For the past several weeks I have been looking at the calendar lamenting at how September was quickly approaching. There were of course positives to this like the kids would be back in school, the monsoon season would be over meaning Arizona would return to being a “dry heat”, and I would soon be able to begin preparation for Seat Relocation which has become an annual ritual where I get to spend time at Chase Field trying to decide where I want to sit for next season. Those of course are all positive aspects. There are negatives too. The 2008 baseball season will soon be over. Looking at my Season Ticket packets I have just 9 games left this regular season. That is just not enough baseball.
When I start to come to this realization things around the house do not go well. I start to pace back and forth, my palms get all sweaty (oh wait, I just washed my hands and couldn’t find a towel), and I start to feel like a guy who is about to walk down death row to the gas chamber. Rather than wallow away in these feelings I did what any normal human being would do; I planned a road trip.
The Arizona Diamondbacks left town after Wednesdays final game against the St. Louis Cardinals. After a day off yesterday they would begin an important 3-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that could very well determine who would win the National League Western Division. As much as I hate to admit this, I have never been to Dodger Stadium and I began to wonder what it would be like to go to a game there. I started talking to some friends and sharing my thoughts about how much fun it would be to go to LA and see a game. For some strange reason they agreed with me stating that they would definitely be up for a road trip.
That is about all of the incentive I needed was some validation by someone that I had a good idea. That happens so rarely in my life that I had to pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t another one of those dreams I have where the universe makes sense. After that confirmation I went to work on the planning aspects of the trip. First on the agenda was obtaining game tickets. Most people may thing that the first thing when trip planning would be scheduling time off, finding transportation, or getting a room. No, the first step is always to get the baseball part taken care of. After all, what would be the point of a trip to Los Angeles if I couldn’t get tickets to the game?
I sent a message to several friends enquiring whether they could assist me with finding a contact in the Dodgers organization to help with purchasing tickets. Since this would be my first trip to Dodger Stadium I wanted to ask them questions about various seat locations, what could be brought to the stadium, how to get there, what the weather was like (whoa, I need to write these down this is good). Through various contacts I finally found my way back to the Arizona Diamondbacks; I saw this as the baseball equivalent of the circle of life. I talked with team officials to see if they knew of a person I could contact. Instead of a name I was given a quick note that our tickets would be taken care of! Wow, this was unexpected and extremely generous but then again we are talking about the Arizona Diamondbacks one of the best organizations in the game.
With tickets now taken care of it came down to the various unimportant details like figuring out if I could get time off from work, if I had a car to go, oh and whether I would be sleeping in the car in the Dodger Stadium parking lot or if I had a room. Just an FYI, you can’t sleep in your car in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium. That seems to be one of their “rules”. After going back and forth several times we were finally able to decide on a plan of action and had all the necessary arrangements made.
I left the house this morning at 6:15 AM to go to the game that started at 7:10 PM which is a couple hours earlier than I usually begin preparing for a game day. Wearing my Diamondbacks gear I climbed in the car and began driving to meet up with Andre who I would be travelling with. It felt fairly natural being in the car driving towards the ballpark. What was weird was driving past the exit I usually take to Chase Field. Both the car and my arms began to drift towards the exit that would take me to the parking garage at Chase. It took every ounce of strength I had to keep the car on the Interstate and not take the exit. The roof was closed, an indication that the guys at the stadium were not yet at work. It’s a game day, how could they not be at work yet? Oh yeah, it’s an away game.
I met up with Andre and we began our trip to Los Angeles. We stopped off in Blythe for gas and a quit trip to the Truck Stop for something to eat and drink. As I was trying to decide between the generic Twinkies and the generic Cup Cakes with a processed creamy white filling like substance the girl on the PA system announced that shower #4 was now ready. I looked around and noticed the place was filled with smelly truckers. I had expected a rush to shower #4 but no. Rather than perhaps running into the guy just exiting shower #4 I decided it would be best to wait outside. As I exited the Truck Stop I noticed a dude laying on the sidewalk being treated by paramedics. I didn’t want to stare but I was curious whether the unconscious dude was eating either generic Twinkies or generic Cup Cakes. After seeing neither I felt relief and we got back into the car.
