SBD/April 2, 2013/MLB Season Preview

Dodgers Unveil Upgraded Roster, Venue, But Fans Still See Long Concession Lines

Koufax threw out the first pitch after relieving Magic Johnson on the mound
The Dodgers played the season opener against the Giants yesterday before a "capacity crowd of 53,138" at Dodger Stadium that “howled with hope that this new season would live up to the promise" of a league-high $230M payroll and Chavez Ravine's $100M+ remodel, according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. As “christenings go, this one cracked and sprayed like the breaking of a champagne bottle over a ship's hull.” Perhaps “nobody was hollering louder than” Dodgers Chair Mark Walter, who, at the game's end, “nearly jumped into the arms of Tom Lasorda, then raced out of his owner's box to hug several players on the field.” New scoreboards “exploded in color, accompanied by thumping pregame pep-rally music, some of it played" by four members of Blue Man Group. Then the Dodgers “showed a video smartly concocted by young Dodgers employees Jon Chapper and Cat Belanger that featured a baseball being supposedly passed from the team's spring-training site in Phoenix to Dodger Stadium by a number of celebrities.” Dodgers investor Magic Johnson then walked the ball “out of the dugout to the Dodger Stadium mound.” While Johnson was preparing to throw a first pitch to former MLBer Orel Hershiser, manager Don Mattingly "suddenly ran to the mound” and summoned Baseball HOFer Sandy Koufax to the honor. But like “most chaotic openers, this one wasn't all fist pumps and high-fives.” Fans were "still plagued by the Dodgers' trademark long concession lines.” Folks on the "redecorated reserved level still required as much as 30 minutes to buy a beer." Fans standing in those lines "backed into the new reserved-level play area, dulling the excitement of the children's area." The Dodgers "removed TV monitors from some reserved-level areas, so some fans couldn't even watch the game while standing in those lines" (L.A. TIMES, 4/2).

OFF WITHOUT A HITCH: In L.A., Jill Painter writes the Dodgers' opener was “an over-the-top affair, even by Opening Day standards,” and the fans “loved it.” Johnson last year “made headlines for sitting with then-maligned owner Frank McCourt right next to the Dodgers dugout in Petco Park.” But this year “there was no sign of the ugly past that had the Dodgers in bankruptcy court.” About the “only thing missing was a fighter jet flyover, which was probably canned because of governmental budget cuts” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/2). In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore notes “no major problems were reported” for the game. It marked the “ominous anniversary of the Bryan Stow incident,” and Dodger Stadium was “well protected with a noticeable -- although not over-bearing -- park security and Los Angeles Police Department presence” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/2).

RUSH HOUR: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote the Dodgers' roster received “some notable upgrades" this offseason, but the “facelift that a fleet of fork-lift trucks and other earth-moving machines were able to pull off on Dodger Stadium over the winter is as equally if not more impressive.” The team during a five-month window “rushed through" a $100M+ retrograde. Dodgers President & CEO Stan Kasten said, "It's a Dodger Stadium as familiar as it's ever been, only it's much more comfortable and updated. All the changes are respectful of the vintage park that Walter O'Malley originally designed." Dodgers Senior VP/Planning & Development Janet Marie Smith said that the Dodgers researched L.A. city codes "required for restrooms in a building of such size.” They then “doubled the number of fixtures in all the men's rooms and increased by 50 percent what was mandated for women's rooms.” Smith said, "I'll eat my hat if we have lines for the restrooms after all we've done here." She added, "Mark's plan wasn't do just do one level at a time. We just went for it." And there is “still more to come -- including improved Wifi reception for cellphoners.” Smith: "We don't pretend we've done all we want to do. We just ran out of time for the time being" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/1).

MONEY MAN: Johnson said of contract negotiations with P Clayton Kershaw, “We let one man do all the negotiating and that’s Mark Walter, so he’ll handle that, that’s his role.” ESPN’s Dan Shulman added, “It’s not like the Dodgers have been shy about throwing around the money.” Hershiser said the “first number just became a ‘2’ as in two hundred million-plus” (“Giants-Dodgers,” ESPN, 4/1).
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