March 2008

Happy Opening Day

It’s been quite a spring, with stops in Florida, China, Arizona and a record-setting crowd at the Coliseum. I haven’t even had the chance to post anything about the Coliseum game, but I do hope that you all got the chance to either attend the game or watch on TV, as it was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m sure all of you have lasting memories from the game and strangely, other than walking out around midnight and looking up at the empty stadium, I don’t have a moment that stands out for me from the day, as it was special from start to finish.

What does jump out at me, though, is just how hard the entire front office has worked to bring these events to the fans. There are clearly hiccups along the way, as in any business, but I’ve witnessed people working practically around the clock in the offices and I can assure you it’s becauase of their love for the Dodgers. It’s actually really cool to see.

As for Opening Day, for any of you coming down, please try to carpool and come early. As everyone knows, there’s only so much space and on a weekday, it seems all 56,000 people bring their own cars. We’ve added 1,000 parking spots this year, which will help, but we ask for your patience and understanding getting into and out of the ballpark. Anytime you put close to 20,000 cars onto the Freeway after the game right into rush hour traffic, it’s going to be tough to keep traffic flowing but we’ve got hundreds of people working to ensure as smooth an experience as possible.

As for the pregame ceremonies, they are going to be something else, so you’ll want to see them. Like all else this year, they’re geared towards the 50th anniversary celebration.

I haven’t had the chance to give Ned all the questions you’ve asked, but his answers should be coming soon. I know a lot of you have asked about Juan Pierre/Andre Ethier and obviously you saw the conclusion that Ned, Joe and the rest of the baseball staff came to, with Andre starting the year as the left fielder. I hope that at least shows everyone that the people making decisions here don’t do so in a vacuum. They take everything into consideration and are always going to do what they think is going to help us win.

Here’s the lineup for today…

Furcal, SS
Ethier, LF
Kemp, RF
Kent, 2B
Jones, CF
Martin, C
Loney, 1B
TBA, 3B
Penny, P

Not sure when that TBA will be filled in, but for now, that’s what we’ve got.

After a long absence…

Please forgive the absence…the MLBlogs system has been going through lots of changes and I haven’t been able to post for several days. I’m still trying to figure out all the nuances, but I think I’ve figured out how to post so I wanted to pass along to you all what I know as of this morning.

The following players have been reassigned to minor league camp – Brian Falkenborg, Mike Koplove, Greg Jones, Clayton Kershaw, Chan Ho Park, Rene Rivera, Danny Ardoin and Ramon Martinez.

Going on the DL officially are Andy LaRoche, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Schmidt.

I’m sure more moves will be made prior to first pitch tomorrow, but that’s what we’ve got for now. I plan to post later tonight if there’s time, but obviously things are a little busy getting ready for Opening Day…

 

Lineup at Maryvale

The finale on the road…after thousands of miles, thousands of swings and thousands of pitches, the team heads home tonight. Here’s the lineup for today:

Pierre, LF

Furcal, SS

Kemp, RF

Loney, 1B

Jones, CF

Martin, C

Abreu, 2B

DeWitt, 3B

Penny, P

A busy day in the desert

We’ve got a lot going on today, as everyone is gearing up towards the Coliseum game and Opening Day.

Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, we’ll be hosting conference calls with a number of the former Dodgers who played at the Coliseum. This will allow the media to ask questions leading up to the game and the audio from those calls will be available on dodgers.com, so keep an eye out for that.

Additionally, today and tomorrow we are hosting a dozen Spanish-speaking media members, many of whom live in Mexico. We are picking up the group at the border and bringing them to Spring Training so that they can load up on interviews, meet some of our key Spanish-speaking staff, broadcasters, coaches, and players, and take a look at the Glendale Spring Training site. It will keep many of us busy throughout the two days so if I don’t get the chance to post a lineup today, please forgive me.

Thank you for inviting me to take part in the Fantasy Baseball League for Inside the Dodgers. I’m thrilled that you all are connecting this way and that the site has become a way for you all to chat about your favorite team. However, I don’t think I’ll be able to take part in it for a number of reasons, with the main one being time! There’s simply too much going on before Opening Day to dedicate to a draft and the same holds true once the season starts. Plus, you wouldn’t want a team in your league that has all sorts of inside info, would you?

