From the casual observer to the most die-hard of fans, Buffalo Wild Wings in Santa Maria was enveloped in a sea of blue and white Tuesday night, as the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series.

For more than two-and-a-half hours, fans cheered and booed as the Boys in Blue fought to secure a 3-1 victory over their opponents in what was their first World Series appearance since 1988.

While restaurant staff have kept busy since their late-September opening, General Manager Doug Lindsay said they've experienced an increase in the number of diners as the Dodgers have battled through the postseason.

"There are a lot of Dodgers fans who come here for the atmosphere and excitement -- they hear the people cheer and get excited," he said. "We expect even more people to show up now that they've made it to the World Series."

Scott Maris, 26, had already planted himself at the center of the bar as fans and patrons began to trickle into the restaurant around 4:30 p.m. -- half an hour before the first pitch. Like many crowding the restaurant, Maris is a new generation of Dodgers fan.

Born after their historic 1988 season, when Tommy Lasorda, Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser led the Boys in Blue to a 4-1 World Series championship over the Oakland Athletics, yet young enough to see them struggle against Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs, Maris had yet to see the team take the plate at a World Series. Deprived of that, Maris said the crowning moment for him as a fan was witnessing Shawn Green's record-tying performance against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2002.

Now, with the Dodgers in the championship, Maris hopes to have a new favorite memory: watching the team win.

"It's the first time I get to see them in a World Series game -- it's pretty exciting," he said. "Every year, you always have a team that's on fire. This year, the Dodgers seem to have that: The pitching is better, the hitting is better -- they're more consistent overall, and it's paid off."

Noting that a four-game sweep would be great but not wanting to discount the Astros' chances, Maris thinks the Dodgers will bring it back home and take the championship in six games.

Across the room, Kent Velasquez, 47, and his daughter, Chloe, settled into a table just before the first pitch. While Chloe wanted to see her favorite player, Corey Seager, take the plate, Kent said Tuesday night's game capped off a 29-year drought of postseason hopes for the Dodgers. He grew up watching the team, he said, and fondly recalled watching Kirk Gibson lead the team to victory in 1988.

With Chloe by his side, he hopes to witness the Dodgers make history again with what will be their seventh World Series championship.

"They've got better hitting and better pitching this year," he said. "They've just got it -- like an 'Eye of the Tiger,' they're going all the way."

Unlike Maris, Kent is more confident in the team's prowess and called the series for the Dodgers in five games.

A 1-2-3 top of the first by ace Clayton Kershaw was met with claps and cheers from the crowd. As many began to settle in and submit their orders before the game picked up, center fielder Chris Taylor took the plate for a lead-off home run at the bottom of the first to put the Dodgers on the board early. Cheers and shouts could be heard around the restaurant, and some took to their feet to celebrate the early lead.

"Oh, my God," a man yelled from the back, as it became apparent that Taylor's more than 400-foot shot to deep left field would clear the wall.

"Welcome to Los Angeles," another added.

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From the corner of the bar, Jason Lock, a 44-year-old lifelong fan, watched and cheered as Taylor rounded home. Like Kent Vasquez, the 1988 season is fresh in his mind and he hopes the current lineup can re-create that magic.

"I'm glad that the Dodgers were able to come back to the World Series," he said. "I hope they can shut them out by the fourth game and celebrate when they get back."

While a relatively quiet second and third inning kept fans in their seats, a big hit at the top of the fourth by third baseman Alex Bregman put the Astros on the board. Between several audible moans and groans, a lone diner broke through with claps and cheers. He said he's not cheering for the Astros because he's a fan; he's cheering because he's a Dodgers fan-hater.

"It took them 29 years to get to the [World Series]," he said, poking fun at his two friends clad in Dodgers gear. "How sad is that."

Morale among Dodgers fans dipped following Bregman's big hit. Many turned their attention to their food or phones to distract themselves from the tied game. An uneventful fifth inning on both sides and 1-2 setup at the bottom of the sixth gave fans little hope for a tiebreaker.

With two outs and Taylor on first, third baseman Justin Turner managed to come out from behind the count and push the Dodgers over with a two-run shot to center field.

The crowd exploded. Maris cheered and clapped with others. Lock gave the man sitting next to him a high-five. Though Kent Vasquez and his daughter had already left, the bar, now packed to capacity, was more alive than ever -- Turner's two-run shot showed them (and numerous fans across the country) that the dream is far from over.

This article has been updated to correct a name change.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga


Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.