Finally, we reached day three of The Great Cook Grandfather-Father-Son Baseball Roadtrip of 2010, June 11, 2010 was a big travel day and a big baseball day. Aside from getting to see our Mariners, the thing I was most excited for on this trip was the chance to get to know Dodger Stadium. Dodger Stadium would be Tim’s 20th stadium! I had been there once in college, but we sat in the top deck so we weren’t permitted to explore the lower levels. For this game, we’d be sitting in the field level and we would leave almost no stone unturned.
But first we had to get to Los Angeles. We woke up early in San Jose and were on the road by 6:00 a.m. We had about 370 miles to drive to the the Fairplex KOA in Pamona, CA and then an additional 40 miles to Dodger Stadium.
My dad was behind the wheel to begin the drive and Tim was manning the map…
Aside from landscapes, there is not much to see in central California (at least on I-5)…
…but Tim was having fun in the back seat. We played a whole lot of “I spy.” I took over driving duties just before we hit “the grapevine” — a monster uphill section of I-5. I was excited to drive the grapevine (and told my dad to take a “dramatic” photo of it (see bottom right above, which doesn’t look too dramatic)) because I had heard stories in my youth about this road. I have always had strong visual memories of the grapevine based solely on hearing stories of cars broken down overheated along the side of the road. It was nice to see it first hand.
By about 1pm, we made it to the KOA, which is right next to the LA County fairgrounds. We relaxed a litte, I went for a run, Tim hit some baseballs while my Dad and I played catch…
A few minutes before 5:00 p.m., we turned onto Eylsian Park Avenue and drove straight to the entrance of Dodger Stadium…
…where we were told to turn around and come back in fifteen minutes. We knew that the gates would open two hours before the game, but we had no clue that the parking lots do too. My dad pulled into a parking spot along Elysian Park Ave to wait and Tim and I hopped out to trek up to the stadium by foot. That’s when we learned that the parking lots also open to foot traffic two hours early. So, we had to stand around for 10 minutes with all of those people pictured above to the right until a guard finally told us to “go for it.”
With Tim on my shoulders, we started our walk up the hill, through the parking lots, and around the stadium to the LF gate:
We tried to enter the stadium at the end of the fourth arrow, which was by these player pictures and the Dodger ticket office…
…but after flashing our field level tickets, we were told to go down two flights of stairs, around the corner and to the LF gate. The bottom right picture above shows the back of the LF scoreboard as we came around the corner to the LF gate.
The LF gate dumped us into the field level concourse right at our seats…
…in the Mannwood section of Dodger Stadium. You can only buy these tickets in pairs. It costs $99 (Manny’s number) and you get two tickets and two T-shirts that say “I sat in Mannywood.” You also get a close-up view of Manny Ramirez as he patrols LF.
Let me tell you, the Mannywood section was great. The fans were awesome. The atmosphere was excellent. For a non-Mariners game, we had a ridiculous amount of fun during the game sitting in Mannywood. I highly recommend it.
Here is the view of the field from Mannywood (section 53 to the left and 51 to the right):
The chain link fence to the left is the Dodgers bullpen. While my dad parked the car and waited outside for a special guest, Tim and I walked in and headed right over to the bullpen. Immediately, someone jacked a HR into the bullpen that zipped right into the trees at the back end.
Two seconds later a security guard walked into the bullpen and pulled about eight baseballs out of the trees. Tim and I were standing right on the fence watching him and he came over and stood directly below us. I was sure he was coming over to toss a baseball up to us. But instead, still 20-30 feet from the OF wall, he yelled “Hey, Justin! JUSTIN MILLER!”
Now, I have never heard of a professional baseballplayer named Justin Miller, but I’m a good listener. One of the Dodgers in LF turned around and looked at the guard. The guard then threw all eight baseballs to this Justin Miller guy.
Everyone in LF just watched silently.
Then, the second Justin Miller caught the eighth and final baseball, I yelled, “Hey, Justin!” He looked up and…
Thanks, Justin Miller!
