Sparks and Dodgers: LA's Stars Of The Summer Meet At Dodger Stadium

By Andrew Sinatra
LASparks.com

For the past two months, Dodger Stadium has been home to one of the hottest teams in professional sports. On Wednesday afternoon, however, the Los Angeles Dodgers welcomed a second, as it recognized and shared in the excitement of the newly playoff-bound Los Angeles Sparks.

Under the hot California sun, pregame festivities included ceremonial first pitches by Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker, as well as the official welcoming to Major League Baseball's third oldest ballpark, "It's Time for Dodger Baseball," proclaimed by Lindsey Harding and Kristi Toliver.

Ogwumike, coming off three days that included a come-from-behind double-overtime victory, a double-double and a celebration-induced gash above her left eye, was the talk of the ceremonies. The 6'2" forward stood atop the mound and fired a strike 60 feet, six inches to Dodger reliever Chris Withrow, to little surprise of fellow frontcourt mate Ebony Hoffman.

"I'd like to take credit for that, yeah," boasted Hoffman, who helped Ogwumike focus on the mental aspect of the pitch. "I'm going to take full credit that Nneka's strike was because of me and I'm sure she'll tell you the same."

Hoffman was part of a Sparks contingent of players and staff that took in the Dodgers 4-0 win over the Chicago Cubs. It was the 48th victory in 61 chances for the National League West leaders since finding itself in last place on June 21. Over that same period, the Sparks have won 16 out of 21, matching the best mark in the WNBA. As it stands, only Los Angeles and Atlanta would be represented in both the Major League Baseball and WNBA playoffs.

While the Dodgers presence in Los Angeles predates the Sparks by nearly 40 years, there are definite parallels besides recent on-court/field success, not the least of which includes each's recognition as a model for teams that have come after them.

"When it comes to baseball, you think about the Dodgers," said Hoffman, who attended USC and is the lone member of the Sparks to grow up in Los Angeles. "You think about the Dodgers and all that they've accomplished and everything they've done for our city. The Dodgers are America's pastime."

Likewise, the Sparks recently set its own example, clinching a WNBA-record 13th postseason appearance. One of the league's original eight teams and the winningest in WNBA history, the Sparks were lauded on this day for what it has brought—and will continue to bring—to the city of Los Angeles.

"It's always great to have the L.A. sports community and we all know that it's a city of championships," Ogwumike said. “To be considered a part of that family—I think it's great."

This was Ogwumike's second trip to Dodger Stadium, previously attending a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Mets on August 14 with teammates Marissa Coleman and Jantel Lavender. Multiple Sparks hope to see their baseball counterparts at STAPLES Center soon—namely a couple outfielders.

"I'm hoping (Yasiel) Puig will come out," announced Hoffman. "And Matt (Kemp)—since (Parker's husband) Shelden (Williams) knows Matt Kemp, we're trying to get him to the games."

Regardless, both teams look to have long roads still ahead of them with plenty of opportunities to make the city of Los Angeles, and each other, proud.

"I'm glad they're doing well," said Toliver. "We're trying to piggyback on that. It would be great if they got to the World Series [and] we got to the Finals and then see what happens, but it's good for the city."

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