Saturday, March 25, 2017

Open House for Bloggers at Dodger Stadium - and Yours Truly was There!

Aloha, everybody, 

The following was originally posted in my Dodgers blog, LA Dodgers Report. I'm reprinting here with the thought a few of you might be interested in my very cool experience at Chavez Ravine. In honor of Sir Night Owl, who's never been to Dodger Stadium, I'm including some bonus photos that weren't in the original article...

About two weeks ago, the invitations arrived in Dodgers blogger’s email boxes across the Southland. The Dodgers were going to have a luncheon, with a VIP tour afterward, and as loyal fans/writers/opinion makers/P.R. allies, we were all invited to attend. I may have missed the USA v Japan semi-final, but wild horses couldn’t drag me away from this event!
I was so excited to be there today, I arrived at the stadium gate 45 minutes early. The no-nonsense guard told me to turn my car around and return in a half hour, a scant 15 minutes before the scheduled noon start time.
Fast forward to 11:50 a.m. and my first 2017 view of that magnificent structure in Chavez Ravine.

They checked us in, handed everyone a complimentary Dodgers baseball cap, and we gathered in the Baseline Club.

We heard a presentation about all the fun theme nights and promotional giveaways coming up this season. Did you know that over 60 of the Dodgers 80 home games have a theme or a giveaway? With 40,000 fans receiving gifts at those special games, the Dodgers top all the other baseball clubs in giving back to the fans who come out to the stadium.
The special night that generated the most buzz in the room was April 15, Jackie Robinson Night. On that evening the Dodgers will unveil their first stadium statue, none other than ol’ Number 42. They also mentioned the giveaway – to 40,000 fans – will be a replica of that statue. “Wow”s and “Ooooh”s broke out all around the room.
While details about the statue were scarce, we bloggers pushed and here are the extra tidbits we were able to garner:

The statue will be larger than life, and made from bronze. It will rest on a granite base with inscribed quotes from Jackie.

It will be positioned on the Reserved Level, and set with the Downtown LA cityscape in mind.

The Robinson family was consulted and gave input on the pose, the features, and the inscriptions.

(Remember you read it here first...I'm predicting the pose will be Jackie stealing home.)

Then the Dodgers introduced their new Executive Chef, Ryan Evans. He told us all about the new foods that he’s created for this season.

Check out those bloggers’ hungry faces. They heard lunch was being served, not displayed.

This Tuna poke was my favorite. That said, I didn't have a chance to sample much of anything. More on that later.

Above is an extreme bacon wrapped dog and some type of extreme burger with hot dog and tater tots all included in the mix. The burger is infused – or something – with Budweiser.
I don’t want to tell Chef Evans how to do his job (he doesn’t tell me how to write), but for the love of Lasorda, with so many excellent local craft breweries surrounding Dodger Stadium, was Budweiser really the best beer to go with on that one?
We finally got to sample the food, but the problem was, they took so long with presentations, there was only about 10 minutes for us to eat before the tour left. I wish we’d had time for dessert, because I really wanted to taste that Dodgers funnel cake.
The tour was the best part of the day for me. We began at field level. 

Two amazing views from the batter's perspective.

The dugouts still bear the WBC markings.

I looked down at the spike marks on the bench and I wondered how far back they went. Could these be scuffs  from Koufax’s spikes? Gibby’s? They’re at least the marks from WBC Champions, Team USA, and that was awesome enough for me.

Below is the view from the dugout down toward the clubhouse. To be honest, it looked a little dingier than I expected. It looks unchanged from the night Kirk Gibson stood on those very stairs and told Tommy Lasorda he was ready to bat in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. 

Some views from the dugout giving the player's perspective.

We passed into the bowels of the stadium and through halls lined with memorabilia, retired jerseys and awards.

Here's one for GCRL...

An almost endless display of Golden Gloves. Below is Fernando's GG (actually, these are replicas, as the originals go home with the players). 

The World Series Trophy case. These are the real deals, not replicas. 

Here’s the view from the Vin Scully Press Box

Below is the last home plate ever used at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, NY, USA 

Shown above is Vin Scully’s headset, last scorecard and notes. I kid you not, I felt a tear welling up as I looked at this.
There’s something special about this place, this stadium. Its walls are saturated with legendary baseball feats, lazy, sunny Sunday games, and deeply personal history.
Thank you very much, Los Angeles Dodgers, for inviting us out to a very special day.
The next time I’m at the stadium, the Dodgers will be taking the field, and we’ll all – all of us – be starting this wild and crazy, wonderful and frustrating, nail-biting ride that is much more than just a game.


Friday, March 24, 2017

There's Rain in the Forecast

Aloha, everybody, 

How about that WBC? That was a pretty darn good tournament, right? Of course, I'm very happy that Team USA and their lucky eagle brought the trophy home. 

In celebration of the good ol' USA winning it all, and with Opening Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea if our little community had some rain. Cardboard rain, that is. 

First I had to step outside and check the weather....

What's it like over there in the east? Are you folks still buried under all that snow?

See that lumpy shadow on my left? I put on a few pounds since last year, but not that many. That shadow is my rainmaking kit. 

As you can see, it was a nice day, so my humble little kit and I headed over to the post office. 

Cardboard rain at the ready....

And then it was gone. 

With my mission accomplished, I headed for home. 

And then I saw it. Calling me from across the street...

Dare I?  

Just when I thought I was out...

