Winning the NL West has a special meaning for some Dodgers

It wasn’t the first champagne shower Trayce Thompson had.

But it was the first he really felt a part of.

“It was really cool,” said the Dodgers outfielder. “I tried to suck in as much as possible.”

When the Dodgers won the NL West on Tuesday night and secured the ninth division crown for the past 10 seasons, it sparked the kind of champagne-and-beer-drenched celebration most players have witnessed at their clubhouse almost annually.

After all, their current roster includes 20 former World Series champions and 690 combined postseason games.

Winning the division was something special. But it wasn’t exactly a unique feeling.

Thompson was a rare exception. Along with Andrew Heaney and Yency Almonte, the journeyman outfield is one of three non-rookies on the team who have never appeared in a playoff game. There are a few others, like Hanser Alberto and Joey Gallo, who have limited postseason experience.

For them, Tuesday night’s celebrations represented something different. The division championship t-shirt and hat, the plastic wrap and the neon goggles in the clubhouse all resonated a little.

“We loved it,” Almonte said. “This was something new for us.”

Thompson had previously been part of the Dodgers celebrations.

In the division-winning club in 2016, he was a breakthrough star in the first half of the season before his season 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 pivotal moment.

Both times he was in the dressing room for the bottle pop party.

But, he conceded Wednesday afternoon before the Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks series finale, “You just know deep down it’s just not the same.”

Almonte experienced something similar in his 2018 rookie season with the Colorado Rockies.

The right-hander was used in just 14 games this regular season and was dropped in the postseason in favor of more experienced weapons. He, too, was in the room when the Rockies earned a playoff spot that year.

But this season marks the first time he’s made a serious contribution to a playoff team.

Dodgers pose for a photo after winning the NL West with a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers pose for a photo after winning the NL West with a win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Tuesday.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

“We have a chance to go into the playoffs and maybe even get into the World Series and win it all,” said Almonte, who missed last month with an elbow injury but is close to returning and is during a simulated one Game felt good Wednesday afternoon. “I’m just trying to redeem myself, be a part of it. And I know I can feed off of those guys’ energy and go out and do my job.”

Heaney had been waiting in the clubhouse longer than anyone Tuesday night.

The 31-year-old left-hander rarely came close to the playoffs in the first seven years of his career with the Miami Marlins and Angels. Then, after being traded to the New York Yankees at close last season, he fought his way through and was optioned in late September — four days before the Yankees secured a wildcard spot.

“I watched the Yankees party while I was alone in a hotel room,” Heaney recalled this week. “That was quite a low point for me.”

On Tuesday night, with his glasses around his neck and his hair still dripping with alcohol, Heaney was asked if it felt as good as he thought it would.

“Oh yes,” he smiled. “That’s great.”

There were others in the room Tuesday night who attached special importance to the celebration.

There were 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 thrive in the major leagues.

For others, like Alberto, it was reminiscent of 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.

“To me, you never know when it’s going to happen again,” said Alberto, who helped kick off Tuesday’s party by putting a twist on Vin Scully’s iconic call and shouting, “It’s time for the Dodgers celebration!”

Like everyone else, however, the Dodgers novice postseason players were looking ahead Wednesday afternoon.

“We have a lot more chances to win,” said Alberto.

Echoed Thompson: “It’s a special moment, but at the end of the day, everyone on this team knows what’s really at stake.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-09-14/dodgers-diamondbacks-recap Winning the NL West has a special meaning for some Dodgers

Emma Bowman

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