Dodgers Fan Levels the Playing Field

The home opener for our Downtown Dodgers begins Friday. The Boys of Summer opened the season in Montreal and, as of press time, have won their first two games, both by impressive 10-4 margins. But the Dodgers were playing the Montreal Expos, a far cry from their upcoming homestand against the tougher Cincinnati Reds and Ken Griffey Junior. The newest star in the National League will have to take a backseat to one of baseball's and L.A.'s grandest traditions.

Speaking of grand traditions, every home opener at Dodger Stadium is usually sold out well in advance. The Dodger fan who snoozes, loses. Unless of course that lucky fan is a friend, or friend of a friend, of Larry Layne.

What began with some college buddies buying advance tickets for the 1973 opening day, has become a veritable institution. Now Layne buys a whole section of seatsÑmore than 200-for friends and business contacts. He mails flyers in mid-March and shortly after, the phone starts to ring.

"When we started this, you could leave Occidental College and be in your seat in about five minutes," Larry says.

As the owner of NOVA, a North Valley real estate company, Larry has added friends along the way. Mingling past and present, college pals rub elbows with politicians and artists. "Ruth Galanter came here a few times," he says. "A few people from Sheila Kuehl's office will be here. [County Supervisor] Zev Yaroslavsky's people too."

As a member of the Modern and Contemporary Art Council at the L.A. County Museum of Art, Layne mixes in the culturati as well. From Layne's "cheap" seats, Santa Monica gallerists Christopher Grimes and Tom Patchett, as well as former MOCA Director and current President of Art Center College of Design, Richard Koshalek, have all enjoyed a Dodger Dog in the sun.

Part of the charm of Larry's purchase is that the high society crowd he hobnobs with are perfectly content in the $6 red seats perched high above home plate. And in an era of luxury boxes with gourmet meals prepared by chef Wolfgang Puck, word that the elite might opt for a cheap seat could mean disaster.

Only once has Layne's tradition of attending consecutive home openers been broken. "I was moving my fiancee from Nottingham, England to Southern California," he admits, but amends, "I broke tradition, but I did it for love." He is now happily married to Sheelagh Boyd.

Layne takes a brief jaunt through memory lane, recalling a trip with his fourth grade schoolmates to see the Blue Crew pulverize the Chicago White Sox in the 1959 World Series at the Coliseum. But he pronounces the 1988 World Champions his favorite team, saying, "That year was really special."

He pauses when asked what he thinks of the Dodgers' chances at a championship this year. "You know, this year is a really similar team to last year's, but everyone seems more cautious…and maybe that's good."

We'll see when the Dodgers open their first homestand of the season against the Cincinnati Reds April 14.

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