Shohei Ohtani seized the spotlight on the very first pitch of the game, slapping a single off starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. (Associated Press)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Sports Editor

Not since the days of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes and Don Sutton has Chavez Ravine been the venue for baseball’s mid-summer classic.

Fans filled up their cars with buck-a-gallon gas and headed to Dodger Stadium with their $15 tickets for the All-Star Game in sun-drenched Los Angeles.

Shohei Ohtani takes batting practice prior Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, the first mid-summer classic in Chavez Ravine in 42 years.

On Tuesday, the gathering of baseball’s best returned for the first time in 42 years – symbolically matching the jersey number by Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson.

The game also took place on the 100th birthday of Robinson’s widow, Rachel. Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts led the players and fans in sending her best wishes on the occasion.

The Dodgers were scheduled to host the All-Star Game in 2020 – before the pandemic upended those plans. Fans in the stadium this week – for the Home Run Derby and Monday and the All-Star Game itself on Tuesday – seemed to be universally excited about not only seeing the biggest stars on the field, but also for the opportunity to gather in pastoral Dodger Stadium, arguably baseball’s most beautiful setting.

“This is a beautiful place, and we decided we really want to see this game in person,” said Yoshi Hoshino of Irvine, who attended with his wife, Haru.

Dodger manager Dave Roberts was one of the NL coaches.

While there were clearly plenty of unfilled seats – tickets for this year’s ASG started at more than $200 – those in attendance came ready to spend. Lines at souvenir stands lasted throughout the game, and soft drinks in commemorative cups sold briskly at $20 apiece.

The game itself got off to a sparkling start, thanks in no small part to the sport’s most compelling player, Shohei Ohtani of the Angels.

Giving a brief interview in the on-deck circle just before leading off the game against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Ohtani gave a succinct prediction about his at-bat.

“First pitch, first swing. That’s it,” Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, declared in English.

Shohei Ohtani is the post-game center of attention.

True to his word, Ohtani connected with Kershaw’s 90-mile-per-hour fastball for a broken-bat single to kick off the contest.

Masumi Shiina of Burbank brought along pals Kaori and Daisuke for the game.

The Dodgers’ ace, however, evened his score with Ohtani a couple of pitches later, making a stellar move to first and picking a leaning Ohtani off base.

Wearing a good-natured smile, Ohtani laughed as he jogged back to the visitors’ dugout.

Geisha Eitaro attended in traditional dress, and posed with local residents Mie and Natsumi.

“I was seeing if there was a chance to run and he made a great move,” Ohtani said later during a clubhouse press conference. “I was not expecting that, regardless, my name was going to be in the papers good or bad.”

Kerry Yo Nakagawa of the Nisei Baseball Research Project in Fresno chats with a stadium employee at a baseball exhibit in the centerfield concourse.

The AL had the last laugh, however, winning its ninth-straight All-Star game, 3-2. Giancarlo Stanton and Byron Buxton homered back-to-back in the fourth inning off the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin for the victory.

Stanton, the Yankee who grew up in SoCal, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo (except where noted)

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