with those plans. As a baby, I taught him to swing from the left side, figuring that he’d learn the right side naturally. I had read about how Mutt Mantle had taught his son Mickey the game and I was going to do the same. Well I will admit to one thing, he learned to bat lefty, and never could adjust to hitting from the right side, but with baseball, the curve ball did him in. He switched sports in high school to wrestling, to which he got very good in his weight class. I learned from him about a new sport that had never interested me before.
When it came to the Dodgers, though, he completely got it. My son was raised a Dodger fan, and he’s never lived in Los Angeles for a lengthy period of time. The first 7 years of his life in San Diego, the last 16 near San Francisco (with a brief time away while in the Marine Corps.). But it didn’t matter; Dodger blue was in his blood.
I knew he had the blue bloodlines when he was seven years old. As a second grader when I was transferred to the S.F. Bay Area, I got called out of work on my very first day to report to his school because he got in a fight during recess. What was it about? The Dodgers, of course. He was defending them and he took on the whole playground.
We’d go to games at Candlestick. Chan Ho Park singled him out when he was a little kid and handed him a BP ball and returned to sign it. So did John Franco of the Mets. And Jose Lima when he was an Astro. He got pretty good at ball hawking in his teen years and at getting autographs. Not once has he bothered to get a Giants autograph.
When Jeff Kent came and spoke at our church while he was a Giant, (right after his MVP season), a lot of his friends gathered around him to talk and seek autographs. When one of his buddies told Kent that Ev was a Dodger fan, he didn’t back down. He told Kent that the Dodgers were better than the Giants, (even though they weren’t at the time). My son’s friends really ribbed him when he told Kent that. Jeff must have admired his conviction because he just looked at him and said that he grew up a Dodger fan too, adding “that’s why I love playing for Dusty Baker.”
Four or five years later at Vero Beach, my boy approached Kent, now a Dodger, and reminded him of that day…he actually remembered and told him that he had come over from the dark side. This time, he asked for him to sign a card.
We made that pilgrimage to Vero Beach that one spring in 2005. It was a promise I made to him if he had decent grades. We watched the Dodgers clinch a playoff spot at AT&T Park in 2006 in front of the Giants. We also were present for several Gagne/Bonds duels, the infamous ’97 Bonds pirouette, Mike Piazza bombs, an annual trip to Chavez Ravine for games. When it has come to the Dodgers, I’ve spared little expense and had him tag along with me.
We’ve had our issues over the years. During some of his years of High School, he almost never talked to me. There were times when he was making bad decisions, and as a dad, I had to let him learn through the hard knocks of life. It killed me, it really did. I’m so glad he’s through that. But even during the rough years, we always could talk about the Dodgers. He became to “tough” to hug his dad once he turned 13. That was fine, I understood that. But when Steve Finley hit that walk off grand slam to win the division in 2004 we tackled each other in a living room celebratory embrace that almost destroyed a coffee table in the process.
He’s a hard working kid. He’s got two jobs and he doesn’t get much sleep because of that. A lax day for him is when he has a day off from one of them. So it’s a rare occasion that he’s able to swing an off-day from both. He did that, because nothing beats going to see the Dodgers with the old man. For that, I am extremely grateful.