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Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Frank (And Camille, And Josh) Discussion Of Dodger Thoughts: Dodgers 8, Mets 6

Those of us arriving early at Dodger Stadium got a bit of a surprise: not only did we get an audience with team Director of Public Relations Josh Rawitch, but owner Frank McCourt and Senior Vice President of Communications Camille Johnston. Frank answered a few questions, including one which stuck in my head about adding a statue of, say, Jackie Robinson somewhere in the park; McCourt responded that he would as soon add one of the fans, which got my eyes rolling, but I somehow managed to keep my mouth shut despite biting hard on my tongue. (It no doubt helped that, having entered late, I had to initially sit on the floor. Out of sight, out of mind, or some such.)

Anyway, the session passed fairly quietly, with Rawitch and Johnston answering more-or-less predictable questions about roster construction, the trading (or not) of Matt Kemp and James Loney, stadium parking, and concessions. Johnston said that parking had largely resulted in positive changes as reported by the fans, with less time needed to get out of the park than before. They continue to work with local authorities on mass transit solutions, calling this year's opening day fiasco a "wakeup call", but also saying that any solutions there will require additional time to complete.

It turns out that Frank has in mind big upcoming changes for the concessions, though they will not be immediately visible. In particular, concessions on the lower levels are built directly abutting the hillside. As a result, none of these have pantry space, meaning they have to replenish from stocks on the reserve level via elevator. This is obviously slow and cumbersome, and so to this end, construction proceeds during the season to create storage space behind the existing concessions.

They generously gave everyone attending a copy of this year's Media Guide, for which I thank them and their time; it certainly wasn't necessary. With about ten minutes to spare before first pitch, we all retired to the outside world and down to our reserve level seats, pausing for comestibles and the National Anthem. Confirming my recollection, this is and remains The Star-Spangled Banner, not God Bless America, which they play on Sundays in some places. It beats the time just after September 11, 2001, in which it aired every single game and somehow got on the same footing as Key's creation, in that we were all expected to stand and doff our caps, as though any song mentioning America got automatic billing. I stubbornly refuse it, and wait until just before "O say can you see" comes roaring off the lips of whatever chanteuse the park has warbling on that day.

Making it safely to our seats, we had only to wait until the second before the Mets got on the board, with Penny laboring some early, surrendering a leadoff walk to David Wright and then eventually a sac fly to catcher Ramon Castro, and an RBI single to .133-hitting Lastings Milledge. Milledge may be a great talent, but he hasn't been able to harness it much at the major league level so far.

Wright burned Penny again in the third on a two-run homer following Carlos Beltran's two-out single. But somehow, that really seemed to straighten him out, because he retired the side in order for three consecutive innings. More, Penny ripped a one-out double in the bottom of the frame to the deep part of the yard that could have gone for three had Penny any real speed on the basepaths. Juan Pierre cashed him in, and with Russell Martin up and two out, we thought maybe there was hope for a two-run jack to make it a one-run game; but no, as he just flied out to Carlos Beltran.

The Dodgers had really manhandled Jorge Sosa in his June 13 appearance against them, beating him up for six runs over five and two-thirds innings. With the Dodgers going 1-2-3 in their first two frames against him, and no ball harder hit than Penny's double, it looked like Sosa had finally solved the riddle, especially with Kent making an easy flyball out to lead off the fourth inning. But no; James Loney singled to left, and then Wilson Betemit tore one to center that should have been a double, save that it rebounded and got to Beltran so fast Betemit had to slam on the brakes. But that landed Loney on third, so that he scored easily on Andre Ethier's single.

But like all good rallies, the Dodgers didn't let it stop there, because the next thing you knew, Matt "Bison" Kemp had unloaded one to left center, giving the Dodgers the lead for the first time all day. Thereafter, the action seemed sort of anticlimactic, even though there was plenty to cheer for, like Furcal's double and the crazy, softball-swing bloop down the left-field line from Pierre that got him home. And then there was the entertaining play that the struggling Scott Schoeneweis made in the sixth with Martin's scoring groundout that ended up with the Dodger catcher on second thanks to Ruben Gotay's throwing error, or Schoeneweis's ridiculous misfielding (amazingly not judged an error!) of Jeff Kent's swinging bunt back to the box that immediately followed. Beltran's two-run homer in the eighth off Joe Beimel got the Mets closer, but somehow it never felt like they were going to catch up.

That was true even though Takashi Saito took a second day off a sore shoulder, which meant we got to see a preview of perhaps ninth innings in 2008 with Jonathan Broxton holding the ball and the other team in thrall. Wearing my old bootleg Eric Gagne save record t-shirt, it reminded me of how lucky we were to have seen him, and how impressive the Dodgers' closers have been lately.

To my friends in the comments, and particular, Clayton (aka Suffering Bruin) who sat next to us — I had a blast. Thank you all for coming. Jon — I implore you, feel no guilt about the time you spend on Dodger Thoughts. It's the best stuff around, really it is.

Coda: Traffic did indeed seem to be better managed, getting us out of the park faster than before, though it comes with the caveat that leaving from the Scott St. exit made us have to go around the entire park to get home. The net effect was to move the "getting out of the park" time down while adding time to our overall commute home. This was a well-attended weekend game, so this was a fairly good sign, I would say. Lastly, I don't have time to get the photos up tonight, so expect something tomorrow. Thanks again, all.

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hey! it was great meeting you today (i was the guy sitting behind you) thou not until about halfway thru the game did I realize you were... you. Anyways, I had a great time today and enjoy your site as well as DT, so thanks for that and good meeting you!
At Angels games, they do that whole God Bless America thing on Sundays, but during the seventh inning stretch, preceding the more traditional Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Like you, I make a point of not standing for the non-National Anthem, particularly one that invokes religion. That's for the privacy of one's own home; don't subject me to it.

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