And finally, don’t forget to shoot your questions to Ned Colletti, as he’ll be answering a bunch more before Opening Day. I know that many of you like to debate the team’s moves and decisions and this is a chance to ask the man in charge of baseball operations. Just remember, he actually is going to read what you write so starting a question off with a cheap shot probably isn’t the best route to take. I think it’s pretty cool that he wants to answer questions from the fans — I don’t know a whole lot of GMs in any sport who will do that on a regular basis — and I’m sure that you all can come up with some things you’ve been wondering about the team.

Rocky Road

Happy Easter to those who celebrate…here’s the lineup for the game, which can be seen on KCAL…

Pierre, LF

Abreu, SS

Loney, 1B

Kemp, CF

Ethier, RF

Hu, 3B

Bennett, C

Martinez, 2B

Billingsley, P

And as mentioned below, some interesting guests on the Sunday Night show on KABC 790.

Freeway Series in the Desert

The Dodgers host the Angels at a park that isn’t their own, without a freeway between the two stadiums, but it’s still the Dodgers and Angels, right? The Angels are using the DH while we’re going with the pitcher hitting. Here’s the lineup:

Pierre, LF

Furcal, SS

Ethier, RF

Loney, 1B

Jones, CF

Martin, C

DeWitt, 3B

Abreu, 2B

Lowe, P

On today’s postgame Dodgertalk, Blake DeWitt and Andre Ethier will join Josh Suchon and Ken Levine on KABC 790. Tomorrow night, James Denton of Desperate Housewives, who is a huge Dodger fan, will be a guest, as will national baseball writers Tom Verducci and Bob Nightengale.

Vagabonding

It seems like every day, we’re in a new place, as this is really March Madness. But today, we return to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for our first game of the Cactus League against the White Sox, with whom we’ll share the new Glendale complex.

We don’t head for the park until 11:30 because the A’s are still moving out of their clubhouse just before we move in. I know I gave a lot of credit to Scott Akasaki for all his hard work in getting us everywhere we have to go this spring, but the amazing thing is that our equipment has been there every step of the way and for that, we must thank Mitch Poole, Jerry Turner, Alex Torres and Jose Castillo. They all work extremely hard, as do the various bat boys/clubhouse helpers that they have working with them and rarely do they get credit for it.

The news yesterday on Nomar, which you’ve probably already read, is that he has a microfracture in a small bone in his wrist. According to Stan Conte, that’s essentially a bone bruise that will hopefully heal rather quickly, but only time will tell. As Ned said yesterday, Blake DeWitt and Tony Abreu suddenly find themselves with an amazing opportunity and we’ll see if they’re able to take advantage of it.

Finally, how cool is this? For the Coliseum game, you can bid online to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, be an honorary bat kid, have a child call out "Play Ball,"  or other cool once-in-a-lifetime experiences. As of right now, it’s not off-the-charts expensive, either, so check out the bidding here…

I’ll update this post when I see a lineup at the yard. 

Practice? We're talking about practice??

Yes, we are.

Today is a day off (actually, the workout is optional) for the team from Florida, while the team that was in China has a mandatory workout (a practice!) at Papago Park here in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, the first home game is tomorrow here at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and on behalf of the organization, we’d like to thank the A’s for their hospitality. The stadium is actually more than 50 years old, but it’s been renovated and is quite nice, so we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s battle with the White Sox and Saturday’s game against the Angels, the lone "home" games of the Cactus League schedule.

Meanwhile, we’re also focused on the Coliseum Game, Opening Day, the 50th anniversary, etc. There’s quite a bit going on these days, but it’s all great stuff.

Speaking of the Coliseum, keep in mind that there’s a FREE all-day festival that you can attend that will help alleviate many parking issues.  Please spread the word, as the more people who come early, the better off you’ll be and the less frustrated you’ll be as 100,000 fans all come to the park at the same time. You can also park at Dodger Stadium and take a free shuttle to the Coliseum starting at noon, so tell your friends, your family, and anyone else who you know that is going to the game.

On the field, Nomar is back in LA today to get his hand checked, as it’s still not feeling 100 percent. Hopefully we’ll have more news on that later today.

