Dodgers give game back to fans

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES Dodger Stadium will be packed tonight, but even manager Tom Lasorda can't predict how fans will react when Los Angeles plays the Atlanta Braves in the Dodgers' home-opener.

''I have no idea,'' Lasorda said from his home in nearby Fullerton yesterday, an off-day for the Dodgers. ''I hope it's good. I'm looking forward to it.

''It's going to be great to see baseball back in Los Angeles again. We're giving baseball back to the fans, where it belongs. The fans deserve it.''

The Dodgers, who swept a season-opening two-game series against the Florida Marlins, will pitch right-hander Pedro Astacio (6-8 last season) against Atlanta left-hander Steve Avery (8-3).

''We have a good, exciting team,'' Lasorda said, ''I think our fans are going to really like our ballclub.''

The home opener will be the first at night for the Dodgers since April 13, 1976, when they lost an 8-5 decision to San Diego. And it will be the first regular-season game at Dodger Stadium since Aug. 4 eight days before the strike began that eventually ended the 1994 season.

It's likely the Dodgers will be facing Atlanta's outstanding pitching staff without two key members of their lineup All-Star catcher Mike Piazza and third baseman Tim Wallach.

Piazza strained his right hamstring scoring from first base on a double by Eric Karros in the sixth inning of a 4-2 victory over the Marlins Wednesday night.

Piazza was examined yesterday and listed as day-to-day. He received treatment and will be re-examined before tonight's game.

Wallach, who has been hampered by back problems all spring and didn't play in Miami, was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 22.

To replace Wallach on their roster, the Dodgers purchased the contract of catcher Zoe Munoz from their Albuquerque farm club of the Pacific Coast League. Munoz, 24, has been playing for the Reynosa team in the Mexican League, where he was 7-for-26 in seven games with three doubles and five RBI.

It was announced a week ago that the home opener is a sellout. Season ticket-holders will be admitted free; otherwise tickets range from $1.50 to $3.50. Tickets normally run from $6 to $13.

A collection of longtime Dodger employees will be involved in the ceremonial first pitch representatives from security, maintenance, food service, merchandising and the ushers, along with a Dodger fan who will be selected from the crowd at random shortly before the game begins.

''This was decided by our committee,'' said Lewis Collins, the Dodgers' special events supervisor. ''The reason is to salute these people for their longtime service to the Dodgers and their loyalty through the years.''

The actual first pitch will be thrown by peanut vendor Roger Owens, a celebrity of sorts who has appeared on The Tonight Show and as a guest at the White House and delighted fans with his deft tosses of peanut bags from all directions.

The Northridge Little League team, second to Venezuela in last year's Little League World Series, will be honored in pregame ceremonies, as will Dodgers outfielder Raul Mondesi, the 1994 NL Rookie of the Year.

There will also be a moment of silence observed in memory of those who died in the Oklahoma City bombing last week before the Crenshaw High Elite Choir sings the National Anthem.

While the ceremonies are going on inside Dodger Stadium, representatives of a group called Fans on Strike say they will be picketing outside.

''We will have somewhere between 50 and 100 fans picketing to show our distaste for the Dodger organization and major league baseball in general,'' said Jimmy Sweeney, one of the group's leaders.

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