Music stars, awards kick off home opener

Music stars, awards kick off home opener

MIAMI -- Here's what Clayton Kershaw needs to ignore on Tuesday.

Grammy Award-winning country star LeAnn Rimes singing the national anthem; Grammy Award-winning frontman and producer of the Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch; and CNN talk-show host (and Dodgers season-ticket holder) Larry King announcing, "It's time for Dodger Baseball!" at the start of the game.

Yes, it's the home opener, with the Dodgers hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks. Former D-backs player Steve Finley will be there to present Matt Kemp with his Rawlings Gold Glove Award, having been the last Dodgers center fielder to win one, in 2004. Eric Karros, who earned Silver Slugger honors in 1995, will present Kemp and Andre Ethier with their Silver Slugger trophies.

Kershaw will get an honor as well, that of starting pitcher. If he was amped up pitching the second game of the season, in Pittsburgh, how will he handle the sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium for the home opener?

The Dodgers are curious to see. Even though Kershaw has the experience of two postseasons, he's still just 22 years old and is learning how to harness the adrenaline and maintain his composure on the mound. The Dodgers need him to go deeper than the 4 2/3 innings he lasted in Pittsburgh, and he won't unless he cuts down on the six walks he issued.

That said, Kershaw is extremely comfortable pitching in Dodger Stadium, where his ERA last year was 1.83. That, no doubt, is one of the reasons why the staff arranged the rotation so he would make this start instead of a second start on the road. He will be pitching on five days' rest.

"It's better that I'm not a part of it," said Kershaw, who will be warming up in the bullpen during the pregame festivities. "I just try to keep everything normal. As long as the game gets started more or less on time, it's not that big a deal."

Kershaw, 0-1 with a 4.40 ERA lifetime against Arizona, will be looking for his first victory since last July, a span that includes 12 no-decisions.

Though the Dodgers' roster is largely unchanged from last season, there are some changes at 48-year-old Dodger Stadium: a remodeled Stadium Club, which now features outdoor seating; updates to the Dugout Club; new portable concession areas on the Reserve level to help alleviate waiting times; six new Guest Relations Centers throughout the stadium for any game-day questions or comments; and an enhanced menu selection, including the return by popular demand of the Picante Dog, and the debut of the Victory Knot, a giant pretzel available at California Pizza Kitchen stands.

Fans arriving early will find Dodgers alumni Tommy Davis and Maury Wills signing autographs in Autograph Alley and the joint armed forces presenting a giant flag on the field. U.S. Navy FA-18C Hornets from Strike Fighter Squadron 97 will fly over the stadium at the start of the game. The Hornets recently returned from an eight-month combat cruise in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and are based out of Lemoore Naval Air Station.

Fans can enter the stadium parking lots as early as 10:10 a.m. PT and the stadium as early as 10:40 a.m. All are encouraged to arrive early, carpool and take the Dodger Stadium Express shuttle from Union Station to help alleviate parking congestion. The Dodger Stadium Express will pick up fans at the Patsaouras Bus Plaza adjacent to the east portal of Union Station every 10 minutes prior to the start of the game, starting at approximately 11:00 a.m., and drop them off in the parking lot behind left/center field. Game tickets will be honored as fare.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.