By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor
What an evening it was at Dodger Stadium Friday night. From the opening first pitch thrown out by Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy to the game-ending wild pitch that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in 10 innings, you could not have asked for more.
Except for the spectacular fireworks show that followed the game and the home run blast by Los Angeles Dodgers rookie-phenom Yasiel Puig that occurred in game. It was a night to celebrate for all Burbankers in attendance.
On the City of Burbank night, the Burbank community was treated to a festive pre-game celebration and a well-played game shortly thereafter. Prior to Gabel-Luddy’s debut on the mound, more than 10 teams from the Burbank Little League circuit were recognized along the outfield track.
As Gabel-Luddy warmed up along the first-base line in foul ground, Vice Mayor Dr. David Gordon and fellow city council members Jess Talamantes and Bob Frutos watched in anticipation.
“I love it. It’s one of my favorite nights. Burbank Dodger night is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Dr. Gordon about the special City of Burbank tribute. “I love to see the people out here and I love to be out here in the atmosphere. It’s really an exciting evening.”
When asked if he was ready to catch the first pitch from Gabel-Luddy, Dr. Gordon was as confident as a catcher would be.
“I will do my best to try. I am as prepared as I can be,” he said.
As for what kind of pitch to expect from Gabel-Luddy, possibly a fastball or even a curveball, Dr. Gordon chuckled and said, “she’s been doing that for years and I have somehow managed to survive all this time.”
Talamantes provided advice to Gabel-Luddy after throwing out the first pitch two years ago as Mayor of Burbank.
“I told her to just throw it up high and tell your catcher (Dr. Gordon) don’t let the ball hit the dirt. I told the Vice-Mayor to sacrifice your body and don’t let it hit the dirt,” said Talamantes, who was proudly wearing his Burbank centennial jersey, #100, given to him in honor of his big moment on the legendary Dodgers mound in 2011.
“It’s a great honor and a great opportunity to represent the city of Burbank. I was the centennial Mayor so I was very fortunate to be the Mayor at that time. It makes you feel great because the community is out here cheering you on representing the city I was raised in.”
Frutos, Burbank’s newly-elected councilman, took in his first Burbank Night as a member of the City Council.
“This is exciting. It’s an honor and I am very privileged,” Frutos said. “This is our community and we get to see a Dodger game and a fireworks show. We are very blessed.”
He predicted that Gabel-Luddy would throw a curveball but that Dr. Gordon was prepared to block the plate in case of a wild pitch.
At 7:01 p.m., it was time for Gabel-Luddy to take the hill and have the honor of throwing out the first pitch. Nervous at first, she showed poise and confidence as only a 10-year pitching veteran would. Gabel-Luddy fired a fastball that caught the outside corner of the plate. Not on a bounce but on a line. Dr. Gordon caught it cleanly. Mission accomplished.
Dr. Gordon, Talamantes and Frutos clapped and cheered in support of Gabel-Luddy’s accurate throw. So did many of the Burbank citizens in the stadium.
“I’d say it was a strike. I felt great out there. What a thrill it was for me,” said the ecstatic Mayor of Burbank. “It’s the 22nd anniversary of Burbank Night and our community being here at Dodger Stadium. So can you imagine how thrilling it is being able to stand on that mound and throw out the first pitch?”
Gabel-Luddy received a warm ovation from the stadium crowd. It was an impressive outing for the rookie right-hander. As fate would have it, Dodger rookies Hyun-Jin Ryu and Puig followed Gabel-Luddy’s lead in a victorious night for the Dodgers and the City of Burbank.
“This has been a great event going on for 22 years. It brings the community together just like we do in Burbank when we have functions and events,” Talamantes said. “We come here to enjoy a Dodger game and see fireworks so it’s even better. What I like about it is that it brings our community to an event that we can enjoy together.”
“It felt like being home again. I grew up on the Dodgers here. When they moved here from Brooklyn, my dad took me to my first game when I was probably nine years old,” Gabel-Luddy added. “It’s a great thrill to be here tonight and I can’t believe that 50 years later I had the opportunity to throw out the first pitch.
“Thanks to all the community because we had a tremendous turnout tonight with all the kids from the leagues. I am looking forward to a great summer of baseball.”
So are we. Congratulations to the City of Burbank on an exciting and well-deserved night of recognition.