Monday, June 29, 2009

Dodger Blogger Night 2009: The Night That Manny Ramirez Trumped Dodger History

It is hard to believe now, but almost 50 games ago, the biggest Dodger story I was considering was recapping on the night of May 6, 2009, was Dodger Blogger Night 2009, the second-annual evening that the Dodgers generously held to reach out to a small group of blogs. The brainchild of VP of Public Relations Josh Rawitch, the evening involved a suite with all the trimmings, a parade of Dodgers organization representatives, and of course a wonderful night out at the Stadium. What made this night even more special (that is, before the mind-blowing Manny Ramirez suspension news broke), was that the Dodgers were vying for the major-league record for the longest undefeated streak at home to open a season.

The Dodgers did end up winning that 13th consecutive home game, setting a modern-day record for wins to start a season, pounding the Nationals 10-3. And, like last year, I was too excited by meeting the Dodgers' brass and collaborating with fellow bloggers that I didn't get time to really enjoy all the goings-on on the field. We'd hear a roar from the crowd, and everyone would stop what they were doing and look down. But most of the bloggers were more interested in chatting with each other rather than keeping close tabs on the game, historical significance notwithstanding.

There is something about being in the suites which is itself a little removed from the game, almost as if you're in a cocoon instead of close to the action. The Dodgers suites are infinitely better than the Staples Center's multi-purpose suites, however, not only because they open to the outdoors, they're bigger, and the food is better. On top of all that, the hallway corridor isn't filled with pictures of three teams and concert events; it's all Dodgers stuff, like this shot of Jackie Robinson:

Getting invited to this event was obviously a special event. First we had to work our way past suite-level security:

...and then we noticed lots and lots of signed baseballs in a pretty display case:

The pre-game highlights, as SoSG Orel already pointed out, revolved around visits from GM Ned Colletti and EVP of Creative and Communications Charles Steinberg, among others.

With regards to Colletti, my notes are obviously so old from this event, that much of what he said isn't really a secret anymore, but I'll Monday-morning quarterback this nonetheless:

  • There was a much-discussed rumor about an unnamed pitcher whose name would technically be defined as "to muld", that Colletti said we wouldn't be getting (we haven't);
  • We shouldn't hold our breath to see Jason Schmidt (who is still working his way back);
  • We would love to get a couple of other specific pitchers, but we'll see (we haven't);
  • Andruw Jones was a huge disappointment (he still is);
  • We need Hiroki Kuroda back in our lineup (Kuroda's return has helped strengthen our starting rotation, without a doubt);
  • Colletti encouraged Joe Torre to use Ramon Troncoso (which has been good);
  • Colletti also talked to Torre to use Brent Leach (which also has been good);
  • There were some minor concerns about Russell Martin, which Colletti attributed to Martin "pressing this year." That said, he praised how Martin was more diligent in working with the coaching staff and spending time in the video room. And, he credited bringing in Brad Ausmus as a steadying force for Martin (which Ausmus has appeared to provide, as well as a better backup catcher option than recent years past);
  • Colletti was happy with both Mark Loretta and Brad Ausmus (months later, I would agree);
  • Juan Pierre was reasonable with how Manny Ramirez's signing moved him to the bench, though he did not have this attitude with the signing of Andruw Jones (and rightfully so; again, as Ramirez's suspension comes to an end, we will see how Pierre deals with another benching, after making outstanding contributions over the last 45 games that have been beyond expectations);
  • Hong-Chih Kuo has been through a lot; he's working very hard (he still is);
  • As to Matt Kemp's apparent change in approach to this year, leading to better offensive and defensive performances, Colletti credited Kemp's openness to instruction, as well as the help of batting coach Don Mattingly. He also called Kemp, among all of his fellow Dodger young-gun stars, the one "blessed with the most raw talent." (Kemp has continued to be great to watch, as his progress continues).

So overall, Colletti's words panned out well over the next seven weeks, which makes him either pretty prescient or pretty lucky, or both. Either way, clairvoyant or fortunate, the Dodgers continue to look strong coming out of a 50-game suspension that most people thought would crater the team's chances. Not so.

I don't remember much about Steinberg except (a) He is awful proud of "Don't Stop Believing" being played in the eighth inning (he called it "our 'Sweet Caroline' "), and (b) he likes the daily singing of "God Bless America," partially because it allows us to sign better singing talent to the games as they want to get televised (which they don't for the national anthem). As I didn't agree with either opinion (and still don't; after all, our GBA talent does not seem to be all that great on most nights), I didn't think about this much. GBA seems to put a buzzkill on Nancy Bea Hefley, and I don't understand why we would play an inspiring, comeback-inducing song when we had a lead after eight innings. Most of my blogger peers that night seemed to agree. But hey, it's Steinberg's call, I suppose.

And later on in the game, Ken Levine and Josh Suchon of KABC's DodgerTalk came by. Both are really tall, as you can see of this shot that they took with SoSG Orel (Suchon is on the left):

Yep, this Dodger Blogger Night 2009 was a wonderful evening, a historic win coupled with free food, insight into the organization, and warm surroundings. Free Mini-Sirloin Burgers were the capper to what would be a wonderful evening, which only became spoiled later on that evening as the Ramirez steroid news broke (I never got a chance to say goodbye to Rawitch that evening and thank him, but I assume he was occupied on other matters...). For a moment at least, the Dodgers were on Cloud 99, and things were great.

But believe it or not, the Mini-Sirloin Burgers were not the highlight of the evening:

No, we were quite fortunate to also get a special guest appearance from Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier. How Ethier was able to make it up to our suite during the game, out of uniform and dressed in casual clothes, was simply mind-boggling. It was also bizarre that he insisted in carrying around this menu from Nino's Mexican Restaurant (which I don't think delivers to the Stadium). But hey, he's a Dodgers star, I don't dare ask.

Contrary to all the press coverage of Ethier's reluctance to take pictures with fans, Ethier could not have been kinder or more giving of his time and image. Perhaps it was because he was a fellow blogger?

Andre first took a photo with Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts:

Ethier wanted to go outside, in front of the stadium, to pose with SoSG's own Alex Cora (nice background!):

Ethier then posed with True Blue LA's Eric Stephen:

And here's Andre with the Trolley Dodger:

Finally, here's Andre Ethier with the Loch Ness Monster (how Andre found a body of water in Chavez Ravine is beyond me):


Trolley Dodger said...

My expression standing behind Josh Rawitch seems to be saying, "Yeah, Ned, thanks for the insider team info and all, but you're blocking my path to the Dodger Dogs!"

And I think that picture of me with Andre just goes to show I should look into a good moisturizer.

Bravura photoshopping performance -- I applaud you.

Steve Sax said...

Photoshop? What photoshop?

Trolley Dodger said...

Did I say photoshop? I meant photography. Yeah, that's it.

Kathy Rogers said...

Could not agree more about GBA and the Journey song. Both horrible. Please make it stop!