It was almost the worst-timed bathroom break imaginable.
During a pitching change in seventh inning of the Dodgers’ NLDS Game 2 on Wednesday, Clay Bellinger got up from his seat in the upper deck of Globe Life Field, navigated a quiet concourse as Fernando Tatis Jr. came to the plate and got back within sight of the diamond just as the ball reached his son in center field.
“I took a peek in,” Clay said, “and saw Cody drift back.”
That’s where Clay watched Cody rob a home run with one of the most memorable catches in recent franchise history — alone in an empty stadium, behind a section of vacant seats, still from a distance.
“Not that there’s a whole lot of people anyway, but it was just me up on the walkway,” the elder Bellinger said during a phone call Thursday, laughing. “It’s so weird. It’s awesome being able to watch live baseball but … [there’s] no atmosphere. No nothing.”
There was a small celebration in the Dodgers’ upper-deck family section, where family members who aren’t isolating within the team “bubble” are allowed to watch the game.
Clay rushed back and embraced his wife, Jennifer. He traded high fives with Dustin May’s mom and dad. With Max Muncy’s and Mookie Betts’ parents the only other people nearby, it felt like a scene straight from a Little League tournament.
“It’s a great setup,” Clay said of the NLDS’s neutral-site location at the Texas Rangers’ home stadium. “There’s just not a lot of people to enjoy it right now.”
It epitomized the bizarre experience this season has been for Cody’s parents. They’ve been forced to watch games from their Phoenix-area home instead of making usual trips to Dodger Stadium. Since Cody returned to Los Angeles for the start of training camp, they’ve seen him only during the team’s trips to Arizona and when Jennifer goes to Southern California on business.
Clay, a two-time World Series winner himself with the New York Yankees, has mentored his son from afar, calling Cody often during both his early-season struggles and recent return to form.
“Every once in a while, you need to make a change to see what happens,” Clay said. “Hopefully this will carry for another three weeks.”
Clay has experienced it all first-hand. Though he spent only four seasons in the big leagues primarily as a utility player from 1999 to 2002, he appeared in 19 playoff games with the Yankees and was part of their 1999 and 2000 title teams.
He even had his own defining October moment in the outfield, snagging Todd Zeile’s fly ball at the wall in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series against the New York Mets.
“It might have gone over, it might not,” Clay said of his catch in old Yankee Stadium. “I got a lot of texts today saying [Cody] was following in my footsteps.”
The moment Clay really wants to share with his son though, is a World Series win. If it happens this year, he and Jennifer will be there to see it. That one sight would make all the strangeness of this season worth it.
“I don’t care if it’s 60 games or whatever it is, you’re still a world champion,” Clay said. “It’s obviously a unique year, but whoever does win it this thing this year is definitely going to deserve to win it without a doubt.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.