There’s very little iconography around high school baseball games. They lack the under-the-lights, cheerleaders-and-band spectacle of high school football. They have little of the noise and intensity of high school basketball played in the home gym. They are often small events, quiet and pastoral, played on out-of-the-way fields sprinkled with the players’ families and close friends. No one is painted head-to-toe in school colors.
But in Los Angeles, for one weekend a year, high school baseball gets its moment on our biggest sporting stage: Dodger Stadium. Some of the final games of CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) baseball playoff tournaments are played on the very same field where Steve Garvey hit home runs and Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game. The tradition of high school baseball at Dodger Stadium reaches back decades and includes what is still one of the most talked-about baseball games ever played in L.A.: the 1979 city championship when Granada Hills High School outfielder John Elway (who later achieved fame as a Hall of Fame pro football quarterback) came on as a relief pitcher and shut down Crenshaw High School and its stars, the future major league players Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry.
This past weekend, with the Dodgers out of town in Colorado, the stadium hosted three championship games in different divisions of the Southern Section (which includes schools in most of the southern half of the state) and two more in the City Section (which is devoted to Los Angeles schools). Only a small portion of the giant stadium—the field sections behind home plate—were filled, with friends, relatives, and fans. But their spirit filled the place, as did the smell of baseball classics—hot dogs, sugary snacks, and freshly cut grass. It was a perfect Dodger game, minus the crowds, the food lines, and the Dodgers.
Chloe Nordquist, a young photographer who is an ASU-Cronkite School fellow in sustainability journalism at Zócalo, spent Friday afternoon at the stadium, taking pictures of a final between Palm Desert High School and Bishop Amat Memorial High School of La Puente. The images show a small tradition having its moment in a big place. Do the players seem bigger? Or does the game seem even smaller?