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For Littlest Dodgers Fans, Lessons In Winning, Losing And Family During Emotional Playoff Game

Two kids wrapped in blue Dodgers paraphernalia wait for the start of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game during a sunny batting practice on Opening Day at a mostly empty Dodger Stadium in 2018.
Two young fans watch batting practice as they wait for the start of the Opening Day game at Dodger Stadium in 2018.
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Getty Images North America)
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A baby in a Dodgers #34 jersey.
A young Diana Moreno Provost with “dodgie," her bedtime companion until adulthood.
(Courtesy of Diana Moreno Provost)

A 2-year-old Diana Moreno Provost watched Kirk Gibson hit the 1988 World Series game-winning home run from her parent’s reserve level season tickets along the third baseline.

She doesn’t remember that exact moment, but she does remember years of Dodger dogs, licorice and homework during weeknight games. When the team was away they’d watch the games on TV at home — except during dinner.

Her dad says Vin Scully’s voice was the first one little Diana recognized outside of the family.

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Now her 2-year-old son shares his middle name with the legendary Dodgers sportscaster, who's now retired. He recognizes the Dodger logo, can cheer “Go Dodgers,” and, more importantly, his mom says, “Boo Giants!”

“I love the team, and I love the organization and the history and tradition,” Provost says. “But I also love that it represents my family.”

Moreno Provost with her son, wearing her 1988 World Series shirt, last year before Game 1 of World Series.
(Courtesy Diana Moreno Provost)

The Dodgers’ six decades in Los Angeles have brought euphoric highs — Gibson’s 1988 homer being the one we heard about most frequently — a ruthless rivalry with Northern neighbors, and last year’s triumphant World Series victory after a 32-year drought. It’s a lot for adults to handle, let alone the kids just learning to distinguish a bat from a ball.

Dodger fandom and a family’s love of sports generally can be part of a child’s development, especially in those critical years before age 5, when their brain grows the most.

“Joining with the people who you love the best in an activity that they care about is a bonding opportunity for children and for caregivers,” said Karen Rogers, a psychologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

I love the team, and I love the organization and the history and tradition, but I also love that it represents my family.
— Diana Moreno Provost, Pasadena mom and lifelong Dodger fan

Mikela Bjork and Mike Filanowski were at Tuesday's playoff game against the Atlanta Braves with their sons, August, who is 4 years old, and Oscar, 7 months.

Bjork grew up on the East Coast, so she became a Dodgers fan later in life.

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“I grew up going to baseball games in the summer with my dad,” Bjork said. “I have really fond memories of the fireworks and watching the sun go down behind the stadium and the rowdy people and the colorful language.”

It’s August and Oscar’s first trip to Dodger Stadium — their older son even got to skip school for the day game.

In the stadium, August witnessed his first big play, Corey Seager’s two-run homer to centerfield.

Dodgers game 101921.mp4

The family was hoping for a Mookie Betts home run, but they’re probably happy with the 8th inning double that helped clinch the Dodgers’ 6-5 win.

Joe Gonzales says, like many in his generation, his earliest Dodger memory was watching their World Series win in 1988. “I was little, little, little,” he says. “But I remember that … Just, everybody going crazy after the home run.”

Tuesday, he was out at the game with his son, Kiko, who is 7 years old. He says that coming to games is one way that he is introducing his son to the Dodgers. “We're a baseball family. So we all play baseball. He plays baseball. So, hardcore fans.”

Kiko says what he most likes about baseball is hitting and fielding.

Image of family at baseball game at Dodger Stadium
Left to right: Colleen Tripp, Porter Carroll (11), Cooper Wilson (10), and Daisy Wilson
(Stefanie Ritoper/LAist)

Porter Carroll, age 11, said he was going into the game looking for a win. “And maybe, catch a foul ball.”

What’s it like to watch a game at Dodger Stadium? Carroll says: “Whenever there’s a home run, it’s almost like the stadium rumbles.”

He was at the game with his friend, Cooper Wilson, age 10. Both of their moms, Colleen Tripp and Daisy Wilson, accompanied them.

