Dodger Stadium

Part of my cross-country tour of baseball stadiums. An experience I am calling 'The Baseball Diaries'.

The day started at 5am in San Francisco, finding us casually preparing for our 7am flight and thinking aloud,"How busy could a major airport be at this time of day?" It was meant to be a rhetorical question but Fate decided to amuse herself by giving us an answer. We learned that answer when we arrived at 6:30am to see a 60-75 minute line through security. Merde.

With much shame and persuasion, we pleaded with multiple TSA agents to show us some undeserved special treatment and push us through the line. And it worked. Twice. By 6:40, we were one person away from the ID check and the metal detectors were within arm's reach.

We didn't move for another 5 minutes because the couple in front of us decided this would be the ideal moment to share a dramatic, tear-soaked and drawn-out farewell scene, complete with emotional wailing and hyperventilated breathing. Is this what you humans call love?

She wept like he was being shipped off to the front lines without a gun. But his appearance suggested he was just going to a video game convention for the weekend. Set him free, lady. This bird will return.

It was romantic. It was touching. It was obnoxious and it had to stop. I went for a passive aggressive coughing fit. Ajay opted for the 'speak loud enough so they can overhear you talking about them' with his "Are you kidding me with this? Who cries at the airport?" Classic Philly.

We made it through the metal detectors at 6:48, grabbed our belongings, threw on our shoes and took off on a sprint through the terminal. A bag on my back, belt in my left hand and sagging pants in my right, I was determined to make this plane.

We arrived to find the terminal empty and no plane in sight. Merde. De nouveau.

"The plane isn't here yet," a smirking gate agent informed us.


With a few spare moments, I was able to recognize what we had achieved in getting through security in miraculous fashion. Note that the aforementioned "we" who artfully navigated us through was really "Ajay only." I was too busy not throwing a tantrum, which took quite a bit of effort.

With some time to spare, we grabbed a coffee and caught our breath. As we sat back, relaxed and sipped some hot java, I noticed a number of people pass by, staring at us with looks of hated recognition. No idea what that was about.

Once we arrived in Los Angeles, we had a whole new set of obstacles. For weeks prior and the days during our trip, we scoured the Internet for the quickest and cheapest route from LAX airport to Dodger Stadium. According to the sites for LAX, La Metro, Google Transit and multiple iPhone apps, the most efficient route consists of no less than 2 buses and 3 trains. That's not "OR", it's "AND". Five different transport devices. To get from the major LA airport to the central public transit station to one of its most popular tourist destinations.

What none of those websites mention is that the routes go through some of the worst neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I felt like we were living through every rap song that isn't about being rich.

We arrived at the stadium two hours prior to game time and headed in after purchasing the cheapest tickets in the house: outfield bleachers. Here's the thing about the bleachers at Dodger Stadium: they are completely in the sun for the entire game with absolutely no shade; they are a separate structure from the rest of the stadium. In fact, you can't even go from left field to right field. For a trip whose sole purpose was to tour and explore baseball's great stadiums, this was not ideal.

Ajay spotted Philly ace Doc Halladay warming up in right field - one of many sections we were not in. Well, rules be damned, we were moving to right field.

We went back under the left field stands and made our way towards center, led by curiosity. Ajay spotted an open gate, a padlock dangling uselessly from it's handle. We poked our heads in and saw the stadium audio panels and scoreboard controls. Also, this area led directly onto the field, as the center field gate was wide open.

Smarter men know a "Do Not Enter" situation when they see one. Smarter men turn back when they see "Authorized Personnel Only" signs. Smarter men also get stuck baking in the sun of the left field bleachers. F that.

With no hesitation, we walked right through the gate, casually observed the inner workings of the stadium that fans are not supposed to see, unlatched the gate on the other side and headed up to the bleachers.

Say what you will about the LAPD, but they have incredible response time. I had only a moment's rest for my weary legs and Ajay had barely managed a wave in Doc's direction by the time the fuzz put the heat on.

Ajay: Hi, officer! (always good to take the initiative in this type of situation)
Officer: What do you guys think you're doing?
Joe: Waiting for batting practice?
Officer: Uh-huh. That's interesting because the right field bleachers don't open for another half hour.
Ajay & Joe: Oh...

This guy was good. Unfortunately for him, this was not our first rodeo. Ajay and I have been bending trespassing rules since before this cat was in the academy. We knew that there was a good chance we would get ejected from the stadium. Our only chance at reprieve was to play dumb. To our credit, I don't think we've ever looked dumber. We played the part of the ignorant tourists perfectly. We stared open-mouthed and wide-eyed at every Dodger logo, fascinated by every support column we passed. I resisted the urge to pull out a pile of crumpled-up bills and ask, "How much is this in LA money"?