We made our way to Los Angeles and after a quick trip to Downtown Disney for lunch and a few souvenirs for the kids (fathers who travel know this is equivalent to having to give the secret password to regain entry into your house after being gone on a trip), we made our way to the ballpark. Dodger Stadium is located in what is called Chavez Ravine. It is pretty much hidden from view. It reminded me a little bit of going to Disneyland. You don’t really see anything then you turn the corner and BAM! there it is.
The stadium is surrounded by a giant parking lot which is different than Chase Field which uses the existing parking structures in the downtown area. Before you can get near the stadium you have to pay for parking. Parking costs $15 and you wait in line like at a toll booth to get your parking ticket and pay. We arrived just as the gates opened and were still quite far back in line. I was somewhat surprised since LA fans are normally generalized as arriving late and leaving early. Considering how early we got there I was surprised at how far away they made us park. It appears that preferred parking gets the spaces closer while general parking is somewhere near the Arizona border.
We made our way to the stadium to the will call window to get the tickets. Since these tickets were obtained through the Diamondbacks there was one specific window we had to go to which coincidentally was on the opposite end of the stadium. After a trek through 2 time zones and 3 zip codes we finally arrived at our destination only to find out that the tickets had not yet arrived. We had a 20 minute wait where we stood there as the Sedona Red eye of a Dodger Blue storm. We met some interesting people while waiting who questioned our sanity wearing Diamondbacks gear to the game. I tried converting some of these Dodger fans to embrace the light and cheer for Arizona but they seemed less than interested.
After getting the tickets we made our way to our seats. The stadium is divided into odds and evens. The odd sections are on the third base side while the even sections are on the first base side. Our tickets were awesome! We were placed in Section 112 Row V which although technically was an even section we were behind the plate on the loge level.
My first impressions of Dodger Stadium is that it appears to be a newer ballpark from the outside but inside it feels like an older stadium. It is much more closed in than Chase Field. I am so accustomed to walking through the doors and being able to see the playing field that I felt claustrophobic when I walked into Dodger Stadium. The playing surface was beautiful. We arrived as the Diamondbacks were taking batting practice in the afternoon sun. It was great seeing familiar faces out there, it made it almost feel like home.
The atmosphere was great, the Dodgers allow some fans to be on the field level in center field during batting practice cordoned off by a temporary fence. It gives them an opportunity at a home run ball and lets them know what it feels like to be down on the field. That was very cool. They also have an area behind home plate that kids could come and have a ball or item signed by a player. They have a different player before every game; another nice touch.
We walked around the stadium looking at the various sights and sounds to get a feel of the place. The food selection is different from Chase Field and did not seem to be as diverse. There is no Hungry Hill Sausage so I was kind of loss. I went with the all-beef Dodger Dog since that seemed to be the signature food. It was good but I would take a Hungry Hill Sausage over a Dodger Dog any day of the season.
Like Chase Field there were several team shop locations and likewise they are filled only with the home team’s items. We had several people attempt to help us in shopping for something Dodger blue to wear in place of our Diamondbacks gear. I thanked them and explained that you just cannot mess with perfection. That went over very well. The seats at Dodger Stadium are yellow rather than the green ones at Chase. They also did not seem to be angled to the plate making it so you had to turn in your seat to watch the action; another plus for Chase Field. There were no hot dog derby races so I was disappointed at that. The video board is old school unlike the high-tech version at Chase Field but did have a sense of history and nostalgia.
The game itself did not play out well for the Diamondbacks as they lost 7-0 in yet another poor showing by Dan Haren. The Dodger fans let us know what they thought about the Diamondbacks with several suggesting that we cut our trip short and go home now. Overall the fans were fun and willing to accept those supporting the opponent. We were not obnoxious and basically cheered for our team without ridiculing theirs. That was appreciated on both sides and while we were definitely given the business as we left after the loss, it was all good natured. Hopefully we can return the favor tomorrow.
It was a fantastic experience and one I will never forget. Each ballpark has its own unique look and feel and this one is definitely one of the better ones I have seen. I am looking forward to going back tomorrow to witness a day game at Dodger Stadium. Hopefully the sun will shine brighter on the Diamondbacks and Brandon Webb.