Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Laid-Back Night in Dodgertown

I was excited about our trip to Vero Beach on Tuesday night to watch the St. Louis Cardinals play the Los Angeles Dodgers. My excitement came from my anticipation of fulfilling my long-time dream of visiting the famous Dodgertown Spring Training complex. The Dodgers have trained in Vero Beach for sixty years and have played at Holman Stadium since 1953. The stadium, which was renovated before the 2003 Spring Training season, seats around 6500. It is a very intimate venue but it also has a crowded feeling; the concourses are narrow and there is very little leg room between the rows of seats. The Dodgers plan to move their Spring Training home to Glendale, Arizona for the 2009 season. I think that’s a shame, given their longstanding relationship with Vero. But I guess it makes sense for them to train nearer their fan base and in the same area as the other West Coast teams.

I ate a Bratwurst with mustard; it was very good. The $3.25 I paid for a bottle of water was a bit ridiculous. Maybe that’s why the very good public address announcer kept reminding us of the need to stay hydrated—there’s good profit in hydration. To be fair, he did mention the water fountains, where free hydration was available.

The crowd was a little strange. In the first place, there seemed to be almost as many Cardinal fans as Dodger fans; the Cards train just an hour down the road in Jupiter. In the second place, I have never been in a quieter group of over 6,000 people. The fact that what noise there was came from the Cardinal fans is understandable, given that the Redbirds won 13-0, but even early in the game when the Dodgers still had a chance the place was as quiet as a graveyard. When they played YMCA during the eighth inning, I counted five people doing the motions. Maybe it was just a laid-back Southern California kind of thing.

As for the game, the Dodgers played terribly. They looked like they mailed it in and had the wrong address. They made three errors. I did enjoy seeing former Braves Rafael Furcal and Wilson Betemit, who started at short and third, respectively. The Cardinals looked like the defending World Series champions that they are. Eli Marrero, another former Brave, had three hits and four RBI and played three positions (right field, first base, and catcher). Preston Wilson also had three hits. Anthony Reyes pitched six scoreless innings; he is now 3-0 with an ERA of 0.56 this spring.

Let me close with a culinary note. Before going to the stadium we ate dinner at Mr. Manatee’s. It was excellent. The atmosphere was casual, the service was good, and the food was tasty and abundant. I had fried oysters and enjoyed them thoroughly. If you’re ever in the area, eat at Mr. Manatee’s. (This is an unpaid and completely voluntary endorsement; I just liked it and thought you ought to know.)

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