Dodger Stadium’s flickering LED lights annoy Diamondbacks manager and players

For months, the Major League Baseball universe wondered how the new rules for the 2023 season — most notably the implementation of a pitch clock — would affect games. Would they go too fast? Would players adjust? Is it all too much at once? It was the top storyline across the majors for Thursday’s opening day.

Another unveiling, however, snatched center stage and miffed the visitors at Dodger Stadium on Thursday: the ballpark’s new lights.

The fresh LED lights flickered or dimmed at various points during the Dodgers’ 8-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. When Dodgers rookie James Outman hit a home run. When the Diamondbacks made a pitching change. While Diamondbacks relievers warmed up. It was impossible not to notice.

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo noticed and took issue with two of the light shows.

The first one was in the fifth inning, when Will Smith poked an RBI single to right field before the lights dimmed and flickered while Jake McCarthy fielded the ball and threw it back into the infield.

“They were celebrating a little too early,” Smith said.

The second problematic light display came during the eighth inning, when Diamondbacks reliever Carlos Vargas complained to home plate umpire Marvin Hudson about the lights flickering as he warmed up on the mound before his major-league debut. Hudson immediately turned to the light operators up above home plate and signaled to turn the lights on.

Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo walks to the dugout before a spring game against the Dodgers in March.

(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

“I wasn’t too pleased about that,” Lovullo said. “It’s the first game for everybody. Hopefully they figure it out. I’ll definitely bring it up with my group here in the front office here and just see what they think about doing. I don’t think anything was done maliciously. I just think they hit the wrong button at the wrong time and they need to be better at that.”

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Zac Gallen was on the mound for the Diamondbacks for Smith’s single. He was perplexed after the game.

“Is that like scheduled? Is that a thing that they’re doing?” Gallen said. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen that before. I was kind of shocked. I mean, it doesn’t seem like it would be something that MLB’s going to allow. I did notice that.

“But, I mean, it is what it is. It seems like it might be a disadvantage. the ball’s coming back in the infield and it’s dark out there. I mean, it’s the home crowd, they’re going to do what they can for the advantage. We’ll see what happens with that.”

The Dodgers replaced the ballpark’s lights for the first time since it opened in 1962 with LED bulbs during the offseason. The organization heralded the change as energy efficient and an upgrade that would enhance the fan experience. They’re brighter. They can turn on and off instantly with full color. It was a step forward.

“You can watch baseball and go to a nightclub,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said at FanFest in January. “It’s great. Every night here is fun, but this year is going to be more fun than ever.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a different take on the lights after his first Club Chavez Ravine experience.

“I loved them,” Roberts said. “The lights were amazing. In the middle of a play, we got a little aggressive with the dimmers. But better them than us.”

The lights didn’t affect the game’s outcome. The Dodgers, as Lovullo noted, beat the Diamondbacks “fair and square.” But on a historic night at Dodger Stadium, the first with a pitch clock in a game that mattered, the lights were the most jarring change from years past.

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“I guess there’s another advantage to playing at Dodger Stadium,” Roberts said.

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