Children don't have to spend their entire summer at Dodger Stadium… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
Seen some unsettling sights in my time. Bar fights, car wrecks, about 20 minutes of "Larry Crowne," a movie so vaporously bad it could've been shot on cellophane.
But nothing is quite as deeply disturbing as the look on a parent's face when a ballpark turns ugly. You can read the father's thoughts: "I paid 250 bucks to bring my kids to this? What's this, Cannibal Night? Hey kids, ever read 'Lord of the Flies'?"
So here's today's question: If Dodger Stadium were a movie theater, what would you rate the experience? PG-13? R? Probably not G. Should it be G? Shouldn't America's last family-friendly sport be appropriate for all ages?
As school lets out and the baseball season enters its family phase, these are good things to consider. Think of it as your summer assignment.
I'm of a mind that a ballpark will never be a Disney product — it will always have a certain cynical edge. But aside from better restrooms and concessions, what can the Dodgers do to improve the family experience and ensure an audience for generations to come?
Would you ban the F-bomb? (Boom, automatic ejection). Would you eliminate belligerent heckling (No, that's part of the landscape). Would you ban beach balls (Well, good luck).
One of the new owners tells The Times' Bill Shaikin that he wants to take baseball into the smartphone age, so fans can track fantasy teams, other scores, etc. This will be an excellent upgrade to the ballpark experience, at least till a line drive assassinates some gadget-playing goof. Death is such a downer sometimes.
Seems to me that fantasy teams come a distant second to providing a warm, comfortable, safe atmosphere for families. Maybe Dodger Stadium should have a designated "kids zone?" Maybe the entire place should be a kids zone.
Me, I've always wanted the Dodgers to provide a "tip of the day" to youth ballplayers, whereby one hour before game time, a coach or player would hold a short clinic on baseball basics: how to grip a changeup, how to turn a double-play. You could do this in a designated spot, then flash it up on Dodger Vision later.
Got any ideas on how to make Dodger Stadium more family-friendly? Send them to email@example.com. We'll pass the best ones on to the team and send you a Dodger T-shirt in return. The worst ones will receive a screener of "Larry Crowne" — starring Julia Roberts at her dystopian worst (Not sure what it means either, but it can't be good).
In the meantime, the kids are out of school and summer nights are calling. Here are a few inside tips for helping young fans get the most out of it:
Best way to get a major league baseball: Batting practice starts at about 4 p.m. and runs for a couple of hours. Gates for season-ticket holders open at 4 p.m.; 5:10 for the general public.
How to get out on the field before a game: A select number of kids are chosen to take the field with the Dodgers just before the game and get a ball signed. For a chance at this, fans must enroll their kids in Junior Dodgers, whose members are randomly selected. Info: losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/fan_forum/jr_dodgers.jsp
Best bet for an autograph: Fernando Valenzuela signs fan mail each night from the broadcast booth. The Dodgers staff collects his mail and takes it to him every game day. Though responses aren't guaranteed, he generally takes time to read messages, sign baseball cards and other small items that are sent to him. Address them to Fernando, c/o Dodgers, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Another option is Aisle 27, Field Level, the daily location for player autographs. For the best chances, get there two hours before game time.
Best birthday party tip: Dodgers offer 90-minute tours of the dugout, field and Vin Scully Press Box. It's $10 for kids 14 and under. losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/stadium_tours/index.jsp Note than Angel Stadium does this as well, for $5.
How to get your child's name up in lights: For $50, parents can send a special message across the electronic ribbon board twice during the game: at the end of the second and fifth innings. Info: losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/fan_forum/scoreboard.jsp
Where to have a pre-party: Family-oriented festivals are held up until game time in Lot 6, with giveaways, live music and occasional autograph sessions. Starts two hours before game time. Ticket to that day's game required.
Where to see a star: Who's bigger than Vin Scully? Catch a glimpse of baseball's Mark Twain heading into work at the fifth-floor press box level, usually a few hours before the game.