Who Are the Notable Figures Behind Home Plate at Dodgers Games?

In this screen shot from the Fox TV broadcast of the World Series, you can spot four desert dignitaries in the stands: TV personality Mary Hart, her husband Burt Sugarman, Paul Tollett, the man behind the Coaachella music festival, and Harold Matzner, the man who brings you the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published Oct. 26, 2017. We thought we’d republish it just in case you’re watching Friday night’s NLDS game between the Dodgers and Nationals. Do you see any familiar faces sitting behind home plate?

When you’re watching a Dodgers’ World Series game on TV, don’t you find yourself wondering who those lucky fans are sitting directly behind home plate? They seem to get more screen time than Clayton Kershaw or Yasiel Puig. Every pitch, their faces appear on the screen, and every pitch, we can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Those seats must come with a hefty price tag, and getting them usually requires connections most of us don’t have.

But, believe it or not, if you live in Palm Springs, you might have a shot at getting to know somebody who can help you score those coveted seats. It turns out that some of the people in that elite section behind home plate have ties to the valley’s most significant events.

Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman

Mary Hart hosts the Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016.

One of the most recognizable figures in that section is Mary Hart. As a longtime TV personality, Mary is a staunch Dodgers fan who is often seen in the front row, proudly wearing her Dodgers T-Shirt. Whenever the camera captures the traditional behind-the-pitcher angle, you can spot Mary to the right of the batter. Alongside her is her husband, television producer Burt Sugarman. They aren’t sporadic attendees; these seats are their regular-season favorites. As La Quinta residents, many locals know Mary best as the annual emcee of the red carpet gala for the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

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Harold Matzner

Film festival chairman Harold Matzner, seen at his Palm Springs home in 2016, guides the board that sets policy for the Palm Springs International ShortFest.

Another familiar face within the section is Harold Matzner, the chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Matzner can be seen sitting contemplatively in his signature all-black attire, with his hand on his chin, in the fifth row just above the batter. As a Palm Springs businessman and philanthropist, Matzner plays a crucial role in organizing the star-studded festival.

Paul Tollett

Matzner isn’t the only influential figure attending these games. Seated right behind Burt Sugarman, you’ll find Paul Tollett, the President and CEO of Golden Voice, and the mastermind behind the annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival.

Paul Tollett, president of Goldenvoice, orchestrated the concept for Desert Trip

Aftab Dada

To the right of Matzner, engrossed in his phone, you’ll spot Aftab Dada, the longtime general manager of the Hilton Palm Springs. Dada has been a key figure in the desert’s tourism and hospitality industry for years.

Aftab Dada

While the Fox broadcast always focuses on the big-name celebrities in attendance, they also sneak in a few minor celebrities who happen to have connections to Fox shows. But for us, the local viewers, it’s the desert celebrities who catch our attention. It’s almost amusing how frequently they appear on the screen. We find ourselves playing a game within the game – guessing who they might be talking to, who stayed for the entire game, or even what toppings they have on their nachos.

So, if the World Series goes to Game 6 and the Astros and Dodgers return to L.A., make sure to keep an eye on the action behind home plate. You might spot someone you know – maybe even your neighbor. Who knows? Maybe you can even ask them for tickets to Game 7.

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