Aside from the outcome of today's game, the home opener at Dodger Stadium was another wonderful day at the ballpark. Perfect blue skies, perfect 64-degree weather, and all the pomp and circumstance one would expect from Dodger Stadium on such a day. This was my sixth consecutive home opener and it was fun to see the new changes in store for fans this year.
First off, it's hard not to miss the large "team stores" in right and left fields, which are tent-like quasi-portable structures that extend from the bottom of the concourses out into the parking lot. They have also moved the field level concourse gates out to accommodate these stores (i.e., the tents are technically "inside" the stadium gates, and one can only enter the stores after passing through the turnstiles). It is nice to have auxiliary places to purchase Dodger stuff besides the Top of the Park store, but they really should have thought about air conditioning, as the left-field team store felt like a greenhouse inside. Perhaps Frank can utilize the interior spaces as nurseries in the offseason. I should also note that this shot settles which Dodger players will adorn the two largest walls in Dodger Stadium (the ones at the end of the concourses)--both walls are blank, and the wall beneath is in pretty hideous condition. Perhaps this is Ned Colletti's way of saying "no one is safe"?
I also happened to come across Nettie Berkson, who as mentioned here before was attending her 50th straight home opener. The CW network was interviewing Nettie as she was surrounded by family members from many generations.
But that wasn't my only celebrity! I also saw Frankie McCourt himself, as well as Ned Colletti (who stopped to take a picture with me in the concourse). When I tried to ask him about why we signed Juan Pierre though, Ned ran off screaming, so this was the only shot I got.
Dodger Stadium also has some new sponsors, notably Del Taco and Trader Joe's (New Era Caps sponsored batting practice, whatever the hell that gets them (given LA fans' penchant for showing up right at the first pitch)). Looking forward to replacing some of those tired Aflac retread ads with Del Taco Dan this year.
The stadium also had on display this cool vintage Dodgers ice cream truck. It was painted white with a retro Dodgers logo all over it, and it appeared to have been used at some point. People were taking pictures in front of it as if it was a museum piece (it did look rather nice). I too took a shot of this, but since I'm standing in front of it I can't upload it here anonymously. I'll have to try and catch a shot again later (if it's there beyond opening day).
Also of note are the new color screens along the outfield wall in right and left field. They replace the old orange-LED screens that used to sit there. I had thought they were pretty nice (bright and readable even in a day game), until I saw the right field one take a bite out of Matt Kemp's shoulder during the game. Until I hear how Kemp is, I'll reserve judgment on the screens. It is nice to see the stats on the batter (on the left field one) and the pitcher (on the right field one) during the at-bat, and the pitcher's board also lists the type of pitch and the speed (echoing the screen underneath Diamond Vision). The CPK meter is still up as well, underneath the large right field scoreboard.
Batboys for the 2007 season have their names on their uniforms, which I think is taking the names-on-uniforms thing a bit too far. Now, when they pick up an errant foul ball against the screen, fans will be screaming "Steeeeeeeeve!" at the top of their lungs in attempts to get a souvenir. As someone named Steve, I'm going to find this very annoying this season, so I'll have to bring balls of my own to chuck at the heads of the idiot beggar fans.
And the pre-game ceremonies were outstanding, starting the moment they got adolescent country music singer Taylor Swift off the field. Why Los Angeles, which recently shuttered its only country music station, would care about Taylor Swift is beyond me. Maybe the market research indicated that there would be a couple of fans in attendance from the 909? In any event, any fans who hadn't tuned her out after she opened her set with Eminem's "Lose Yourself" (trust me, it was awful) were lost when Swift said something about her second song being written "last year when she was back in high school." Uh, yeah. "Teddy Texted Me in Math Class, Then Left Me for the Rodeo" is not exactly poetic verse. But after Swift left, Navy paratroopers came hurtling down (always cool) and the flag was unfurled for God Bless America and the national anthem, and all was good. All except one minor hiccup--the announcer seemed to have a problem during the starting lineup introductions, when the loudspeakers went quit for five minutes and Nancy B. filled the gap admirably while both teams stood around on the field. So the flyover from the fighter pilots came over much, much earlier than the end of the national anthem. So much for military precision, I suppose.
And how could I forget the highlight, my throwing out of the ceremonial first pitch? It was nice to hear the crowd so appreciative of my rookie season 25 years ago. I love the LA fans. That's me in the dark suit, with the first shot of me on the field and the second shot of Diamond Vision as I throw the first pitch to Mike Lieberthal (it was a strike, by the way, and the field-level fans behind Lieberthal did not need to duck and cover). All that is left was to play ball!
I'll leave the post-game recap to another post, including how the stadium went nuts when Jason Schmidt clocked a game-tying home run with his first at bat (that ball was a rocket, too). Opening Day at Dodger Stadium is always a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
Oh yeah, three other things. First, parking did seem a little less chaotic getting in (there certainly are tons of attendants pointing you around), but it was a disaster leaving. This may have been due to Opening Day, but I noticed as I exited the stadium that they had stacked a line of cars in the second lane of the inner ring. This was very bizarre, for if you were trying to exit the stadium (by exiting the ring to the left), you couldn't do it at many of the regular exits due to this random ring of parked cars. Why they didn't stack this ring against the outside circumference of the ring, I don't understand. I'll give the parking staff a break since Opening Day is always crazy (I distinctly remember one time I was forced to park above the Think Blue sign and run down the hill in wingtips and a suit), so I'll check out the parking scene again later this week.
Secondly, the lines for the concession stands were worse than ever. Clearly McCourt has done nothing to allow either quick transactions at the registers, nor traffic flow on the concourse. It's a mess (I was on field level for this game), particularly watching things like attendants holding up credit cards as the screen freezes on "processing...", or even a beer server who was literally fighting to open his cash register drawer. And the bathroom lines--don't get me started. But at least you can still hear the dulcet tones of Vin Scully's voice while standing at the urinal.
Finally, the magnet schedule this year is printed on the thinnest magnet ever. It has the attracting power of a turnip. Unlike past years in which fans were showered with posters, baseball cards, flyers, and the schedule magnet, this year's Opening Day giveaway consisted of just this flimsy magnet and a booklet with every team's schedule calendar. Yawn. Baseball must be having a really tough revenue year (a sorry financial state to which we've alluded in prior posts).
- 5 beers consumed at the stadium
- 1 Dodger Dog consumed at the stadium
- 1 wins the hat shuffle (still annoyingly sponsored by Disney, with LA hats that have mouse ears)
- The Coca-Cola Quiz contestant actually...chose the right answer! Imagine that!
- Blue car wins the dot race
- SoSG's record at 2007 Dodger games falls to 1-1
UPDATE (11:49P): Bill Plaschke is all over the parking problems, and also adds Dodger Dog shortages to the list of stadium maladies today. Coupled with a quick quip from Dodger Thoughts, SoSG believes that Drew McCourt must be behind this fiasco as well. Hopefully they'll correct the parking issues, starting by scrapping the whole damn plan soon.