So what's it like in the hyper-exclusive Lexus Dugout Club, hobnobbing with Tommy Baseball and the agents from CAA?
Well, Lasorda's a lot more fun than the talent agents, but that's setting the bar pretty low. Let's just say this: The Dugout Club isn't everybody's cup of high-priced tea. But should you get the chance, should some wealthy uncle gift you with a couple of tickets, you might consider going. In fact, call off your wedding. Reschedule that appendectomy. For the Dugout Club is baseball's Magic Kingdom.
Do you hate me yet? Give me a few paragraphs.
While you were on the couch listening to Vinny, here's how I spent Saturday night: In Lot G, harem girls greeted my minivan and carried me on their shoulders to the Dugout Club entrance.
This did not go over that well with the wife, till the harem boys showed up and carried her too.
Located deep in the Dodger Stadium basement, down some stairs, then more stairs, is this Dugout Club. The 880-seat section behind home plate ranks right up there with the elite options across the nation — the skyboxes, the floor seats — offering all-you-can eat carving stations (ribs, roast beef), sweeping dessert spreads, cheese tables and almost a dozen salads.
When you order a Caesar salad in the Dugout Club, Caesar himself comes out and serves it. JC's older now. But the guy still throws together a nice salad.
The Dugout Club is what the travel industry calls "all-inclusive," meaning parking and food are included in the price of the tickets, which range from $400 to $800, depending on the game and location. A limited number are available for single games, or a prorated partial season.
The only extra cost is your liquor. A specialty drink such as the Cool Cucumber (vodka, lemonade and cucumbers) will run you $12. A 12-ounce Corona $7.75. Not a big drinking crowd, the handful of times I've been. A beer here, a beer there.
The other night, we were in the front row, courtesy of my buddy Shupper, whom I mention for obvious reasons. You can't see it from above, but in the front row of the Dugout Club, leprechauns race out between innings to massage your feet. While they are doing this, they tell you how wonderful you are, compliment you on your $20 haircut, offer tips on the next day's trifecta at Del Mar.
On really hot days, they pour champagne down your back, then blow gently on your neck.
You can tip the leprechauns, but it's not expected. Most are nonunion.
In the Dugout Club, you don't sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Tenors from the L.A. Opera come out and sing it for you. Then they shell your peanuts and buy you a cold beer.
Maybe I exaggerate. But only a little. The Dugout Club almost defies exaggeration.
Oh, I know what you're saying, that all sounds pretty impressive, but isn't it a little over the top? To which I respond: "This is L.A., sugar. There is no 'over the top.' "
Oh, but isn't watching a ballgame really better among the real people up on the top deck?
Look, if I want real people, I'll hang out in the Slurpee line at 7-Eleven. This is baseball's Oscar party.
The Dugout Club isn't perfect. An hour before the game, you can hardly find a table. And when I asked one of the servers what the interesting stir-fry dish was, she said "chicken," as if that explained the seven vegetables involved, or whether it was spicy or sweet, or anything at all about the dish. Chicken, she said.
Later, at the 20-foot dessert table, I grabbed a wedge of soft chocolate cheesecake thinking it was a brownie, and I suddenly had my wife looking at me, her eyes squawking, "What were you thinking? Do you drink soup through a straw?"
Honestly, and I am capable of an honest moment now and then, the best place to watch a Dodgers game remains the loge level, between home and third base, with Roger Owens slinging peanuts and corny jokes. The sight lines are grand, the company even better, and you won't feel like you've crashed Marie Antoinette's wedding.
In the Dugout Club, you are sometimes seated so low you lose fly balls against the backdrop of the crowd, the folks behind you mutter they've never heard of this Yasiel Puig, or even Cuba. One wondered where all that organ music was coming from.
No, the Dugout Club ain't perfect. But close. So if you ever get the chance....