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The Big Picture: A Real Strikeout : Dodger Stadium's Diamond Vision Operator Is One of Many Feeling the Pinch of Baseball Walkout

August 28, 1994|CHRIS GUTIERREZ | Chris Gutierrez, 34, has been a member of the Diamond Vision crew at Dodger Stadium since 1981 and has served as the associate producer of the 875-square-foot video display system for the past five years. Gutierrez, who has worked more than 1,000 consecutive Dodger home games, is responsible for researching and assisting with editing of entertainment segments about the Dodgers and other major league baseball teams shown on the video board. He was interviewed by Kirby Lee. and

I wasn't surprised by the major league baseball strike, but I am bitter about it.

I have many responsibilities in my job with Diamond Vision, but the most enjoyable aspect to me are the games themselves. It's kind of a bummer to have the most enjoyable part taken away from you. It's very strange to be in the middle of August and not have any baseball.

For now, I am still a full-time Dodger employee, but a good percentage of my salary comes from working games and game preparation. So as is the case with many front office employees at this time, we're deprived of that additional income we have come to rely upon.

I want to make it clear that I am not the only one affected. There are many who are definitely a lot worse off than me.

I am sympathetic to those like ushers, vendors and security guards who rely on supplemental income from baseball to support their family. Another group who is affected are the people who work free-lance for TV crews. They make a good living working games and when it's taken away, they are hit very hard.

The bottom line is there are thousands of people directly affected financially. Unfortunately, we don't have strike insurance, so the money we lose doesn't come back.

I was riding on the elevator recently with some of the guys on the stadium cleanup crew who asked if I've heard any news about the strike. And they weren't asking in the interest of baseball; they wanted to know because their jobs are at stake.

I've never been really good about saving money, but it's times like this when you have to be more aware because of what's been going on with layoffs and forced vacations in other organizations. You just can't be sure of what's going to happen if the strike continues for much longer. From a business standpoint, I can understand why some of these measures are taken.

With the lack of progress in negotiations thus far, I can't feel real optimistic about a resolution in the near future. There doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency to come up with a solution. Somehow, some way there has to be a compromise.

My feeling about baseball strikes has changed over the years. In 1972, they had a strike for a couple of weeks. I was just a kid who loved baseball. And at that time, I was sad because I wouldn't be able to watch it. I was young and I really didn't understand the issues.

When the big strike came in 1981, it was my first year with Diamond Vision working as a game employee. I lost about 25 games' worth of supplemental income from the canceled games, but fortunately the Dodgers did well and ended up winning the World Series.

But in this strike I have a feeling of bitterness, because I am being affected financially but also because of the state of the game. A lot of fun is taken out of the game when these constant money issues keep arising. This has been a great season for baseball but again the business side has taken over and put a damper on it.

I find it hard to take sides because this is a dispute between millionaires and I can't relate to that type of money. I see right and wrong on both sides. The players are making an incredible amount of money. But on the other hand, the owners continue to pay those salaries because such high demands are placed on winning. The market value of players is way out of whack and there are many reasons.

Superstars in any business are going to make the big bucks. It's when mediocrity is rewarded when troubles begin. Arbitration has been a big cause of that and a snowball effect started many years ago. Now, it's gotten out of hand.

A lot of people have said the players' union is just like any other union in America and its members have a right to strike. That's true, but in how many unions do members make an average salary of $1.2 million a year? And in other unions when disputes are settled it is usually a permanent thing and they don't haggle over it every few years. That's the problem with baseball: We have to get a long-term solution so we can get on with the game.

Dealing with the strike is difficult for me because I enjoy baseball and it's hard for me to separate my opinions as an employee and a fan.

If I didn't count on baseball financially and was just a fan, I would say "Let them strike and don't come back this season." It gets so tiring to hear about all this stuff. I would turn my attention elsewhere, which many fans have done already.

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