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Caravan ends, Spring Training begins…

As the final stop of the two-day Community Caravan came to an end yesterday, a TV reporter asked me simply, “What’s the goal of this whole thing?”

It was a fairly basic question but the answer is worth noting. The goal of the community caravan is to bring our players, former players and staff into the community to do good work and get the city excited about baseball season again. To that end, I think the last two days have been wildly successful.

And in this case, it literally ended just as Spring Training begins. Immediately after yesterday’s five-stop caravan, I headed straight for Burbank airport to hop a flight to Arizona, where pitchers and catchers reported this morning. In fact, this blog post was written from the airplane (though I couldn’t post until this morning). Meanwhile, your intrepid Dodgers.com beat reporter, Ken Gurnick, actually started driving to Glendale as soon as he got back to Dodger Stadium from the caravan and yet, was still at Camelback by 8 a.m. this morning to start bringing you all the news and information you’ve come to expect from Spring Training.

Tomorrow, we’ll write about Spring but for today, it’s really all about the Caravan. A huge thank you goes to the players who turned out in great numbers over the last two days (Furcal, Kemp, Ethier, Loney, Gwynn, Gibbons, Kapler), former players (way too many to list), broadcasters Charley Steiner and Steve Lyons and of course, new manager Don Mattingly and GM Ned Colletti. The Community Relations department put together a really cool two-day event and for those of you who made it out to the L.A. River cleanup yesterday or the Heal the Bay event in Santa Monica today, thanks to each of you, too.

In addition to those two stops, today we got to take Gabe Kapler back to his old high school, Taft High, to surprise the baseball and softball teams with some up-close-and-personal instruction. We stopped at the West valley Police Station to pay tribute to those who protect and serve and they were extremely gracious hosts. We dedicated the 10th Dodgers Dreamfield at Northridge Park, which was especially cool because I grew up playing there (and no, I didn’t pick the site!). And the day started early with a stop at the downtown Fire Station, where Rafael Furcal was on hand to see the firetruck that will be heading to his hometown in the Dominican Republic, which has never had a firetruck.

Think about that. When a fire breaks out here, we take for granted that calling 911 will bring a crew of yellow-clad firefighters on a giant red truck to help extinguish the fire. In Loma de Cabrera, they have no such thing…until now. Raffy seemed genuinely moved by all the people who came together to get this done and all of our players were gracious participants.

And now, it’s all Camelback, all the time. We’ll be blogging, tweeting, facebooking and just about every other imaginable form of communication possible with the fans, including good ol’ fashioned face-to-face chats, with unmatched access to the players and staff that anyone who has ever visited has come to expect.

We hope many of you will make it out here to see us.

Thank you!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you on behalf of the organization for the time, effort and money that you all put into following the Dodgers. Last night was tough…not much more can be said than you’ve all already said and the media has offered. The Phillies were clearly the better team this week and they outplayed us. But as always, I try to look on the bright side.

This year, many of you started the year with visits to Camelback Ranch and got to experience Spring Training for the first time. We all got to watch many of our favorite players mature before our very own eyes and have breakthrough seasons. The long-awaited ITD tour brought many of you face to face for the first time and of course, brought Joe Pierre out to Los Angeles for a very memorable weekend. The fact that this site can do that is an amazing thing and one of the primary reasons the blog was started in the first place.

The Dodgers finished with the best record in the NL for the first time in more than a quarter century and swept the NLDS for the second straight season, both of which are pretty impressive feats. And Dodger Stadium rocked during the playoffs like I’ve never seen before…literally. From the press box, we could feel the stadium shaking with your cheering, towel waving, and excitement.

The 2009 highlights are simply too many to try to list…

Inside the Dodgers continues to be a great place for fans to gather and share their thoughts. Despite techinical issues that we obviously hope will be worked out, you guys have all made this a place where all opinions are welcome and your feedback is truly appreciated. I’m not sure how many teams have this sort of back and forth forum with their fans but I’m very proud that we do and your thoughts are taken into account by the highest levels of the team, so keep sharing them.

In the meantime, don’t stop coming to this blog just because the season is over. We’ll continue to try and post relevant updates all the time (though proabably not daily). And remember, Spring Training is just around the corner…

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