Play It Forward: April 1-7 on your sports calendar: The MLB launch, the Final Four, Lakers-Clippers, Kings-Ducks, Santa Anita Derby … need anything else?

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)


MLB: Dodgers vs. San Francisco, Dodger Stadium:
Monday at 1 p.m., Prime, ESPN
Tuesday at 7 p.m. , Prime
Wednesday at 7 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN2:
They’ve carved a new “LA” logo into the center field grass, re calibrated the scoreboards, upgraded the concession stands, set up kid-friendly areas and . . . oh, right, spent a Ravine-load of cash on a roster upgrades. So now we’ve got this giddy Guggenheim ownership group committed to a giant $213 million payroll (compared to $95 mil and change a year ago), and they’ll happily roll it out against a Giant payroll of $137 million (a $20 million upgrade over a year ago) that supports a loose collection of players who just won their second World Series title in three years. The latest came, somehow, without Juan Uribe. San Francisco’s gamep lan has come with outstanding pitching (all throwing to defending NL MVP Buster Posey, who has a new nine-year contract). It starts with Matt Cain in the opener against Clayton Kershaw (making his third Day 1 start in a row), while Madison Bumgarner is up for Game 2 against Hyun-Jin Ryu and former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum takes his new short haircut against Josh Beckett in the finale. Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong are spared.

MLB: Angels at Texas:
Friday at 11 a.m., FSW
Saturday at 1 p.m., Channel 11
Sunday at 5 p.m., ESPN2:

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, left, and teammate first baseman Albert Pujols, right, joke around before an exhibition game in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

How can you not look ahead to Josh Hamilton’s return to Arlington, Tex., to face the team that gave up on him for giving up on them? So much intrigue already that the networks take over for the last two games of the series. This is also the Rangers’ home opening series after playing three in Houston. There’s even more drama for those wondering if Nolan Ryan will even show up by the Sunday finale, where Jered Weaver should circle back to pitch for the Angels after his Opening Day start.

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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Q and A: Drew Carey won’t get carried away with high-priced predictions, right or wrong, about the Cleveland Indians for 2013

Let’s dispel the myth right here: Drew Carey has no ancestral link to the late Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray. They may spill their beers the same, but they spell their names slightly different.

Drew Carey, as he cheered for Ohio State during its win over Arizona on Thursday during the NCAA West Region at Staples Center.

If the price were right, perhaps the reigning master of ceremonies for CBS’ “The Price Is Right” would consider changing that.

The 54-year-old Cleveland native has been the right guy to officiate the Showcase Showdowns five days a week since Bob Barker retired in 2007. They tape the shows at CBS Television Studios in L.A. – putting Carey in constant contact with Dodgers and Angels fans, many of them jumping up and down just for the right to stand next to him on the stage.

Carey, a world soccer fan whose sports connection also includes being part owner of the Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, filled us in on how he sees this 2013 season playing out for his beloved Indians:

QUESTION: Finish this sentence: The Cleveland Indians will win the World Series this season if …. ?
ANSWER: The Browns win the Super Bowl and the Cavs win the NBA Championship.

Q: Of all the Indians’ off-season pickups, Nick Swisher was one of the biggest, coming over from the Yankees. Maybe we can test your ad-lib abilities: Use the word Nick or Swisher in a sentence without offending anyone?
A: “Dagnabit! I just nicked my swisher!” Continue reading

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From concessions to concourse to reconstructed restrooms and big boy bobbles, a Dodger Stadium worthy of praise for Opening Day

Construction work continues Friday on Dodger Stadium’s new top-of-the-park souvenir stand, even as Dodgers were hours from playing their exhibition game against the Angels.

Matt Kemp poked his head out of the Dodgers’ dugout on Friday afternoon, moments after being one of the first to try out the team’s new underground batting cages.

He looked up at the new giant videoscreen in right field and asked, “What’s that thing for underneath.”

He was pointing to another strip of electronic gadgetry under the screen, which looked like where the score by innings might be posted.

