SAN FRANCISCO – After 12 years in the big leagues, nothing should have surprised Andre Ethier when he stepped into the batter’s box at Petco Park for a pinch-hit at-bat on Sept. 1.
Sure, it was Ethier’s first major-league at-bat in about 11 months thanks to a herniated disc in his back that sent him to the sidelines for more than 80 percent of the regular season for a second consecutive year. But Ethier had been there, done that – literally – for more than 1,400 games in a Dodgers uniform (only six players have worn the uniform longer since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958), over 80 of them as a visitor at Petco Park.
What happened still surprised him. An ovation. A large one.
“That was very shocking,” Ethier says now. “I know we get a lot of Dodger fans there. We always do. But I didn’t realize there were that many there until I stepped up to the plate. As loud as it got, that took me back a bit.
“For our fans to still embrace me that way and show that acknowledgement. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t get to me. It was as emotional an at-bat as I’ve had.”
The ovation was repeated, more loudly, a few days later when he played at Dodger Stadium for the first time this season. The applause was acknowledgment of a career that includes two All-Star nominations, a Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger. But there was also an element of surprise – Ethier has missed so much time the past two seasons that some fans, no doubt, thought he might have retired.
There is also a farewell-tour feeling to it. Ethier is in the final year of a five-year contract that will…