Saturday, December 13, 2008

Best Day Ever

Let me start with this: I spend a lot of time on this blog complaining about the Dodgers, with regard to both the on-field play and the off-field bureaucracy. But, as my fiancé pointed out to me this past Sunday, someone from the team (Josh Rawitch, to be exact) has always gotten back to me and addressed my issues. Now, maybe that's because I write a blog. But, really, I don't get a lot of readers. I'm not getting a hell of a lot of publicity, so keeping me happy shouldn't really be a huge priority. But I'm a fan, and they know that, and they do a pretty good job of trying to keep me satisfied. I may not always agree with everything that happens within the organization, but I guess I'm saying I appreciate some of the efforts made for the fans.

Sunday was a prime example. We were invited to the holiday party at Dodger Stadium, I guess because we had a season ticket package in 2007 (twelve whole games, but it still counts) and they were hoping they could get us for one again. So, Oscar Delgado, our inside sales rep, sent us an invite, told us to bring people, and we showed up at right at noon, ready to go.

We heard that 2000 people were invited overall, but I'd be surprised if that many showed up. It certainly didn't feel crowded at any point, save for the 30 minutes or so we spent in line waiting to get autographs.

We entered the stadium through center field, and quickly learned that there would be no restrictions. We could walk all over the outfield, infield, mound, whatever. It was, to put it mildly, amazing.

But, first things first, McCourt (who wasn't at the event, as far as I could tell) needed to get us do the thing he likes us to do best: spend money. And so we were hustled into a little area just before the field, where we could buy "stocking stuffers" for anywhere from one to three bucks. These were all giveaways from the past season: bobbleheads, t-shirts, calendars, etc. and McCourt was now selling them to get a little extra cash. I hear Jamie wants a PS3 for Christmas. What, you thought this would be a fluff piece for the team? Please. I said the Dodger staff makes a good faith effort to keep the fans happy. What I neglected to mention is that I think it's necessary in lieu of what the owners of the team to do accomplish the opposite.

Anyway, they got us for seven bucks (don't worry, though. We spent A LOT more later.) when we picked up a Jackie Robinson figurine (he's sliding into a base), a Saito bobblehead (the only one I missed last year, I think), and a Jackie Robinson t-shirt. Not bad, I guess.

Then it was time to head for the field. We had heard from a reliable source that it wouldn't be too long before Vin Scully spoke to the crowd from a podium behind second base. When we walked onto the field, no one was near the podium, so we stuck close by so we could be right up front when the man himself entered. We took pictures on the infield and the mound, then played a little catch on the outfield grass.

And then Scully came out, and we stood listening to him speak from about ten feet away. It was awesome. The team must have known we would all listen attentively to Scully, because it seemed he was given the task of really selling us on the fact that the Dodgers care about the fans. He said it a lot, really hammering home the love the organization has for the town, the stadium, etc. I would buy anything Vin Scully sells, though, so though it felt a little awkward (for me, though I obviously wasn't listening from the point of view of an average fan), it was still great to just listen to him. And he's been with the team for more than 50 years. He doesn't need the money. So something is bringing him back next year. Maybe I'll just stop being so cynical. Probably not, though.

After listening to Scully, we hung out some more on the infield, playing around. Then I looked up and saw Santa Claus walking toward where Scully had just been. I was standing about ten feet away, and I looked a little closer and realize that it was really Tommy Lasorda, or "Tommy Claus," as the PA announcer called him. Tommy Claus would be taking photos with fans, so we jumped in line immediately and got in there with Mr. Lasorda. Pretty sweet. The Dodgers had a real photographer there taking the photos, and after about an hour, we went and picked ours up. They had printed it out and put it in a decent cardboard frame, which I thought was a nice touch. If I were sending out Christmas cards this year, that would definitely be the picture.

We were with our friend Peg and her niece and nephew, Hailey and Conner. Hailey, who is eleven, was excited to be there, but Conner, who's three (I think), wasn't so sure about the whole thing. And it didn't help that he was petrified of the weird mascot, Bernie, who I think represents the Las Vegas Triple-A team. We left the kids and Peg to get their faces painted, and we headed up to where various Dodgers, past and present, were signing autographs.

I saw Fernando Valenzuela sitting there signing, and I was beyond excited. I wasn't a Dodger fan when Valenzuela was pitching, but I know my history, and I know what he meant to this team. Christine, my fiancé, went off to buy some new balls at the concession stand, so we would have something good for the guys to sign. Two minutes after she left, Valenzuela got up and left, and I was sad. I kept calling Christine, telling her not to worry; Valenzuela was gone, so our old balls would do.

Christine came back with the new balls a few minutes later, but one of them was already signed. Turns out that, on her way back from the stand, she and Valenzuela had shared an escalator. Just the two of them. She asked if he would sign the ball, he did, and we were set.

We stayed in line watching Don Newcombe and "Sweet" Lou Johnson sign, but both of them left before we got up there. Matt Kemp and James McDonald came up to replace them, though, so all was not lost. In the end, we got autographs and took pictures with Delwyn Young, Andre Ethier, Tommy Davis, Ron Cey, Matt Kemp and James McDonald. Not bad. I like the look of a signed ball, especially when I get it signed myself (I wouldn't want to purchase a signed ball--what's the fun in that?), so I was very happy to add these to our collection.

We needed to find our inside sales rep, Oscar Delgado, because it was time for us to get down to business and figure out what ticket package we wanted to get for this year. We had gone without one last year, but you probably remember how many games I went to anyway. And I don't think I have to tell you that I got most of those tickets at well above face value. So, a season ticket plan seemed like a wise idea.

We walked around looking for Oscar, but couldn't find him, so after saying goodbye to Peg and the kids, we decided to spend some more time playing catch. We stood about 40 feet apart in center field, tossing the ball, and really only had to stop for other people a few times. There was just so much room. It was amazing. At one point I looked up and realized I was on Dodger Vision, and I probably stayed up there for at least a minute while the entire stadium watched me play catch. There was such a delay that I could throw the ball, then look up at the screen and check out my form. It was not bad, if I do say so myself. And a pretty good way to get up on Dodger Vision for the first time.

Finally, we got a little more proactive in finding Oscar, and sat down with him to figure out our plan. We had come to the stadium assuming we would get a twelve or fifteen-game pack of tickets, and only put down a deposit, then pay the rest a little later on. We left with a 27-game pack, with the entire amount paid. Field level, third base side. We probably won't have the same seats for every game, but for 27 games next year, I will be seated somewhere in sections 45-53 (my fiancé likes 51 and 53, so we will probably be there more often than not).

I don't know if this super long post can accurately convey the sheer fun we had on Sunday. We would have bought a season plan anyway (though maybe not 27 games), but the incentive of playing on the field and getting all those autographs and pictures really made the whole thing quite the memorable experience. My fiancé is still talking about it, six days later. I have a feeling we'll be reliving the day for a long time to come.

And now for the pictures. As per usual, please click on the slideshow and you will be magically transported to a land where you can view larger pictures, complete with captions!

Dodgers Holiday Party


Dusto Magnifico said...

Gotta keep the fans happy somehow.

Bruce Paine said...

Awesome. Where is the cloud of dust at second?