It began with a bus ride for a game on September 12, 2009.
“We went to San Francisco to see the Doyers play the Giants,” says Álex Soto, speaking like a true Angeleno. “And we haven’t stopped.”
The initial group was composed of Álex and, to quote an often-told story, “55 of his best friends.” And after a wonderful night highlighted by the Dodgers’ 9-1 victory, the trip became an annual tradition. Over the years, the tradition would evolve beyond his wildest dreams, growing from just family and friends to a traveling fan club that numbers in the thousands and became collectively known as Pantone 294.
As any graphic designer will explain, that’s the official name of the shade of Dodger Blue – a creative way for these mostly Latino fans to represent, with pride and color, their city’s team anywhere in the country.
And travel they do, scheduling at least three road trips per season. Around 450 made the trip to Chicago this week for the first game of the Opening Day series between the Dodgers and the Cubs. Last year, says Soto, 1,500 strong traveled to New York to see the Yankees, filling up four planes out of Los Angeles, a fifth one from Orange County and a sixth one from San Francisco.
Pantone 294 is so popular that Alex and his partner in crime, Desiree García, run a website that includes blogs and a travel organizer, plus a Twitter account with more than 6,000 followers. Their slogan: “It’s more than a ticket, it’s an experience.” Their mission: “To support our Boys in Blue while they are away from home.”
La Vida Baseball spent Monday with them as they partied and then watched the game from a Waveland Avenue rooftop right behind left field. Despite the cold weather and close to a two-hour rain delay, Pantone 294 enjoyed the moment, at one point exploding in boisterous cheers when the ESPN cameras zoomed in on the rooftop. For many, it was their first trip to Chicago. Here are some of their stories:
Albert González and Eric Núñez
El Monte, CA
They are brothers-in-law. No further explanation needed.
“It’s tradition in Los Angeles,” says Albert. “If you are born there, you got to follow the Dodgers. That’s the Code. It’s tradition. It goes back four generations. My father Humberto played semiprofessional ball in Mexico. He taught me baseball. Took me to my first Dodgers game when I was 4-6 months. I can barely remember, but there’s a picture somewhere in the house.”
Juan and Yohana Quintero
Juan is from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, one of the hotbeds of Mexican baseball. Of course, he played ball when he was young. And wears the jersey of his favorite player, first baseman Adrián González, who was born in San Diego, raised in Tijuana and is one of the best Mexican players in history.
Meanwhile, Yohana is from Ensenada, Baja California, and was not that much of a baseball fan. Until she met Juan. Now she bleeds Pantone 294 blue.
“We’re all family,” Yohana says. “You get to travel. See new places. Yes, you can say I like baseball very much.”
Víctor and Martha Heredia
Raised in the states, they are part of that Mexican-American generation that adopted baseball because of Fernandomanía in the ’80s. One great player and everyone became a fan.
“My father loved Fernando Valenzuela,” says Víctor. “We started going to games because of him. That’s why we are Dodgers fans.”
Flora López and Sandra Taylor
San Bernardino, CA
Flora and Sandra are sisters, the female duo of four siblings. Maybe because she is the oldest, Flora was taught baseball by her father. And possibly because she is the oldest, she is assertive and loud, very much one of the leaders of the group, standing out for her mischievous smile, white Dodger hoodie, and Pantone-294-colored scarf, suede sneakers and “LAtina” baseball cap with leopard dots on the bill. For group photos, she and her sister are front and center.
“We have fun. We enjoy the game. And life,” Flora says.
Carlos and Ericka Ávila
In a switch, it was Ericka who made Carlos a Dodger fan. “Her father was a coach,” says Carlos.
Ericka is not shy about showing off her passion. Wearing mouse ears dressed up in Dodgers colors, her hair and lips match Pantone 294. “I love the Dodgers, “ she says. “What else can I say?”
Dolores Donely and Tina Rubio
Fullerton, CA and Chicago
Dolores (left) and Tina are cousins who share the same grandfather, Pascual Rubio, who they say played in the Mexican and Negro leagues. Wearing a jacket that celebrates the 1988 World Series, the last time the Dodgers won the championship, Dolores embraces Tina, decked out in apparel celebrating 2016, the Cubs’ first title since, well, you should know by now. Advantage: Tina.
“This is great,” says Dolores. “I get to see my cousin and see the Dodgers. Baseball is family.”
Trevor Stift and Rubén Angulo
Dana Point, CA and Newport Beach, CA
Trevor, as he jokes, is the token “gringo.” And the one wearing a poncho, going up to Cubs fans and playing around with them before the game. Rubén is the buddy who drew him into Pantone 294.
“Why not? It’s a good excuse to follow the team, see a new city, check out another stadium,” says Rubén. “My abuelita taught me to have passion for the game. She would say, ‘Get me there in time for the first pitch and we’re not leaving until the last pitch.’”
Featured Image: Henry Pacheco / La Vida Baseball
Other Images: Clemson Smith Muñiz / La Vida Baseball