Grapefruit League finale

In the final game of Grapefruit League action, here’s who will take the field –

Pierre, LF

Furcal, SS

Loney, 1B

Martin, C

Ethier, CF

Sweeney, DH

Abreu, 2B

DeWitt, 3B

Young, RF

Kuroda, P

The team will leave after the game on a chartered flight to Phoenix, where they’ll meet up with the rest of us here. The Phoenix squad will be working out at Phoenix Municipal Stadium at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile yesterday’s announcement that the team will "take Dodgertown with them to LA" was significant, I believe, because so many people have an attachment to that wonderful place and yet so many others have never had a chance to experience it. The street signs and the giant Dodgertown entrance sign, among many other things, are part of what make Dodgertown so cool and it’s nice to know that those elements will be transplanted to Los Angeles.

I know that as an organization, many of us have talked a lot about trying to make sure that the facility in Glendale has the same intimate feeling that Dodgertown does, so lots of fans believed that any pieces of Dodgertown that came with us would automatically go to Arizona. But the intention of yesterday’s announcement was to make sure everyone knows that while the intimacy among the players and fans will remain in Glendale, the physical aspects of Dodgertown that come with us will be visible to fans all year long at Dodger Stadium.

And of course, I’d be remiss in talking about yesterday without mentioning the amazing finale of Tommy walking off the field through the tunnel created by his players’ baseball bats. What a cool moment that I know touched Tommy and so many others who were fortunate enough to be on hand. Here’s hoping he can close out his managerial career today with a victory at Jupiter. Be sure to check out his blog about this week’s experiences.

With that, it’s off to the ballpark to try and figure out all the intricacies of our temporary home for the next week.

Scott Akasaki's latest post – Air Conditioning and Bellmen

Nine years ago, I lived in Japan and it was one of the more difficult times in my life because my command of the language was not that strong and as a result, communication was extremely difficult.  Expressing simple ideas or asking straightforward questions was difficult and forced me to learn Japanese quickly.

It was an odd feeling not being able to speak in English and have everyone understand your words.

Having lived in a foreign country before, it was interesting to feel for a second time around the same helpless feeling of not being able to communicate.  After our Saturday game in China, we were on the bus having just left Wukesong Stadium and going back to the Grand Hyatt Beijing.  The players wanted the bus driver to turn on the air conditioning.  Problem was, the bus driver spoke Mandarin and I did not.

Minutes later, shortstop Chin-Lung Hu walked from the back of the bus and asked the bus driver to turn on the air.  We were saved.  In a nutshell, that experience was how a good part of my trip felt.

From the vantage point of the logistics executor, it can be challenging when you cannot get what you want – especially when you are used to getting what you want for a group with occasionally high expectations.  Everyone in the travel party had to make mental adjustments to what they believed was the norm.  Cooperation and understanding from player to coach to staff member was crucial and greatly appreciated.

On Sunday morning, just before 6:30 am, I received an international cell phone call from outfielder Andruw Jones.  Andruw – probably a few floors above me at the hotel — explained that he handed off his suitcases to a bellman but the bellman had no clue as to where to take his luggage.

The previous day, both the Dodgers and Padres were given reassurance that the bellmen would know that the luggage was going to be collected in a large conference room for inventory.  This plan was put into motion to ensure that every suitcase and bag made it on to the correct team charter and most importantly, back to the United States.  In Andruw’s case, his particular bellman did not know what to do and that necessitated a few fast and furious phone calls to remedy the situation.

The previous evening, my prepaid MLB-issued cell phone had run out of minutes, so I had to use the room phone to call MLB staffers.  First, I had to deal with an operator who asked me to spell the name of each person whom I wanted to call.  After getting through the operator hurdle, I was able to contact MLB International’s James Pearce – I think I woke him up – and let him know of the problem.  James fixed that problem, probably through an interpreter is my guess, and we were saved again.

During the season when we travel on the road, turning on the air conditioning and speaking to the hotel about the bellmen are simple tasks that require seconds of attention.  In a foreign country where you cannot communicate, even the easiest requests require some thinking, patience, and most of all, time.

Going to China was a great experience.  Being a part of the first MLB games in China will be something that I will never forget.  The Great Wall of China was breathtaking, meeting actor and martial artist Jet Li was cool, sitting in an airplane cockpit was awesome, and hanging out with Joe Torre continues to be an invaluable learning experience.  However, if I end up going back one day to China, I want to go as a tourist with an interpreter by my side.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.