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Minaya, ex-Dodgers one step closer to ultimate goal

Posted: Sunday October 8, 2006 2:24AM; Updated: Sunday October 8, 2006 2:24AM
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LOS ANGELES -- The champagne was pouring over the head of Mets general manager Omar Minaya from every direction. Carlos Beltran from the top. Carlos Delgado from the right. Ramon Castro from the left. And for good measure, Guillermo Mota came in with a dash of Bud Light from below.

"This is what it's all about," said Minaya, moments after watching the Mets sweep the Dodgers to advance to the NLCS. "At least you guys will only be talking about NL baseball back in New York. That hasn't happened in a long time."

As Minaya wiped champagne out of his eyes, having changed from his dapper gray suit to a more shower worthy purple batting shirt and sandals, he looked around at the players spraying each other and dancing around the clubhouse. "This is amazing," he said as he grabbed a bottle of champagne. "You can't put into words what this feels like."

Minaya was then waved into the manager's office by Tommy Lasorda, who had just made his way into the Mets' clubhouse. He hugged Minaya and gave him a kiss on the right cheek and congratulated him on the series win. Willie Randolph walked in soon after and hugged Lasorda, who wished Randolph the best in the upcoming NLCS.

"We only need eight more and we're counting it down," said Randolph with a smile. "We're really starting to feel it now. I feel so great for these kids."

The most gleeful kids of the bunch were Jose Valentin, 37, and Julio Franco, 48, who were both double fisting bottles of champagne as they were getting drenched by teammates. "This is why I came here," said Valentin. "I have always dreamed of being a part of a team like this and its finally happened. They say 13 isn't a lucky number, but this is my 13th season and it's a lucky number for me."

Across the table set up in the middle of the room with dozens of champagne bottles and a couple of coolers filled with beer, former Dodgers Shawn Green and Paul LoDuca were celebrating a playoff series win -- something the Dodgers haven't experienced since 1988. "The irony is crazy to be celebrating in the visiting locker room," said Green. "I came here for this reason. I'm not getting any older."

As LoDuca popped another bottle of champagne, he was slightly more eloquent in the irony of celebrating the win in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. "F--- the Dodgers," he said to one of the clubhouse managers as he opened the bottle.

While Minaya celebrated, he couldn't help but think about the much-ballyhooed cross-town team that had just been eliminated from the playoffs. "That was the best lineup I've ever seen in baseball," he said. "On paper, that was the best team. It was the Yankees and then everyone else. Now its wide open. I was going to call Kenny Rogers yesterday. I was so happy for him. I've known Kenny since he was a kid. He was so fired up. It's really amazing what the power of the mind can do."

Quietly sitting in the corner of the clubhouse and changing out of his uniform was Tom Glavine, who has experienced his fair share of champagne celebrations as a part of the Atlanta Braves. "It never gets old, winning never gets old," he said as he laughed at the sight of some of his teammates putting on goggles to protect their eyes from the alcohol. "You just can't lose sight of what the main goal is. This is great but this isn't our main goal."

Notes On A Sidekick

• No one in the Mets' clubhouse got drenched more than WABC's Jenna Wolfe, whose white shirt and gray jacket looked as if it had been through a wet t-shirt contest, which was surely the goal of the giggling Mets players as they continued to drench her as she interviewed players. "Why me?" she asked Duaner Sanchez at one point. "I didn't even play."

• The champagne of choice for the Mets was Barefoot Bubbly, which has got to be the cheapest champagne on the market, or at least the one with the worst name. It certainly burned the eyes of every player, who wasn't smart enough to wear goggles like Sanchez.

• Dodgers fans are notorious for being late, but many of the 56,293 were later than usual as their was bumper to bumper traffic coming into the ballpark as late as the fifth inning as there were two college football games a hockey game and a couple of street festivals taking place around Los Angeles on Saturday.

• Many Mets players were excited that they would get to watch football on Sunday instead of getting ready for Game 4. "I'm going to get to watch the Patriots," said Glavine. "That will be nice. I might even get to make a trip top Atlanta to see the family before we play again."

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