LOS ANGELES -- About an hour before game time, Steve Garvey hinted that the ceremonial first pitch he was scheduled to throw was going to have an interesting twist.
"Keep the cameras rolling," he said.
The event began like most ceremonial first pitches. The scoreboard ran a short tribute video of Garvey's great moments as a Los Angeles Dodger, at which time the public-address announcer ran down the list of Garvey's finer moments: a 10-time All-Star, 1974 National League MVP, four-time consecutive Gold Glover and part of the longest-running infield tandem, spanning 8 1/2 seasons.
The crowd rose to give Garvey a standing ovation as he headed to the mound. Former teammate Steve Yeager, currently the Dodgers' catching coach, took his place behind the plate to catch the pitch. But then, there was an "interruption": Former first baseman Eric Karros, also wearing a Dodgers jersey, walked up to Garvey, wagged his finger and sent him to first base.
"Instead of a ceremonial first pitch, the Dodgers will pay tribute to first basemen by having the first ceremonial relay," the PA announcer bellowed.
Karros threw to Garvey, who then threw the ball back to Karros, who threw home to Yeager.
It was a fitting twist, given the Dodgers' willingness to think outside the box ever since the new ownership group took over a year and a half ago. Garvey, who has remained close to the organization, likes what he sees and is optimistic about where the franchise is headed.
"They made great strides," he said. "If you think about a year and a half of taking over the franchise in the middle of the season, and where it's come and what's been done, and there's a lot more to do. This is a layering, a renewal of a great franchise. It doesn't happen overnight or in one season or two. There's some good bones, so to speak, here at the stadium. New bones and some good foundations and roots with the organization as far as the players are concerned and talent."
Garvey, who got the crowd riled up by saying, "Welcome to the last game of the series," thought the Dodgers' decision to pitch Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Braves was a "calculation, not done out of desperation."
Kershaw, Garvey said, is a special talent, and the Dodgers' best option in a clinching situation.
"There is a Plan B, and it's a pretty good plan B," Garvey said, referring to Zack Greinke being ready to pitch on full rest Wednesday should the Dodgers lose Game 4.
Since their spending and trading spree, the Dodgers have been heavily favored to not just get to the postseason, but to still be hanging around deep into October and perhaps even win the World Series. That's the one part about the Dodgers tradition the new ownership group doesn't want to mess with. Garvey was part of four World Series teams, and bringing back former players who were part of the franchise's glory years can serve as subtle reminder that history and tradition do matter.
Blending the two together -- new faces and ideas with the foundation that has made the Dodgers franchise one of the most storied in history -- hasn't been difficult, but there is precision involved.
"It's always a challenge, to really maintain this great tradition and not change the fundamentals that people want to come and see," Garvey said. "They add new things -- social media, the great digital scoreboards, subtle things that people in the new millennium feels comfortable with. They also like to see the old Dodgers, and the old footage, and the way the team wears the same uniforms.
"All these people all grew up with dads and moms bringing them to the stadium. Now they're bringing their families and their kids will bring theirs. That's what Dodger baseball's all about and that's what baseball's all about."