They pull me back in! 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Other March Madness

Aloha, everybody, 

If you read the most excellent Pirates blog Bob Walk the Plank (but of course you do, because who doesn't?), you probably read about the beer trade that Matt and I pulled off. 

I sent Matt some beer crafted at my local brewery (here in sunny Southern Cali), and he sent me a whole buncha beers from the land of the ice and snow. 

Look at that bunch. Most of these beers I'd never seen in my life, and I would probably never get to taste, except for the fact that Matt and I put this trade together. 

I said "most of these beers" because I'm familiar with one of the twelve Matt sent. More on that later. 

As you can see, that's a lot of different beers to sample and review. It's going to take me some time to taste them all. So I'm going to break this trade review into a couple of posts (or three).

I decided to be systematic about the project, so I chose a side of the box, and I'm going to just go down the line, one by one. Matt asked me to be brutally honest in my reviews, and so I shall. 

Here's how the first beers went down...

Victory Storm King Imperial Stout. This beer hails from Pennsylvania and it packs a punch with a 9.1% abv. 

This one's very much like some of the stouts I'm used to. By that I mean, it's the usual. I'm not saying it's a bad beer, but it's that middle of the road flavor that you or I have had in every middle of the road stout. 

There's a sharp taste that overwhelms what should be this beer's distinct flavor. Seems the brewers couldn't find a way to tame that big abv punch. 


Santa's Cookies is an Imperial Oatmeal Stout from Champion Brewing. These folks are closer to Matt's neck of the woods, in Virginia, and THEY know how to make an Imperial Stout. 

This bad boy (8% abv) is slightly bittersweet, like a quality dark chocolate. I didn't taste much oatmeal, but that's not a knock. The flavor blankets the top of your tongue like liquid velvet. 

Man, it's good. Savor this one. 

I drank those first two myself (on separate nights), but today I brought out a few more to taste with family around the BBQ. 

Here's a WOW beer. Blackout Imperial Stout from Great Lakes Brewing, over in Cleveland Ohio. Do you want to taste a beer that takes a 9% abv and does it right? You found it. This one has a creamy smooth finish. Highly recommended. 

Next up was The Mad Elf  from Troegs Brewing in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This one delivers a double digit, 11% abv. As the bottle says, it's brewed with honey and cherries. 

  Our BBQ weather was somewhere in the low 80's, but this winter warmer still hit the spot. The bottle says it's an ale brewed with honey and cherries, and you can sure taste that yummy blend.

This one is a keeper. Another smooth finish, but this one lingerrrrs. It tastes like cherries dipped in velvet beer. Thumbs up!

The final taster we tried was...

Pale Joe from Founders Brewing in Michigan. This one's a Pale Ale brewed with coffee (5.4 abv). 

Sorry Michigan, this beer is quite pedestrian. Not much to distinguish itself from other pale ales. I rate this a solid...meh. 

There you have it. Five beers down and a lucky seven more to go. It's been a real blast tasting these beers so far, and that big box tells me there's plenty of beer goodness yet to come. THANKS, MATT!

Join me next time when we review the next batch of beers.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm a Real Sucker for Repacks

Aloha, everybody, 

I just have to admit it. I can't resist repacks. 

I didn't start out looking for a repack, but darn it, before I knew what hit me, I found myself pulled back into the repack cycle once again. 

It all started a few days ago I saw a beautiful Kenta Maeda insert that someone pulled from a pack of 2017 Heritage. Well, I thought - in my unrealistic hunter/collector logic - if that guy can pull a Maeda, surely I can too...or at least an Adrian Gonzalez base card. 

So off I went to my local Target. No Heritage in sight. Ugh! 

OK, what else was available? Nothing but flagship Topps. More ugh! I didn't want to drop $20 on a blaster, as my original plan was just to find a couple of lucky packs. 

The box containing individual Topps packs was picked through and disorderly. I figured some 12-year old messed them all up, and then I figured some 35-year old, cherry picking, pack sniffer had a go at the box. My chances at an lucky insert were dashed. Thrice ugh! 

A reasonable man would have just walked away and gone to a different store. That's what a reasonable collector would have done. 

And then, I saw it. 

Look at who was staring at me through the window. Kenta!! 

50 cards! 4 packs! A mystery bonus! All facade of self-discipline was gone. I hadda have it. Before I knew it, I was in the self-checkout line, repack box in hand, and my heart rate rising. 

As soon as I was home, I started in on it. First up was the bonus. It was another one of those mini-mites. This time it was a White Sox catcher. The only mystery to me was "who would want this?" 

Next I went for the 50-card repack. Here's what I found...(I mean, besides the 20 or so Astros cards that brought great feelings of regret and buyers remorse)

A 1987 Sportsflix Darrell Evans. 

And prospects many dead prospects....

Even Drew Hall looks like he knows he's never gonna make it in The Show.  

Anybody collect Durham Bulls with unspellable names? 

Anybody collect Yankees prospect checklists with Bernie Williams listed? 

I got a few O-Pee-Chees for those so inclined...

The Astros even infiltrated the O-Pee-Chees...

Who wants Rick Sutcliffe with perfect hair on O-Pee-Chee? 

I still had four packs to find some magic...

The best card from each of these packs...

The Morgan is one of those Bergman Bests. Maybe Nachos Grande would like this? 

Another insert. This time Mike Trout. 

Last chance for a Kenta Maeda...or Carlos Ruiz...any Dodger would do at this point....

From Stadium Club (and I had to try hard to find a card to showcase from this pack)...

Last pack, last chance...


Repacks...never again!