Now, Tim and I normally never go into the outfield during BP and there is a reason for it. And we got a scary reminder of it. You see, Tim is only four and he can’t handle a major league homerun. But two second after taking that picture above, he handed me the baseball and I took a camera phone picture of it with the field behind it to send to my Dad (still waiting outside) and my wife. Tim was standing right next to me. But then he wandered off to the left. I could see him out of the corner of my eye as he was heading back over to the fence by the bullpen. Then I heard a solid crack of the bat and I looked up and started running over to Tim. I couldn’t get there in time and a homerun almost got him. He never even noticed the baseball, which ended up bouncing all the way back to the concourse.
That was enough of being in the OF. We were out of there. Time to explore.
As we walked toward home plate, I noticed these ladies in white shirts…
But as we reached the 3B end of the dugout, there was an odd group of fan-looking people standing on the warning track and a line leading up to them…
About five minutes later, a nice usher-type lady was taking this picture of us as we stood on the warning track with Dodgers BP going on behind us…
So, here is the deal. During BP, this lady runs a little roped off patch of the warning track. You can stand in line and she cycles new people into the roped off area every couple minutes. The purpose of it all is to try to get autographs, but there is no guarantee that you will. We were in there for about 5 minutes and Joe Torre, Don Mattingly…and basically the whole team walked by us. But they were all on their way to their pre-game meeting so no one stopped.
We got extra lucky. We were the last people into the roped off area during this round, so we were right at the entrance of the rope and immediately on the dugout. That’s why the lady was able to see us and offer to take our picture on the warning track. Aside from us, she only did that for one other father and son.
Next, we hung out by the dugout and people watched…
…there were some celebrity looking people down there, but I couldn’t figure out who anyone was. Later, I found out that one of them was Brian McKnight. He sang the national anthem and God Bless America.
We watched a little Angels BP from above the dugout:
Then we headed out to RF. We got this panorama from behind the plate on our way…
Yep, it was the Angels vs. the Dodgers, the freeway series. Wait, aren’t both teams from LA? Why would you need to drive on the freeway from LA to LA? Oh, yeah, the Angels are actually from a completely different city (Anaheim) and county (Orange County) 30 miles away.
You know, if a team wants to go by the name of a different city, it really should be the San Francisco Athletics of Oakland. You can at least see San Franscisco from the A’s stadium. (Obviously, this is a joke, I am not advocating the A’s actually calling themselves that. That would be ridiculous). Anyway…
Next we were off to the RF corner…
Here is almost the same panorama again (just for kicks)…
I got a text message from my dad. He was in the stadium with our special guest. We headed over to say hi to them. On the way through the concourse, I took this picture of Canter’s Delicattessen and a Dodger Dogs sign:
After saying hi to my Dad and our special guest, I went on exploring. Tim wasn’t up for more walking around so he stayed with them.
I headed to the second deck.
Dodger Stadium has five decks, which I will call the Field Level, Second Deck, Suite Level, Third Deck and Top Deck. The Dodgers may call them something else. Anyway, I was off to the second deck.
I noticed something sort of odd. The main pathway to all of the upper decks is roughly behind home plate. So, if you are in the second deck way out in LF and you want to go to the field level (or Third Deck) way out in LF, it appears that you have to walk all the way to home plate, go up or down some stairs, an escalator and/or an elevator and then walk back out to LF.
That is just what I did (going the escalator route). I ended up in a bar behind the concourse in LF. This is what it looked like:
Interestingly, this bar was immediately on the inside of the gate that Tim and I had originally tried to enter, but were told we had to go down two flights of stairs, around a corner and enter the stadium through the LF gate.
One of those girls asked me an insanely easy question (which was actually a commercial for her employer), and gave me a little prize that I planned to give to Tim.
I then headed to the back row as far out in LF as I could go. Here is what it looked like:
And just for kicks, here is another panorama from the first row one section over from the last picture:
…and on my way through the concourse, I saw the familar face of a man I’d never met: Dodgers MVP Roger Owens:
If you’re a Mariners fan, you probably know the Mariners MVP Rick “The Peanut Man” Kaminsky. Well, Roger is just like him. He does crazy behind the back throws when you order a bag of peanuts. But because he is based in LA, he gets featured from time-to-time on The Late Show, etc.