“Who knows?” replied Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner.  “Like everything else, we’ll soon find out.”

The Dodgers’ roster received some notable upgrades this past off season, thanks to the infusion of payroll by the Guggenheim ownership group.

Fittingly, the face lift that a fleet of fork-lift trucks and other earth-moving machines were able to pull off on Dodger Stadium over the winter is as equally if not more impressive, considering the time restraints that restrict such restructuring on a place that’s held its beauty for more than 50 years.

What’s old looks new, and what’s new looks 1960s era retro.

Welcome back to the future.

A stadium worker cleans up the “42” monument for Jackie Robinson that is near the entrance to the top level at Dodger Stadium.

Those fans fortunate enough to have an Opening Day ticket to take in Monday’s  Dodgers-Giants game at Chavez Ravine, one that’s expected to draw a capacity of 56,000 for the usual array of bunting, balloons and beach balls,  will experience even a more polished product than was on display Friday when the first and only exhibition game was played there so far this season.

During a five-month window, the team rushed through a $100-million-plus retrograde. You only wish your kitchen remodel had gone as fast and efficiently. Continue reading

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Where there’s no smoke, there’s a smoke screen as to why UCLA doesn’t have a basketball coach yet

Puffs of blue-and-white smoke have yet to come out of the Pauley Pavilion chimney.

If and when they do, how can we be sure Nike doesn’t buy the rights to it and add some God-awful camouflage coloring just to mess with our up-to-the-nanosecond Twitter reports?

It’s been a difficult week trying to keep track of the Mark Few and far between who may or may not be interested in the UCLA men’s collegiate basketball head coaching position.

Smart move by Shaka Smart to stick at VCU, which is almost UCLA spelled backwards.

Even-keel Brad Stevens knew it was best to keep his services at Butler. Service with a smile and a towel draped over your bent right forearm, you constant overachiever.

Tubby Smith went straight from being let go at Minnesota – after he knocked UCLA out of the big dance – and chugged over to an interview at Texas Tech, a place that once thought Bob Knight would be the answer to their mess.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to declare his interest in the job, and it was the best joke told on the show all night.

Ed O’Bannon, selling cars in the Nevada desert, went on a national radio show the other day and endorsed former teammates Tyus Edney and Cameron Dollar for the job. Again, this is coming from a car salesman.

What’s Larry Brown up to these days? Doesn’t Jim Harrick have some friends up at Monty’s who owe him a few favors? Continue reading

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A NASCAR novela, with extra hot sauce

Mexican actress Kate Del Castillo, who produces and stars in a new TV series aimed at the Latino market, poses at Auto Club Speedway, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race auto race was held in Fontana. Del Castillo plays Ela Rivella, a sexy, headstrong race car driver in the glamorous, high-stakes world of cutthroat competition and danger, in a novela that is co-produced by Univision and NASCAR to put the down-home American sport of stock car racing in front of millions of Spanish-speaking viewers who might have never watched a NASCAR race. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

By Greg Beacham
The Associated Press

FONTANA — Ela Rivella is a sexy, headstrong race car driver torn between two racing brothers in a glamorous, high-stakes world of cutthroat competition and danger. Ela loved Jordi Fernandez until jealousy drove them apart, and now she’s irresistibly drawn to Checo, whose clandestine romance with Ela could drive Jordi to violence.

Sound like a soap opera? Maybe some particularly ambitious Formula One fan fiction?

It’s an actual novela — the wildly popular short-run series that flood the Latino television market in North America and beyond — co-produced by Univision and NASCAR to put the down-home American sport of stock car racing in front of millions of Spanish-speaking viewers who might have never watched a NASCAR race.

This remarkable blend of speed and cheese will debut on Univision’s website in a series of five- to seven-minute episodes starting in April before appearing on Univision on May 5. Called “Arranque de Pasión, La Historia de Ela,” it’s an audacious attempt to expand the NASCAR brand into the growing Latino population through a particular form of storytelling. Continue reading

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