Friday, May 22, 2009

Credentially Speaking

My press box neighbor, Mr. Ikegami. Not a talkative fellow, but very attentive.

Josh Rawitch, I'm on to you. You're thinking that by allowing us bloggers access to the Dodgers, we'll come to appreciate the complexities of the organization and thus broaden our perspective.

Well, it's working.

When we started SoSG, I was a Dodger fan. Now I'm a Dodger fan who has met Frank McCourt and Ned Colletti, done the corporate suite thing, been on the radio and now been granted media access.

Yet, despite these perks, I'm still just a fan. (A damn lucky one, but still.) Outside of the Vin Scully Press Box, I continue to cheer, and boo, and raise a hullabaloo. Only now, I've peeked behind the curtain.

"And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain."

And there's a lot behind that curtain. After the game I was transcribing Joe Torre's post-game comments when all the big stadium lights shut off at the same time. Silent but dramatic. Nobody around me batted an eye, but it was another Dodger Stadium first for me.

Leaving the stadium 'round midnight, I noticed cleaning crews still in the stands. The groundskeepers had just vacated the field. And people were still working in the press box. Closing up Dodger Stadium isn't like closing up a 7-Eleven. It's like closing up Disneyland.

And that's the main impression I took from my heady nine-hour tour: A baseball game is anything but. It's more like a theatrical production—with a cast of tens of thousands. But unlike theater, the performance changes daily there is no script. The only constant is controlled chaos.

The highlight of my day was being on the field during batting practice—the stage during rehearsal. I've experienced the outfield grass before, but here I was, leaning on the padded dugout railing, digging the toes of my shoes into the warning track.

Spending time on the field was like eating a perfectly grilled Dodger Dog: over way too fast.

Outwardly I was calm, but inside I was like the prison escape scene in Oldboy. I teared up a little; I'll admit it. But then: there's Juan Pierre jogging toward me. I'm not easily star-struck, but: directly behind me in the dugout? Russell Martin. Matt Kemp walks by on his way to take some BP.

Spending time on the field was like eating a perfectly grilled Dodger Dog: over way too fast.

If the field is the stage, then the clubhouse is the dressing room. (Thankfully, not a single recliner in sight.) It was slightly disconcerting to see the players in their street clothes, removed from the shining armor of those classic Dodger uniforms.

And it was a little more than slightly disconcerting to have a lifetime of baseball-watching experience turned upside-down and inside-out.

But it was worth it.

More sights:

A very classy sign in the very classy Vin Scully Press Box: COVERING THE DODGERS AT DODGER STADIUM SINCE 1962 (click on each photo for an enlarged version).

Some excellent vintage photos hanging in Dave's Diner.

Vin Scully's charter entry in the press box "Wall of Fame." The other members are Jim Murray (1987), Bob Hunter (1988), Jaime Jarrin (1998) and Ross Newhan (2001).

A wall-sized photo of Jackie Robinson opposite a stadium staircase. Note his Montreal Royals uniform.

The hallway leading to the clubhouse. More framed jerseys were around the corner.

The entrance to the umpires' room. Not pictured: Enrico Pallazzo.


Celsius1414 said...

I never thought I'd see a list with Jim Murray and Vic The Brick Jacobs in the same column. :)

Great sign. Just think of how many thousands (millions?) of words written and spoken by those names, all about the Dodgers.

Josh S. said...

That's just flat-out amazing. I'm getting a little choked up just reading about it.

Oh, and in the distance behind Mr. (in Infield Reserve 15). I'm the one wearing blue.

QuadSevens said...

That sounds like one awesome experience! I could only wish to have a day like that.

Alex Cora said...

Orel: Great piece. Love the pictures and the column. I can really feel the love that you have for the dodgers.

Tell me when you come down from the clouds.

Fred's Brim said...

that is excellent, Orel! imagine doing that 81 times over a summer (and potentially 3, 4 and 4 more games than that). Controlled chaos is right! There are so many little pieces that go into it. I have been on teams that did what John Rawitch's team does, but for major college basketball and football. That was twice a week at the most, not for 11 straight days. And even at twice a week, it always seemed on the verge of complete meltdown. But it was always a lot of fun.

And it taught me to temper my fan instincts while at games, so I can go see the Dodgers on the road and not get singled out for cheering too loudly!

Fred's Brim said...

I meant Josh Rawitch, of course

kroxx said...

Beautiful post, loved the comparison to a theatrical production. Your experience sounds absolutely priceless. :)

Do you know if the players go home very soon after the game is over? Seems like a weird question, but I always wondered if they had responsibilities afterwards or they just change and go home right away.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

I bet you didn't see the Dodger's First Aid Room.

I've been there twice now, twenty years apart. The room hasn't changed one bit in those twenty years.

Orel said...

AC: Still waiting.

FB: I suppose you got used to it, but the energy is exhausting. My ears were still ringing hours after I got home, as if I had gone to a concert.

Kroxx: The players didn't linger much. Some hit the post-game spread as soon as they were dressed, others were on their cell phones or making plans for later. But the stars of the game (Weaver, Leach, Martin) had to hang around because they were surrounded by reporters.

rbnlaw said...

So Orel,
I think I found your real name on the sign. Are you Peter Wang?

Kidding aside. You glimpse of the world behind the scenes reaffirms my devotion to this club. How could you not love the history and tradition?

I had the opportunity to dine in the Stadium Club some 20 years ago. That was a great experience, watching the game and digging into a prime rib at the same time (still had a Dodger Dog later in the game). I remember a huge stuffed polar bear at the entrance. The plaque below it said it was shot by Walter O'Mally while hunting in the Arctic.

This is why I'm taking my kids to as many games as possible. They need to know about the history.

Chappy said...

This thread was so amazing I'm at a total loss for words.

Well except one: JEALOUS!

rbnlaw said...

Just read that X.Paul is going on the DL and Hoffman is being called up as the 4th outfielder.

Can't wait for the game thread.

Jimbo said...

" kroxx said...
Beautiful post, loved the comparison to a theatrical production."

I echo this sentiment.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

Is there REALLY a sports guy named Peter Schmuck??????

Come on, someone must have played a joke on the O'Malleys.

rbnlaw said...

I heard Schmuck and Wang were best buddies.

Actually, I think Schmuck wrote for the Register, once upon a time.

Eric Stephen said...

This is such a nice recap, Orel. You did a great job with the coverage and the photos are great too.

karina said...

Orel, this review is beautiful, glad you had a great time there. The metaphor of the theatrical production was unbelievably gorgeous.

DanGarion said...

That was a terrific write up, but I did observe one major error. 7-Elevens do not close! ;)