As the police officer led us to the head of security waiting for us at the exit, Ajay went on the offensive and used a little verbal sleight of hand.

"Hi, we were wondering if you could help us. We are clueless how to find our way around. We're trying to get over near home plate so we can get some pictures. See we're doing this baseball stadium tour - we're not doing all the stadiums, just the really great ones. So how do we get over by the infield? We got here extra early so we could check everything out. - Oh, you can't get over there with these tickets? Shoot, we messed that up, huh? Do you think it would be possible for us to trade out our tickets so we can sit over there? See, we didn't realize how the stadium is set up. It's really unique."

It was a thing of genius. And it worked.

Security: Oh, um, right. Let me see what I can do.

And like that, we had tickets on the first base side. At least, I think that's where they were. We don't really go for that whole assigned seat thing.

Keeping with our theme of needlessly doing the same thing multiple times, we mistakenly went through and then had to exit four different security checkpoints because even with the right tickets, the stadium makes no sense. Four times I had the following exchange:

Security: Open the school bag, please. What's in the plastic bag?
Me: Umm, dirty laundry.
Security: Do I have your permission to inspect the bag, sir?
Me: Permission? Sure. Recommendation? No way.
(opens bag, looks in, quickly closes it)
Security: Oh... yikes. Enjoy the game.

Once we finally made into the real stadium, we headed to the most important location of any public venue: the concession stands.

Joe: Double cheeseburger, a beer - no, the big one, and... another double cheeseburger.
Food dude: That will be $7.

We'd abused the system quite a bit today and in my cynical viewpoint, so many things going right is like daring Karma to F with your S.

I didn't say anything to the guy but I also made no move to get my wallet. I just stared back awkwardly, trying to figure out what numerical system he was communicating in. Since I can't convert hexadecimal in my head, I innocently responded, "Uhh..."

Food dude: It's Throwback Day today. Throwback uniforms, throwback prices.
Joe: Oh! That would explain all the Sinatra.

A blank, 20-year old face stared back at me as I realized that this kid had no clue what a Sinatra was. "$7, please," he repeated.

Three hours later, the game was over and we were exhausted. We boarded the Dodger Express and headed back to Union Station. As we got off the bus, Ajay spotted a sign that read "LAX shuttle." That's right. There is a bus that goes directly between the airport and train station, with no intermediate stops. Also, it's route exclusively consists of the very safe and very scenic 110 highway. All those neighborhoods we traveled through and stopped at during the bus, train, train, train and bus rides? They are on the other side of a concrete divide blocking them from highway view like they never existed. Only in my nightmares from now on.

We checked it. There is no mention of this shuttle on any of the websites we checked beforehand. The lesson? The Internet is full of shit. Don't believe anything you read on it. Err, except this.

I can't imagine anyone is still reading at this point (even I have been skimming for the past 12 paragraphs) but if you are, then you are way too good of a friend. I will buy you dinner for making it this far. You name the time and place and it's on me. And yes, soup does count as a meal.


Okay, if you really want to know about the stadium I'll put in my two cents. If you've been in 3 or more baseball stadiums in your life, you would immediately get the feeling that Dodger Stadium is of a different era as soon as you walked in. Maybe it was the classic uniforms and 1940s music but the place just had a different feel to it. It's difficult to articulate other than by describing what it isn't.

Opening in 1962, it looks nothing like Fenway (1911) or Wrigley (1914) which seem like buildings that traveled through time and were awkwardly placed in the middle urban neighborhoods. It predates the boring, uniform concrete bowls that came of out of the multi-purpose craze of the 70s (Veterans Stadium, Riverfront and Three Rivers were practically indistinguishable). But with Dodger Stadium, you can see that's where they were headed. The seats behind home plate and along the bases hint at those designs. But once you reach the foul polls, the three levels come to an abrupt stop. It's just plain bleachers like many of the stadiums around at the time it was built. You can see in the design itself, that it is a bridge between eras.

Spoiled by modern stadiums, I found the seats uncomfortable and the layout completely confusing. There were no crazy distractions like most of the stadiums have today (ahem, AT&T Park). It was the bare essentials to enjoy a game of baseball. Somewhere to sit. A beer, a hotdog and keeping score with an iPhone app. Just like in the old days.

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