Tuesday, April 15, 2008

One More Recap of Dodgers' Blogger Night at the Suites

Now that I've completely sobered up from my weekend euphoria, I see that I'm the last to post my perspective and recap of the Dodger blogger evening at the Dodger Suite (Delino is still drunk, so he doesn't count). Erin over at beantownwest had a pretty thorough play by play, and Chris over at dodgerfan.net also scribed his thoughts, both of which earned them a new slot in our blogroll. And as Orel already mentioned, Trolley Dodger and SoSG t-shirt owner Robert Daeley, Dodger Dugouter Robert Timm, and Dodger Blue Heaven dreamer Ernest all gave their takes on the night that Dodger Vice President of Public Relations Josh Rawitch put together.

Shoot, even Orel did two posts on the evening. Orel usually spends his weekends chained to the Smith-Corona (which he then scans into blogger), so I wasn't surprised. I did post a thank you note, but that's it.

So here it is. No pithy "five points I've learned" synthesis here; I'm just going chronologically.

Getting There Is Half the Fun. Over the weekend, I told the story of my Friday night to a friend who basically ripped me one for getting there late. "You were late to the suites?", he asked, incredulous. Not only late for the suites, we were so late that we entered the suite in the middle of Ned Colletti's speech. Nice. While everyone else was sitting in rapt attention, we stumbled into the suite like a bunch of idiots. This was really embarrassing, and we were fortunate that Chris (who suggested the evening) or Josh didn't hurl us down into the loge level head-first.

But it wasn't entirely our fault. See, Rawitch had given us the secret password to give to the knight guarding the Elysian Park gate, which saved us the $15 toll. But from that point on we had to convince not one, not two, but three different parking attendants why we were heading for Lot P without one of those preferred parking tickets (which was not given to us at the guard station). It was kind of a pain persuading each stop along the way (Orel channeled Bill Bixby by repeating, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."), but we thought the phalanx of bulwarks that we had to circumvent represented the labors that we three Hercules had to achieve to gain access to the Suites.

No, even with these trials, we were on time. What really stopped us was the bonehead at the Premium Will Call booth (only one window, unfortunately), who pulled out every credit card that he and his wife and seven-year-old daughter had in the course of twenty minutes, as he flailed around looking for his Ticketmaster receipt. Hey buddy, bring your goddamn receipt next time, or at least have your designated credit card at the ready rather than sending your daughter running all over the parking lot to find your wife. Stuck behind this troll (as well as Mr. Red Knit Tie Guy), we never had a shot at making the suite on time. Our fault for not factoring this in, but depressing nonetheless.

The Entrance. So back to our entrance to Suite #232. As the last group in, it was clear that all the other bloggers had introduced themselves to each other, so we were the pariahs. We politely listened to the rest of Ned's chat for about 15 minutes, wondering if his alligator cowboy boots were in fact real. Ned reiterated to the three of us what he told to notepad-toting Erin, that his words were off the record, so I can't get into details about the last hurdles to that A-Rod for Juan Pierre deal that he's finishing up. But as others have said, Colletti was polite and cordial but also seemed to have an edge in his voice that reflected the pressures of a MLB GM. Luckily, he didn't put said boots up our asses as we shook his hand when he finished his chat.

The Veil of Anonymity, Pierced. So then I meandered over to the Dodger Dog part of the buffet table, and bumped into Ernest. The conversation went something like this:

"Hi, I'm Ernest."
"Hi Ernest, I'm Bob."
"Bob? Are you associated with a Dodgers blog?"
"Well, some have referred to me as Steve Sax,..."
(shout from someone else in the room, as Ernest broke out into a big smile)"THE SONS ARE HERE!"

Honestly, that was one of the funniest moments I've had involving this blog, and it was well-timed as it helped myself, Orel, and Delino escape from the funk caused by our tardiness. And, as Orel already wrote, all the other bloggers were nice, funny, and shared in their passion for the Dodgers. It was a pleasure talking with everyone throughout the course of the evening. I counted two bloggers who humped it up to Chavez Ravine from behind the Orange curtain, which was impressive. Robert Daeley thanked us for the shirt he won (in last year's "Olmedo Saenz Pavilion Deadpool" contest). Robert Timm and I found out we had something in common with our kids (to which I deliberately won't refer here). And it was nice to see Erin mention the beer I was happy to buy for her, as this keeps me one leg up on Orel in our individual courtship attempts. Sax 1, Orel 0.

But also impressive, and I can say this now that everyone else as already posted on this, is that no other blogger gave up our identities on their blog, even though we forgot to ask everyone to please maintain our anonymity. All the other bloggers, without prompting, have played along, especially Trolley Dodger. And for that, I thank my brethren and tip my cap in appreciation (I need this day job).

McCourt, Frankly. Frank McCourt's visit had to be at least 45 minutes long, which was unbelievable given the priorities that man must have. He clearly relishes his position as the owner and Chairman of the Dodgers, and he went into his three-point vision for the Dodgers comfortably, covering his progress toward and commitment to the team, the fans' experience, and the community. He described the monumental efforts to redo the field level concourses (which I have to admit do look impressive this year), as well as the redesigned mens bathrooms. I can't recall how many gallons of water the flush-free urinals will save (McCourt recited the number off the top of his head), but I am pleased not to have a stadium restroom experience that seems like pissing in the back alley of a third-world country (note our urinals video posting).

