“Remember when.” It is a common phrase we’ve all used before.
Sometimes, you say it to recall the good old days at work before you got a new boss whose job seems to be making your life miserable. Or you could be a Kansas City Royals fans recalling when the word “playoffs” was part of the vocabulary. Under former Dodger owner Frank McCourt’s tenure, “remember when” was echoed quite often.
McCourt appeared to go out of his way to make attending a game a somewhat miserable experience. Long lines at concession stands, deteriorating restrooms, bad sight lines from what were supposed to be premium seats, ushers that gave you a map to your seat rather than walking you to them, and a convoluted parking plan that made exiting a game slower than the Oscars, were some of the evils he spewed forth. McCourt managed to take the fun out of taking in a ballgame. Things only got worse when McCourt was caught spending his money on everything except improving the team and stadium. So it was no surprise that fans were ecstatic when the new owners took over early in 2012. And now, in 2013, “when” may have arrived.
Appropriately enough, it was this past Good Friday, 3/29, when a friend and I paid our first 2013 visit to Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers and Angels were playing the second game of a three game exhibition series. The changes overwhelmed you like the candy display at a supermarket checkout.
First, as we pulled into the parking lot, it seemed there were enough parking attendants to fill every NFL roster. The drive in was not a free for all that under McCourt took on the feeling of the old “Capture the flag” game. There were actually attendants directing you to park. Not one, not two, but three guys were waving the flags at me in order to make sure I was firmly ensconced into a space.
Second, although it may have reminded you of the Bryan Stow beating two years ago, police were plentiful. Cops in cars and on bikes roamed the lot. One could feel, well, safe.
Signs of repair and replacement were all around. Newly dried concrete surrounded many railings. Freshly tarred parking sections could easily be spotted as you circled the expansive grounds. The escalators to the upper levels actually worked and there was yet another attendant greeting you on the way up.
Up on the reserved level, there were brand new restrooms. They were clean and fresh with blue and white tile dotting the floors. There were even family restrooms with an attendant outside of them to ensure no beer-filled patrons stumbled onto a mother changing a baby’s diaper. And speaking of babies, the noise of children rose to rock concert decibels as they romped through a new playground.
But the pièce(s) de résistance were the scoreboards. There are new high definition scoreboards in left and right fields. As always, the left field one entertains highlights and runs all the upcoming promotions. The right field one was a sight to behold. That board displays the line-up, score, and the player’s photo. You could almost stare at that more than the game.
For the first time in many years, I felt welcomed to the stadium by a team that seems willing to give as much as they want to take. Under McCourt, it was all about getting your money, not your presence. For me, the new owners had accomplished goal #1-to make attending the game a pleasant, fun-filled, family-oriented experience. Of course, not all was perfect.
The concession line outside my section was still so long that people blocked the entrance to the restroom. The Dodgers say they are working on improving the concession operations.
Still, it was a terrific evening. The new owners reminded me the Dodgers are to be shared with the city, not just a way for some guy to make money.
So I say thanks to Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten for bringing back the feelings I haven’t felt since the O’Malley ownership days. This year, “remembering when” may mean your last game, not a 1977 home run by Steve Garvey.