I didn't plan on going to Opening Day this year but in the end, I was glad I did, it was great to see friends and watch a tremendous performance by Clayton Kershaw.
But there have been some pretty good Opening Day performances in the past two years but right after that, the crowds lessened and Dodger Stadium began to show its age.
This year brought not only anticipation of the highly salaried Dodgers, it also brought the first wave of renovations at Dodger Stadium that the new ownership group did during the off-season. Some any fan will notice right away, the new scoreboards, new fixtures in the restrooms, kid's play areas and new retail outlets on the Reserve level.
I had planned on going to three games this homestand but thanks to an invite from fellow TBLA writer Phil Gurnee, I attended Wednesday's game and then I wanted to try something out on Saturday so I took in Kershaw's game from a spot I will describe in a bit.
Friday March 29: Exhibition games, generally not very exciting but the real draw was seeing the improvements to the Stadium for the first time. First thing I noticed was that there were more cars than I thought I would see waiting in line to get in that night. As I said, exhibition games have not been well attended in the past so I was surprised. I noticed the oversized bobblehead on the Reserve Level (which had people waiting to take pictures with it every time I walked into the Stadium). And then I noticed in this order, the new taco stand, new retail store, restroom fixtures and wider concourse on the Reserve Level.
The scoreboards are the biggest thing you notice and I think they are at their best when showing video, the picture is great and the two screens provide a visual experience that is pleasing. On the other hand, the information on the screen could be at a disadvantage due to keeping the hexagon shape of the screens. I like both lineups on the screen and some of the pitcher's stats but the ball/strike/out display could be confusing and in several cases, it wasn't working right even up to Sunday's finale.
On to Opening Day, one thing Phil and I noticed and we talked about it both on Opening Day and the following Wednesday, there was a lot of blue in the stands, now some here have said that there were several Giant fans in their sections and I can't disagree since I only saw the Loge and Reserve levels during this home stand but in my experience, I saw a lot more blue than I have had in past years. I also the usual verbal jousting but nothing that came close to an altercation either in the stands or parking lots.
Speaking of parking, I was pretty lucky, twice I came really early so I had no issues, but the other times, I came within an hour of the game and got in just fine. Also, I tend to get any food and drink before the game so I had no problems with the lines, again, I know people go all during the game and I did not notice a lot of new stands that would lessen the load. Also, I think the setup in front of the taco stand needs to be better organized.
Wednesday night brought the first of two giveaway games I attended, though this one was the only one I would qualify to get the giveaway as long as I got to the game before they ran out. I was pretty fortunate, I did get the hoodie despite coming in right around 10 minutes before the game started. And again, I hope notes were taken as I could not tell if there was a plan for all the gates on how to handle this, I think there was a plan but it just wasn't evident. The blue hoodies added to the blue in the stands that night and I did see hoodies over the weekend to show that a lot of people who came were those who go to multiple games.
One other thing that Phil, Hollywood Joe and David Young discovered on Opening Day, were the new "bar tables" placed at the break between the concourse and the last row of seats. We thought they were really cool and while David and I headed up to our seats on Opening Day, on Wednesday night, Phil and I moved from one to the other until we were close to behind the plate.
Friday night, there was less buzz because it wasn't the Giants but this weekend seemed to be all about families, saw folks with their kids (it was fireworks night) in the stands. Because there was less people (40K compared to 50K), it didn't seem like lines were a issue and in my case, the 3G network was working fairly well (Opening Day and Wednesday night, both sellouts, it did not work much at all). Getting in and out was fairly routine. I also had what I call the hipster food tray, pork tacos, a bacon-wrapped hot dog and a large PBR. The tacos were good, the hot dog was okay. I think Tommy Blackjack and I set a record of how many times we stood up for folks going in and out of the aisle.
Saturday, I bought a loge seat because I wanted to see if I could snag a good bar table seat and watch the game from there. I was able to do that (though I needed to secure it about a half hour before the game and I couldn't leave since I was by myself). But I was about a third up the 3B line from home plate and I had a good view of Kershaw. And I since I had the free bar stool, I was able to sit in comfort. I noticed on that night that people would come and go from the other stands. The Dodgers went to 6:10 starts on Saturdays a year or two ago and I think that is a good move, it gets people out earlier and probably works out better for families.
Sunday, I knew the team had sent a notice that they were opening the gates up an hour earlier but I didn't think it was because of another sellout. Today, I drove in about 45 minutes before the game and I couldn't tell it was going to be a big crowd. I did see a lot of youth teams in their uniforms, that made sense due to the Matt Kemp jersey giveaway for kids 14 and under. Also I saw some groups of probably Korean-Americans and nationals, to see Ryu pitch. I don't know if that will happen at every homestand but it being a Sunday, it probably had a small impact. And while I don't think they have finished the cell site improvement and wifi isn't installed but the 3G worked pretty good today even with the large crowd. And another quick trip out of the parking lot though as others noted, that was helped by the families going onto the field after the game.
After six games, some things like the scoreboards are not going to dazzle you (and I tend to look at the RF one for information vs the LF one); while I think concessions can be improved (how about bringing water and soda sellers back on the reserve level seat sections).
One other thing that has been bounced around the site this week has been the live announcers who do the contests and other things during the game. Generally, I am not one to pay attention to this stuff anyway but there should be a way to mix the interactive with the traditional organ music and also maybe video presentations.
Seeing the two iconic retired number 32s on the field on Opening Day was about as cool a thing one could have imagined but now the real work begins, continue renovating what needs to be fixed and fixing the renovations that need to be improved. The Dodgers certainly noticed the fans showed up this past week, I hope they continue to improve the place we all love to go to and watch the Dodgers play winning baseball.