I recognized him right away and went up to say hi. He was very nice. I asked him if he knew The Peanut Man from Seattle. He does. They won an award together about 10 years ago from some peanut-based organization. Roger told me about winning the award with Rick and he said, “It was the MVP award, which meant ‘Master…Master Peanut Man’ award” Actually, I have known for years that Rick won the MVP and that it meant “Master Vendor of Peanuts.”
By the way, I seriously think Rick Kaminsky should be inducted into that Mariners Hall of Fame. He’s that good.
Anyway, I continued on the tour. Here’s the view from the second deck behind home plate slightly toward 1B…
I headed back to home plate through the concourse so I could head up stairs. All around most of the concourses, the Dodgers have pictures on the support columns celebrating Dodgers past and present — here are a few of the past Dodgers stars:
The two pictures at the top left are looking into the hallway housing the suites on the 3B side of the stadium. In the bottom left, you see that the Vin Scully Pressbox is also on the suite level. In the little open area outside of the press box and the hallway leading to the suites, they have the old Dodgers relief pitchers car behind ropes. My Dad and our special guest actually wandered by here with Tim and a guard let Tim sit in the car!
From the suite level, there are two elevators to take you to (i) the Third Deck and (ii) the Top Deck. I hopped into the elevator up to the Third Deck. When I arrived, I was in an inside concourse (that was open to the field) behind home plate. I started walking to LF and soon the concourse weaved behind the Third Deck seats into an open concourse behind the seats…
…I was surpised to see that people could walk straight from the parking lot into the third deck. At the time, I didn’t have a good handle on the lay of the land at Dodger Stadium. But the fact is that it is built into the side of a hill. There is direct access to almost every level of the stadium from the parking lot without having to go up or down stairs inside the stadium. Essentially, the OF is at the bottom of the hill and home plate is at the top of the hill. Therefore, the gates into the Third Deck are around the 1B and 3B area. The gates into the Second Deck are in the OF foul corners, and the field level entrance is in the outfield at the bottom of the hill. Its a pretty cool and unique set up.
The picture to the left above is the Third Deck gates and the picture to the right is looking off of the Third Deck concoure down to the ground outside, just above the Second Deck entrance (where we were not permitted to enter the Stadium) and the bar from a previous picture.
Finally, I made it out to the LF seats. This is as far out in the seats as I could go because the last couple sections are a special “bleacher beach” section:
Next, I started walking toward home plate and I took this shot…
When I got behind home plate, I noticed that Allysa Milano (a big Dodgers fan) was on the field to yell “Play Ball” or something like that…
By the way, Allysa is in the movie Fear, which features an aerial view of my boyhood baseball home, the Kingdome.
I got this panorama as Milano was doing her thing:
It was time to head back to our seats. The tour was complete. I decided to go a different way. I took a long and windy set of stairs…
As i reached the Field Level, Torii Hunter was at the plate and Chad Billingsley was on the mound:
Hunter would draw a walk.
Finally, I made it back to our seats in Mannywood. And guess who I found there? Tim, my Dad, and my Dad’s brother and our special guest, Carl:
Here was our view of Manny from Mannywood…
And, from later in the night, here was the view from my seat — Section 51, Row J, Seat 1:
The score was 0-0 going into the to top of the third inning. Joel Piniero led off and reached first base when he swung at a wild pitch that went to the backstop. Piniero eventually made his way around to score the first run on a line drive single to RF by Bobby Abreu.
Between the first couple innings, the Dodgers kept showing clips of The Prince of Darkness, the one and only Mr. John “Ozzy” Osbourne himself, telling us to “SCREAM!!!!”
In the fourth inning, Manny continued to do nothing at the plate:
But then James Loney hit a home run to knot the game at 1-1.
Also in the fourth innng, Ozzy Osbourne appeared in the flesh! While he has engaged in many unhealthy and self-destructive activities over the course of his life that I cannot endorse, I do strongly endorse Ozzy as a musician. He’s excellent. With Black Sabbath or solo, Ozzy is great.