On the parking initiative, McCourt started to fly a little bit off the rails, from my opinion. We challenged him a little bit on the public transportation issue, to which he replied that it wasn't a Dodgers problem but was a city problem, and when they had the Union Station shuttle before, it suffered from poor attendance. He also cited all the free shuttle service offered for the Coliseum exhibition game (which received mixed reviews, but admittedly was a nice effort that didn't need to be pursued in the first place). And then he cited parking things about which I was not aware, such as offering discounted parking to cars with three or more people, or cars that come early to games. I don't recall either of these things happening; I am well aware, however, that my pre-paid parking as part of my season ticket package hits an exorbitant $15 per game (sixth-highest in the major leagues last year). I still think there's work to be done here, but on this topic, McCourt is either stalwart in his opinion or grossly misinformed. Or both, perhaps.

Overall, I certainly appreciated McCourt's candor and the fact that he didn't shy away from any questions throughout his suite visit, from the barbed (why he appears to shrink away from the press upon controversy or bad press--to which he replied that he doesn't want to get in the way of other people on his team doing their jobs; I would argue, in situations like the overblown autograph fiasco in which other Dodgers brass respond to controversies by saying they want to just "collect data," McCourt would be better served on the front lines fielding questions) to the softball pitches (his favorite baseball movie is Bull Durham). He confessed to being a private guy, suddenly ushered into the public spotlight, and it kind of makes sense.

Meeting McCourt and getting that sort of time with him helped me appreciate that he's a passionate guy, and is pretty hard to dislike in a small setting as he's pretty personable. He's got a mission for the Dodgers, and despite what the apocalyptic projections have envisioned, to date he has invested in improving the stadium facility that is the second-oldest NL stadium behind Wrigley (rather than razing it altogether). However, like any new CEO, he could use a bit of training beyond just the factoids, and in particular could stand to take the heat on some mistakes and therefore cut the firestorm off early on. Great CEOs, like Jim Burke of Johnson and Johnson during the Tylenol cyanide scare, stand accountable in times of crisis. If McCourt really wants to stand behind his three-pronged vision for the Dodgers organization (and the vision isn't a bad one per se), he needs to be front and center in both good and bad times. But again, this is how an experienced and principled CEO acts; McCourt could still grow into this role over time, particularly with the right coaching.

Tommy Lasorda Shoots From the Hip. I was surprised to see Tommy in the suite in the first place, as he looked out of place in his blue vest and up close and personal (I had met him a couple times before, but it's always a thrill), but once he started rolling with the stories, he soon hit stride and had the whole suite in stitches. Tommy sure can spin a yarn.

But instead of writing about this, here's footage of two of his stories. First, here's Lasorda as he regales a Dodger Stadium suite with a tale of Yogi Berra, a grandfather clock tribute, and the drunk who bumps into Yogi:

And second, here's Tommy as he describes a fan who says he loves him, as well as the relative intelligence levels of former players Steve Sax (yours truly!) and Ken Landreaux:

Other Suite Observations. After Tommy left, Rawitch soon left as well; he had already brought his whole staff through the suite and on top of that, in between guests, opened up with a perspective of the Dodger Talk squabble from last year (off the record, again). As I wrote before, he's a really nice gentleman who is trying to keep the Dodgers organization at the forefront of digital media, be it his own blog (insidethedodgers.mlblogs.com) or a Dodger fan's blog, and it is pretty amazing to see him embrace the new medium. I know all of us were quite appreciative of his efforts to set this night up, as well as of Chris Volk's efforts to suggest the darn thing in the first place. (You know, maybe a blogger should take an at-bat in the next 10-run-lead game?)

The other nice thing about the suites which I want to mention (and may post pictures on later) was the fact that everything on that level is a high-class, sparkling clean operation. The suites are comfortable, full of flat screens and comfy sofas, and would be fine places to entertain while watching the game. On the walls of the hallway leading up to the suites hang tasteful sepia-toned pictures of Dodger stars of yesteryear, as well as black and white shots of Ebbets Field and Dodger Stadium. And the attendants are helpful, even when you're carrying back beers from the Stadium Club (which serves beer until a half-hour after the end of the game, so no need to race there to beat the end of the seventh inning!). This was not my first time to the suites, and I hope it wasn't my last, either.


Alex@DodgerFan said...

Damn...wish I could have been there, but I'm glad that Chris could represent the DodgerFan crowd. That's what living in Arizona gets me...

Keep up the good work, SoSG

Alex Cora said...

Great videos - that second one of Tommy is priceless. Thanks for the videos AND being the butt of the jokes Sax!

Steve Sax said...

As Tommy said, my intelligence isn't my strong suit--but it is funny to see that Tommy's Sax/Landreaux story is repeated almost verbatim on Tommy's blog (the lovely Erin of beantownwest has the link).

Orel said...

Was it 2.4 million gallons?