The crowd and participants stand for the national anthem as a giant American… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
This is what my life's come to: I'm touring Dodger Stadium with a landscape architect by the name of Mia Lehrer, an affable arborist who in the off-season planted 100 trees here, 3,000 plants, blah-blah-blah, and she notes that the ballpark itself — the superstructure, the chassis — is shaped much like a catcher's mitt.
"Hmmm, interesting," I say, which it really isn't, though I'd never made that connection myself ... the ballpark and the mitt.
But Lehrer has done good work here. Her off-season gardening project is among the more obvious upgrades to the old joint, much of which is hidden below ground, or in electrical substations, or in batting cages you'll never get to use.
Why not, really? As the Dodgers upgrade the fan experience, could there be anything more entertaining than a batting cage with a bunch of beer-filled fans falling into fastballs.
Thuuuunk ... medic ... beer!
Still, the Dodgers' blue Brigadoon feels fresher, more cared-for than at any time since the O'Malleys sold the place. The bathrooms are much improved and as of late Monday, no one had yet carved initials into the new countertops, though that seems just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, the team's vice president of fans, Janet Marie Smith, is so obsessed with creature comforts that it's almost a fetish. Smith has done some good work here, in particular not mucking up the essence of the place, which is respectful of the game and the remarkable men-children who play it.
"You don't need a focus group; you don't need a survey," she tells me about deciding what needed doing. "You just need to walk the park and listen to the fans."
Wish I could've been along to translate, for I speak the language of the average spectator, punctuated with grunts, snorts, groans, burps, sneezes, twitches, drooling, slurps, snorts (again), hiccups, gagging and a certain amount of barking.
"I'm going to eat my hat if there are lines after what we've been through," Smith said before the season began.
Of course, Monday there were lines. Applying sabermetrics' WAR (wins above replacement) to Dodgers concessions, you get a 0.6.
What goes well with hat? I'd fill it full of fries, slather catsup over the whole mess.
Then enjoy what E.L. Doctorow once called "the atomized extract of organic essence."
Good job overall with the visuals, with the "drink rails," but concessions need some work and those popular beer carts seem positioned in the worst possible places.
On the Reserve Level, Section 11, one line wrapped into and eventually devoured another line, in the way a python might consume a giant necklace of baby sheep. Missing a loved one days later? Consult animal control.
In three years I'll be 32 years old, and I'll still have a few dreams left: I want to grow up to be like Steve Lyons — half hair, half more hair. I want to marry Dennis the Menace's mom (the ever-impressive Mrs. Menace).
Most of all, I want to bond with the Dodgers' ever-impressive new president, Stan Kasten, who one scribe said looked like Peter Boyle from behind.
To accomplish all that, I don't have time for lines. Went to try those new "street tacos," but they were hidden behind a moat of 200 people, grumbling that they'd waited two innings.
Two innings is two lifetimes.
By the way, comedian Jay Mohr now has a morning sports show on AM 570, attempting to fill the huge crater of humility and warmth left behind by the departure of Jim Rome.
Mohr will best be remembered as the guy who made us feel sorry for Tom Cruise, an impossible emotion to contemplate up to that point. In "Jerry Maguire," Mohr fired Cruise. Then Kelly Preston punched him. To be punched by John Travolta's wife must be worse than even a landscaping tour.
On Monday, Mohr held court at the stadium, saying lots of amusing things, including "I really like Jerry Hairston Jr., whose father, oddly, is Joe Niekro."
Good stuff, but he has a long way to go to catch up to the Phillies' Ben Revere, who when asked the other day what he looked forward to in his new home, Philadelphia, told ESPN "the famous cheesecake."
While you're there, Ben, try the cheesesteak. It's a long season.