Anyway, The Ozzman Cometh to the game for the “Think Cure” promotion (i.e., a cure for cancer), and he was there to lead us in an effort to set a Guiness Book of World Records record for longest/loudest crowd scream…
After all of that sceaming, it was time to cool off the vocal cords with some chocolate ice cream in white Dodgers ice cream helmets…
…I was pretty surprised at the design of the helmets (I figured they’d be blue with a white “LA” like the Dodgers’ hats and batting helmets), but it didn’t matter. Ice cream helmets are great no matter what design the team employs. Tim clearly was happy with his helmet…
Oh, by the way, the Dodgers helmets are also smaller than every other helmet we have ever got. Not much smaller, but clearly smaller. For instance, I cannot stack these helmets on top of any of our other ice cream helmets.
In the fifth inning, the Angels took the lead for good when Hideki Matsui hit a bases clearing 3-run double to put the Angels up 4-1.
Remember I mentioned that our seats came with T-shirts? This is what they looked like:
Tim played with his little “cutie” foam finger a lot during this game and, in the process, he made friends with the group of 20-something guys and girls sitting right behind us. They had full-sized “West Side W” foam fingers. Eventually, a girl named Ashley gave her “W” finger to Tim. And then taught Tim that he could fold the “W” over in half and it would be an “M.” The two of them then folded and unfolded that “W” finger about a million times and chanted “M” Mariners, “W” Win! Mariners, Win! Mariners, Win! The interesting thing is that Ashley was an Angels fan. But these guys were all super cool and they didn’t mind cheering the Mariners to make Tim happy. I’m telling you, the vibe in Mannywood was awesome. Just a bunch of fans have a great night at the ballpark…complete with non-stop hitting around of many beach balls. Tim loved it when he got a chance (or two) to hit one of the beach balls.
The Angels scored more runs in the sixth. Again, it all started with Piniero. This time, he walked and eventually scored the Angels’ fifth run on a bases-loaded walk of Bobby Abreu. Torii Hunter then followed with a 3-run double of his own to make the score 8-1 Angels.
It wasn’t just at the plate that Piniero was contributing. On the mound, he was on fire.
Late in the game, Manny gave us a good look at his signature locks…
He was pretty good with the crowd. Every inning, he tossed his warm up ball to someone in the crowd. We noticed this in the second inning when he threw his ball into Mannywood. We decided to go down to the front row between innings several times…
By the ninth inning, it was obvious that the Mariners AL West foes were going to win this game. So I didn’t mind jumping up and acting like I was cheering for this MyGameBall.com scavenger hunt photo…
We ended the game sitting next to the bullpen…
…just in case the Dodgers felt like tossing up any baseballs on their way to the dugout. But you know what? They don’t walk to the dugout. They all filed into a door that took them under the Field Level seats, and like Kaiser Soze, POOF, they were gone.
After the game, we got a group photo…
It had been a great game. We said our good-byes to Carl and headed to our car. Guess who we saw on the way to the car? Dodger great and Hall of Famer…
…Sandy Koufax! Okay, well, that might not have actually been Koufax. I guess he probably doesn’t walk around in his jersey at Dodgers games.
Ah, it was a long and exciting day on the baseball roadtrip. We headed back to our camping cabin for the night. In the morning, we would be off to meet up with our Mariners at Petco Park in San Diego.
2010 Fan Stats:
13 Teams (Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Angels and Athletics; Phillies, Dodgers, Pirates, Braves, Mets, Brewers and Nationals)
26 Baseballs (2 Mariners, 3 Brewers, 3 Nationals, 2 Blue Jays, 4 Umpires, 1 Phillies, 1 Mets, 4 Braves, Orioles 1, 3 Athletics, 1 Angels, 1 Dodgers)
7 Stadiums (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, Dodgers Stadium)
9 Player Photos (Ryan Rowland-Smith, Mike Cameron, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto, Billy Wagner, Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jeff Weaver and Scott Olsen)
6 Autographs (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Joel Piniero, Frank Catalanotto (2), Billy Wagner (2), Jeff Suppan, Tommy Hanson, Jeff Weaver and Scott Olsen)
4 Kids Run The Bases (Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Citi Field, PNC Park)