Whenever there’s a home run, it’s almost like the stadium rumbles.
— 11-year-old Porter Carroll

Tripp says that Porter is a natural Dodger fan. “He grew up also being a Dodger fan, and he is very into baseball. He is my most active one and probably wears something Dodger related every single day.”

Winning Gracefully

The nine inning emotional rollercoaster is a chance to open up conversations about Big Feelings like frustration, anger, surprise and (hopefully) joy.

“Somebody is always watching you, particularly your little ones,” said Shawn Caracoza, the president and chief operating officer of behavioral healthcare provider Pacific Clinics. “So you always want to make sure that you're having fun with it, but you're also putting it in the right context when things don't necessarily go your way.”

In addition to his behavioral health background, Caracoza is also the dad of three sons and has coached youth basketball, football and baseball for more than 20 years.

He said for kids, the ultimate lesson of winning is not to rub it in someone else’s face.

The games are also only fun when you have other people to play against. If you don't win gracefully...You won't be able to play very many games.
— Shawn Caracoza, dad, youth sports coach and president and chief operating officer of Pacific Clinics
Image of back of father and son walking through the hallways of Dodger Stadium.
Dad Mike Filanowski shows his son August around Dodger Stadium.
(Courtesy of Mikela Bjork)

“In the youth level, it's about a competition. It's about learning. It's about falling in love with the sport,” Caracoza said.

Bragging on your winning professional team is one thing but Caracoza said for kids playing youth sports or on the playground, there are different consequences.

“The games are also only fun when you have other people to play against,” Caracoza said.

And given the choice, kids might opt not to play with a sore winner.

“If you don't win gracefully, Caracoza said. “You won't be able to play very many games.”

Lessons in Losing

The Dodgers are now a perennial playoff contender, and they won the World Series in 2020. But they also lost the Series twice since 2017 — sorry to rub salt in the wound.

“Baseball is a game of failure in so many ways,” said Caracoza. “The best hitters in the world get out seven out of 10 times.”

It’s not so much that kids should practice losing, but that they can prepare for the reality that life won’t always go their way. Caracoza said the more games kids play, from Candyland to Little League, the less a loss might sting.

He also suggested planning fun activities regardless of a team’s outcome, say a post-game ice cream run.

“If you win, it's a great celebration,” Caracoza said. “But if you lose, it's still something to look forward to.”

And if parents lose their cool while watching a game, it’s worth taking a moment to help kids understand what happened.

“Kids have a tendency to assume, particularly young children, that the frustration or the disappointment or sadness that adults are showing is because of something that they did,” Rogers said.

Here’s the explanation she offered instead, “I'm feeling really grumpy because our team didn't win yesterday. And I know that we'll have another chance next year. And I know that I'm not going to stay grumpy. But today, I'm just really mad that our team didn't win.”

Maybe you’re more of a cranky than a grumpy, but you get the picture.

A boy carries a hot dog prior the game between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey on May 6, 2018 in Monterrey, Mexico.
(Azael Rodriguez
Getty Images)

Rogers said that children who were already under a lot of stress or uncertainty might have a harder time shaking off the disappointment of a loss.

One “get over it” might not have a long-term impact on a child’s development, but repeatedly dismissing kids’ feelings or denying them a space to share what they’re going through can teach them a negative pattern of behavior.

“It puts them at risk for more difficulties managing challenges that may come up in life, because as humans we are feeling beings,” Rogers said.

Parents don’t need to have a solution ready to go. Rogers said asking kids what will make them feel better and following that lead can give them a sense of empowerment.

“Young children have such creativity in their own way of understanding the world and coping with things,” she said.

Licensed psychologist and Pepperdine University assistant professor Erlanger Turner said losses are also an opportunity to look ahead, Turner said, to “look at this situation as an opportunity for you to learn something, and how to be better in the future.”

For Littlest Dodgers Fans, Lessons In Winning, Losing And Family During Emotional Playoff Game
What questions do you have about early childhood education and development? What do you want to know about kids ages 0-5 and those who care for them in Southern California?
Decades of research indicates early childhood education significantly boosts children’s readiness to learn. Mariana Dale wants families, caregivers and educators to have the information they need to help children 0-5 grow and thrive by identifying what’s working and what’s not in California’s early childhood system.