Clayton Kershaw provides opening night like no other in Bricktown
Marci Staude was in awe nearly two years ago at the crowd surrounding the Oklahoma City Dodgers bullpen to see a tall, left-hander warmup.
“That was crowded,” Staude said.
In her 14 years at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark working the gates and food areas, Staude has seen superstars come and go on rehab assignments.
Manny Ramirez. Josh Hamilton. Yasiel Puig.
Nothing compares to Clayton Kershaw.
On a night set to celebrate the return of baseball, the three-time Cy Young Award winner began his climb back to the majors as 12,472 fans poured into The Brick during OKC's 5-3 loss to San Antonio. He threw four-plus innings and accomplished the first step back to full strength.
A special opening day was a success.
“It was interesting timing,” said Kershaw, whose streak of starting eight straight Los Angeles openers ended this season. “It was good I get to come out here.”
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Last season’s opening game drew 5,614 fans on April 10. Kershaw was the difference this time.
One Tulsa fan even arrived 90 minutes before gates opened, lining up alone outside the gate. Other fans soon followed, forming lines around the stadium to see a likely future Hall of Famer. As Kershaw warmed up, fans crowded around the bullpen to catch an up-close look at his pitches to catching prospect Will Smith.
“Fans populated the park right away, which gives us a really good buzz,” OKC president and general manager Michael Byrnes said. “That’s fun for us to really encounter.
“There’s a lot more attention being paid when we’re on the field to every one of his pitches. It’s interesting because the crowd approaches watching him a little differently than watching a normal game.”
Kershaw allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings, including a massive home run by San Antonio’s Tyrone Taylor to open the second inning. He later allowed another run.
But that never dampened the atmosphere.
Fans cheered his sweeping curveball that helped him strike out six Missions batters. They gave him an ovation when he returned to face on batter in the fifth to reach his 60-pitch limit. They gave Kershaw a bigger ovation after forcing a groundout by Jacob Nottingham, leading new OKC manager Travis Barbary to take the ball for another pitcher.
For the second time in two years, Kershaw wowed a crowd that rarely sees such a star take the mound.
It was an opening day like no other in Bricktown.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Staude said. “There is a little bit more because of Clayton being here. All of them have been good. Each one has its own particular experience, but this one … each year gets better.”