It wasn’t the first champagne shower Trayce Thompson had been in.
But it was the first that he truly felt a part of.
“It was really cool,” the Dodgers outfielder said. “I tried to absorb it as much as possible.”
When the Dodgers clinched the NL West on Tuesday night, clinching their ninth-division crown in the past 10 seasons, it sparked the kind of champagne-and-beer-soaked celebration most players in their clubhouse have had. experienced almost annually.
His current roster, after all, includes 20 former World Series champions and 690 combined postseason games played.
Winning the division was special. But it wasn’t exactly a unique feeling.
Thompson was a rare exception. Along with Andrew Heaney and Yency Almonte, the official outfielder is one of three non-rookies on the team who has never appeared in a playoff game. There are a few others, like Hanser Alberto and Joey Gallo, with limited postseason experience.
For them, Tuesday night’s festivities represented something different. The division championship jersey and cap, the plastic wrap and neon glasses in the clubhouse, all resonated a little more.
“We loved it,” Almonte said. “It was something new for us.”
Thompson had been a part of the Dodgers’ celebrations before.
On the side that won the club division in 2016, he was a breakout star for the first half of the season before his campaign was cut short by a back injury. He spent most of 2017 in the minors, but was called up in September in time to be there for another division-defining moment.
Both times, I was in the locker room for the bottle-popping party.
But, he acknowledged Wednesday afternoon, before the Dodgers’ series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks, “deep down you know it’s not the same.”
Almonte had a similar experience in his rookie season with the Colorado Rockies in 2018.
The right-hander appeared in just 14 games that regular season and was left off the postseason roster in favor of more experienced arms. He was also in the room when the Rockies clinched a playoff spot that year.
But this season is the first time he has been a serious contributor on a playoff-bound team.
“We have a chance to go to the playoffs and maybe even make it to the World Series and win it all,” said Almonte, who missed the last month with an elbow injury but is about to return and felt fine for a simulated game on Wednesday Afternoon. “I’m just trying to rehab myself, be a part of it. And I know I can feed off the energy of these guys and go out there and do my job.”
Heaney had waited longer than anyone in the clubhouse on Tuesday night.
The 31-year-old left-hander rarely came close to the playoffs during the first seven years of his career with the Miami Marlins and Angels. Then, after being traded to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline last season, he struggled down the stretch and was drafted in late September, four days before the Yankees clinched a wild-card spot.
“I watched the Yankees celebrate, drink champagne, while sitting alone in a hotel room,” Heaney recalled this week. “That was a pretty low point for me.”
On Tuesday night, with her glasses hanging from her neck and her hair still dripping with alcohol, Heaney was asked if she felt as good as she’d imagined.
“Oh yes,” he smiled. “This is great.”
There were others in the room Tuesday night who found special meaning in the celebration.
It gave rookies like Miguel Vargas, Andre Jackson and Michael Grove, who started Wednesday’s game to give the rest of the rotation an extra day off, a taste of what it’s like to experience major league success.
For others, like Alberto, it commemorated a long-awaited return to the playoffs, with the utility man’s only other playoff experience as a rookie with the Texas Rangers in 2015.
“For me, you never know when it’s going to happen again,” said Alberto, who helped kick off Tuesday’s party by putting a spin on Vin Scully’s legendary call, yelling “It’s time for the Dodgers to celebrate!” .
Like everyone else, though, even the Dodgers’ postseason rookies were looking ahead to Wednesday afternoon.
“We have a lot more chances to win,” Alberto said.
Echoed Thompson: “It’s a special moment, but at the end of the day, with this team, everyone knows what’s really at stake.”