LOS ANGELES -- Alyssa Milano, a die-hard Dodgers fan, couldn't make Opening Day at Dodger Stadium last week. She was working on her new show, "Romantically Challenged," which premieres Monday night on ABC, and had to watch the game at home instead of at the ballpark. So I had an extra Dodger Dog in Milano's honor and talked to her about the upcoming season, why she dated so many pitchers and if the Dodgers' ownership situation is bringing the team down.
Markazi: Do you have any traditions or superstitions when you come to a game?
Milano: I do. When I go down the stairs into the Dugout Club, there's a big picture of Jackie Robinson and I rub his belly four times. That's my superstition. ... I don't even remember how that started. I've been doing it since the first year I got season tickets which was seven years ago. It's been going almost a decade now so I'm going to keep it going.
Markazi: This year's Dodgers team might need some good luck to get back to the NLCS again. What's your take on this team after one week?
Milano: Well, the past two years I've come in pretty pessimistic only because I don't remember the last time we had a true ace and it sure would be nice to have someone you could hand the ball to in a high-pressure, big-game situation. Like everyone else I'm of the belief that pitching wins championships. So I go into the season saying we'll make the best of what we have. This is our team and we'll be OK but always in the back of my mind is the thought that our pitching staff won't hold it together.
Markazi: Before you got married last year the old joke was you had dated quite a pitching staff after going out with Brad Penny, Carl Pavano and Barry Zito. Do you think there was something about pitchers you were into or was their position purely a coincidence?
Milano: No, I think they were all very, very different. Going to Dodgers games was my social life and is my social life so I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of the players and since I wasn't meeting men elsewhere I wound up dating a few guys.
Markazi: Does that change how you watch the game at all when you're going out with the player?
Milano: You get an insider's perspective that is cool but also you're much more aware of the struggles the players go through and how hard that job really is after your time in a relationship with them and how stressful their job was. Before that I had this perspective that they're playing a little boy's game. I wish I could play a game for a living and be outside all the time. I couldn't quite wrap my head around how hard the pressure was so I do think I have a different type of appreciation for what they do.
Markazi: You're probably used to seeing yourself on TMZ and in the tabloids but what's it like seeing the owners of the Dodgers on there as the McCourts go through their messy divorce?
Milano: How weird is that?
Markazi: It's really weird actually. What's your take on that whole situation?
Milano: I think it hurt the team. It hurt my perception of our ownership. I don't want to know that business. I don't want to know that and I don't want to know that it's going to affect our team financially. ... I just think it's offensive. I think the whole situation is really sad and really ugly.
Markazi: Your new show is called "Romantically Challenged" and you have a lot of romantic experience with pro athletes. Do you think they're romantically challenged?
Milano: I don't think it's any harder than any other career. I think the trick to being romantically successful is finding the right person. I don't think it matters what you do or what the other person does. I think if you find the right person who loves you for what you do rather than resent you for it I think you'll have a good chance for success. I think romance is really hard. ... The reason I love the show so much is everyone can relate. Everyone can relate to being romantically challenged at some point in their life.
Markazi: Matt Kemp is currently in a high-profile relationship with Rihanna, who is photographed whenever she comes to the ballpark to watch him play. How did you handle that when you were dating a player and what advice would you give to them on handling the attention their relationship is getting?
Milano: I think the most important thing in any high-profile relationship is to always come from a place of honesty and integrity. Keep certain things sacred because it's very easy to feel that your relationship becomes everyone else's and if you don't have certain things that you keep sacred it's very easy to feel overwhelmed and the relationship becomes bigger than the two of you. I think the most important thing is to keep certain things for only the two of you.
Markazi: You're also a hockey fan too and have gone to a few Kings games this season. What's your take on them returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs for first time in eight years?
Milano: Yes, I'm a big Kings fan. I'm friends with Luc Robitaille and we were talking awhile back and he said this team is going to be good and I thought he was crazy but they've been playing great. The beginning of this year felt different for me as a Kings fan. It's just been so much fun watching them play and finally doing so well. It's a great feeling to see them back in the playoffs.
Markazi: How would you compare going to a Kings game as opposed to a Dodgers game?
Milano: Going to a baseball game is more of a community feeling. I don't know where else we have that community feeling other than church and it's also a social experience. It's the feeling of summer coming and the pace of the game is leisurely and makes it easy to socialize. It feels like you're actually able to communicate with the people you brought to the game. It's funny because my dad, who was a die-hard Brooklyn Dodgers fan and has been heartbroken by the Dodgers since he was a little boy, he'll come to the games and yell. He won't heckle but he's very passionate about his Dodgers and I'll be like, "God, give it a rest, I can't hear you." Then we'll go to a Kings game and I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and cursing people out. I feel my blood pressure raising. That's the biggest difference. At a Dodgers game, I'm a spectator and socializing and at a hockey game I could go alone and scream and have an amazing experience but a different experience.
Markazi: What's your favorite experience at Dodger Stadium?
Milano: Most recently it was probably Manny's grand slam game. I don't ever remember Dodger Stadium ever being that loud and I've been going to games for a while.
Markazi: Did your perception of him change last season when he was suspended for violating baseball's drug policy?
Milano: I think the interesting lesson for me was it was very easy for me to pass judgment on guys when they weren't on my team and when it happened to someone that was on my team, I was sad obviously but I was a lot more forgiving because he was a Dodger.
Markazi: I noticed Joe Torre wrote the forward for your book, "Safe at Home." What kind of relationship do you have with him?
Milano: I've actually never met him. Isn't that crazy?
Markazi: But he wrote the forward to your book?
Milano: When I finished the book and I was talking to my editor about who I would love to have write the forward Joe was the first person that came to mind because his journey from New York to Los Angeles was sort of similar to mine. It just made sense to me. We were lucky enough to send him the first chapter and the last chapter because those two chapters summarized the heart of the book for me and he was nice enough to read it and write the forward but I still haven't met him.
Arash Markazi is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.