Thank You, Dodgers. Thank You, Baseball.

When I was little my grandparents had season tickets to Dodger Stadium. There were four tickets, two for my grandma and grandpa, and then two for the lucky duo they brought with them. Oftentimes I went with my cousin, Spenser, or my sister, Natalee. Other times the tickets were given to my parents and my whole family would go.

We’d always get there early to watch batting practice, and then we’d grab a Dodger Dog right before game time so it could digest before we got chocolate malts in the 6th inning. I loved sitting next to my grandma and keeping score inside the program and always tried to catch the beach balls bouncing around the crowd so I could hand them off to our favorite usher, Ilene, to make her job a little easier. The sounds of the stadium, of Vinny, of Nancy Bea on the organ, all became lyrics to a song I could sing in my sleep.

As I grew up, my grandparents eventually gave up the season tickets, but this did little to lessen my passion for the game or the team I grew up watching. If anything, it deepened. With a better sense of baseball and all it entailed, I started to really get to know the boys in blue, no matter what variety a season would present them in. I began keeping track of stats, giving commentary on recommended lineups, and most importantly, dreaming of the World Series.

In my 27 years as a Dodger fan, there have been many seasons when I’ve had that feeling. The one that keeps quiet in public, but at home whispers, maybe. Maybe this is the year. Maybe this is the team. But year after year, at some point that maybe would turn into a no. It always hurt, but come April, the hurt was always replaced by possibility, by a new maybe.

This year, I got that feeling. Even at the first night game I attended in April, I felt like there was something special about this team. That night I scanned my ticket and grabbed a Dodger Dog and a beer and took my seat, anxious for another April, hopeful for another October. Six months later, I was scanning another ticket, taking another seat, and ordering another Dodger Dog, but this time it was Game 6 of the World Series.

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For weeks I had rushed home from work and drove over to my parents’ house to watch the Dodgers climb their way to the Fall Classic, and suddenly I was there, in the flesh. My sister and I walked up the stairs in a sea of blue. Friends and family hugged and strangers high fived and everyone smiled in anxious anticipation.

When we won the game 4 hours later, the stadium erupted. Friends and family and neighbors and strangers and hugged and high fived and cheered and teared up. The crowd moved in waves of blue and white, singing and chanting and smiling. I thought of my grandma and grandpa and the first game I could remember attending and I felt that same feeling of pure magic.

The next day, as I sat on my parents’ couch, watching the last few outs of Game 7 tick off the scoreboard, submitting my Dodgers to a season just shy of the ultimate finish line, I tried my best to remain solely heartbroken. The loss hurt, but there was something else stirring inside me that I couldn’t quite shake.

As I watched the sea of blue and white (and orange) file up the rows and out to the parking lot, I saw families and friends like mine feeling the same heartbreak we felt in our living room. And suddenly I realized how many other living rooms and bars and hotel lobbies and restaurants held other families and friends either mourning or celebrating. This game, these teams, my team, had brought us all together. And with all the bad going on in the world, we were able to find something to root for.

When my sister and I stepped inside the gates for Game 6, I felt the weight of where we were, but in many ways felt the same way I always do when I walk up the stairs to Blue Heaven: at home. I heard the same sounds, smelled the same smells and looked down at the same view.

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After Game 7, when the confetti started flying and it wasn’t the color I was hoping for, my stomach sank. After the most exciting season of my life, this year’s maybe had officially turned into a no.

When I got home that night, I got a text from a friend, “see you next season.” And even though the wound was still fresh, I couldn’t help but smile. “Always,” I thought, “there’s always next season.” And I know come April I’ll be there, with a ticket, a Dodger Dog, and a maybe.

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