Ken Gurnick's post on mlb.com recapped minor league mini-camp, a new addition to the Dodger winter regimen. Mini-camp consists of morning workouts and afternoon "classroom sessions" given by number of different guest speakers, ranging from organization representatives like Duke Snider, celebrities like John Wooden, and Jim Hill.
"The idea," said [Asst GM for Player Development De Jon] Watson, "is to bring in guys recently promoted to the 40-man roster and the core of our younger players who might reach the Major Leagues in 2008 or 2009 and get them prepared and accustomed to the surroundings -- where to go to eat, how to get into the ballpark. It can be overwhelming and intimidating the first time. We're trying to create a comfort level and make the transition easier."
I had to chuckle when reading "how to get into the ballpark" was "overwhelming and intimidating." Longtime SoSG readers know how dissatisfied we are with the convoluted and inefficient parking lot system introduced, to widespread derision, by Frank McCourt last year. I haven't seen any news that McCourt's Labyrinth (sounds like a Guillermo Del Toro movie) will be back for 2008, but I am not at all hopeful when I hear that the organization feels the need to hold a classroom training session to teach its own players how to navigate their way to the Stadium.
But rather than get (further) sidetracked on the parking point (like many a motorist at Dodger Stadium, I might add), I'd like to opine on my favorite pre-Dodger game eating establishment: Philippe the Original. In my family it was known as "Philippe's" and on those special occasions before Dodger games (which meant, if we made it to the stadium well ahead of time), my father would stop at the corner of Ord and Alameda and take us all in to get a French Dip sandwich from the birthplace of the French Dip.
All of the French Dip sandwiches are great, but I was always partial to the pork sandwich until I read a review stating the little-known secret was the lamb sandwich with the blue cheese sprinkled on top. That one is amazing too. Philippe has a long menu of assorted sides and a surprisingly long wine list (I seem to recall a Cakebread chardonnay and a Silver Oak cabernet are on the list, which is stunning). And it must be topped off with a slice of pie.
The food was always great--now that I'm older, I'm also especially fond of the 10-cent cups of coffee--but the real magic of Philippe is the proletarian nature of the whole joint, most reflected in the crowd of its diners. There, seated in rows of long communal tables and short stools, sit Los Angeles locals of all races, socioeconomic levels, backgrounds, professions, and ages. People at each table share the horseradish mustard, as well as conversation, usually about the Dodgers. And floors are littered with a fine layer of sawdust that has probably been there for generations. In fact, replace "sawdust" with "peanut shells", and what you've got is basically the crowd and environment at Dodger Stadium. There are no boundaries or divides among Dodger fans. And it's great.
Some day, I'll come with a hammer and chisel and try and etch out my name on one of the brick walls in one of the upstairs dining rooms. Like I would ever be that early for a Dodger game, right?
P.S. As I am always on the hunt for great eats, please comment with your own pre-Dodger game suggestions...