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Hitting the beach at Chavez Ravine: bring sunscreen and an appetite

The ballpark food is good at the Bleacher Beach section of Dodger Stadium. The seating? It's way up there.

June 10, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

Ever on the lookout for that first Pulitzer, I find myself at something called Bleacher Beach at Dodger Stadium. Amazing the places investigative journalism takes you.

By now, you've probably heard of Bleacher Beach. Screened from the rest of Dodger Stadium, the beach is far, far, far down the third base line, then a couple of levels up -- high as a pop fly. If I get a nosebleed here, it will no doubt drip Dodger blue. The pretty lifeguard with the garden hose -- yes, there are pretty lifeguards; yes, there are garden hoses -- will spray me down and I'll go on about my business. No biggie.

Anyway, we're at this Bleacher Beach, the latest idea from the marketing geniuses who try to make something good from something bad. In this world, you can't be too skeptical of such efforts. Yet, I'm liking Bleacher Beach, though I confess that I hate myself a little for it. As if I need another guilty pleasure.

"Contrived" is too gentle a word. I mean, what's even remotely beachy about Dodger Stadium? It's concrete, steel and old gum. From that, the marketing folks have created a sporty Margaritaville.

And do I really need all the free food that comes with admission to Bleacher Beach ($45 in advance, $50 at the gate)?

Yes, though I've had an undigested piece of Dodger Dog wedged like shrapnel near my rib cage since 1997. Doctors don't want to remove it for fear of damaging my tiny, shrink-wrapped heart. I'm OK with that. I consider it a souvenir.

So, I face a tough choice. I don't need any more ballpark food. Yet, I crave ballpark food. And honestly, who better to evaluate ballpark food than me, a man who smears peanut butter and jelly on a bagel?

Well, let me warn you: The food at Bleacher Beach is like most food at Dodger Stadium -- magnificent. Sure, the dogs are a little dry and there is always a corner of the bun that seems crafted of appliance cardboard. The burgers are dry too. Is there a local ordinance that requires all L.A. sandwiches to be a little too dry?

There is also watermelon and grilled chicken that's pretty good, almost juicy (someone's going to get fired).

What else? Did I mention there's a radio station DJ? We'll overlook that for now, because a radio station DJ never enhanced any event, including my own wedding.

In the plus category, there's that jittery-festive Dodger Stadium crowd. An inveterate people-watcher, I will argue that there is no better people-watching spot in all the world than Dodger Stadium. The pace is slow, the patrons half-dressed. (Sweaty sir in the second row, could you please put your muscle shirt back on? Thank you.)

I took my 23-year-old son Sunday, and Bleacher Beach is clearly more his demographic than mine -- though anyone of any age would feel comfortable. It's a very friendly crowd. Girls flirted with him very aggressively.

I almost had to call that new number -- (323) 224-2611 -- that you can use if someone is disturbing you. "Yes, Dodger security? There's an overripe young woman trying to get her mustardy mitts all over my son. Please bring the Taser."

Indeed, Bleacher Beach, featured only at Sunday day games, is a very genial place. I will attest to this, as someone who frequents airports, ballparks and other public places, where I speak randomly to strangers, hoping to forge deep and lasting friendships. This tactic works everywhere except newsrooms.

The point is that Bleacher Beach is the friendliest beach you will ever find 20 miles from the sea.

Perhaps the best thing about Bleacher Beach is that little sense of community created by the bamboo barrier that keeps out other fans. It makes Bleacher Beach feel slightly exclusive. Two sections, 55 and 59, out in the remote reaches of Chavez Ravine, have managed to become a little chummier than usual, a little more fun. My son calls it a Dugout Club for the rest of us.

I'd recommend you try it once, especially if you insist on going to one of those scorching day games in which you leave a little thigh skin behind on your seat. Bleacher Beach has misting huts along the walkways, and after home runs and other major developments, the lifeguard turns loose with that garden hose.

"I brought him for his birthday," says Denise Cornejo, of her husband, Jesse. "It's a good atmosphere here."

Happy birthday, dude. Surf's up.

Or is that just my beer?


Erskine also writes "Man of the House" for Saturday's Home section.

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