Los Angeles Dodgers Camp
Vero Beach Florida
Red Sox at Dodgers - March 22, 2004.

This was perhaps the finest Spring Training experience we have had on any
of these trips. We left the condo at about 10:30 and headed toward the
Atlantic to historic Dodgertown.

Holman Field was built in 1953 on the site of an old Air Force Base.
With barracks already available, and even its own landing strip, the
complex became the ideal, all-in-one spring facility. The Dodgers
hailed, of course, from Brooklyn at the time and featured such legends as
Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella. Even though the
Dodgers have long since moved to LA and the barracks have been abandoned
for more luxurious accommodations, very little has changed here in some
fifty years. It is one of the last legendary Florida parks.

We were pleased upon arrival to find a fantastic pitching matchup
awaiting us for our first game of this year's trip. Odalis Perez toed
the hill for the Dodgers, facing brand new Red Sox pitcher Curt
Schilling. A 3-2 pitchers' duel ensued, a fine contest that "moved along
at a good pace," according to our resident umpire, Dan. Only an umpire
would give his main observation at his first spring training game in
terms of how quickly the game was worked by the crew.

Sadly, the airstrip was removed last year, but the place still showcases
many unique features. Chief among them are the large trees growing right
out of the middle of the stands on each side. You can literally buy a
field level box seat underneath a shade tree, which is good, since you'll
find no other shade here.

There was also a little old lady sitting on the first row near the Dodger
on-deck circle with a loud bell. She'd ring the bell whenever the
Dodgers recorded an out, made a nice play, got a hit, etc. At first this
was charming, but by the third inning it was downright irritating.

One note on the Red Sox, who are quickly becoming the hairiest team in
all of baseball. They already had Manny Ramirez and his braids. Now,
Johnny Damon's hair is so long and his wooly beard so unkempt that he,
with his angular features, resembles what can only be described as a
homeless cigar store Indian.

After about the sixth inning, I made my way to the clubhouse area in
search of some interviews, and the first will probably be the best for
this trip. The Lizard and I were fortunate to be in a group of about 6-7
reporters who interviewed Curt Schilling.

"There were several batters in this lineup that I knew, so I just wanted
to go out and stick to my game plan. I felt like I did that today," said
Schilling, who threw 90 pitches in 6 innings, surrendering one earned
run.

"I wasn't hitting my corners early," he added, "but if you are going to
beat me, you have to beat me early, because I feel like I get stronger as
the game goes on."

Someone asked him if these travel dates in the spring are tough on
pitchers (the Red Sox made the trip up from Ft. Myers). Schilling
responded, "The toughest part of spring training is not necessarily the
travel, but that there isn't really enough time to go through your
routine. The intensity is not the same, but that comes once the season
starts."

Another question posed to him was regarding his well-publicized work
ethic. Schilling credited the fact that he has had opportunity to learn
from so many great teachers that there are too many to name. "I learned
how to listen, and learned from so many great people," he said.

Things became a little more heated when someone asked if the spring
season ever drags out too long such that boredom sets in. The ace
pitcher was incensed. "I have never been bored on the baseball field in
my entire life," he shot back, and then repeated himself for emphasis.

The most interesting point, though, came when someone asked him about
recovering when a pitcher makes a bad pitch.

"Well, it is really about preparation and mind games," he said. "If you
have done your homework and know who you are facing, the you can actually
make bad pitches into good ones.

"If you know where to miss, there is no such thing as a bad pitch."

Later, I was also thrilled to get in on the end of an interview with new
Red Sox manager and John Byner look-alike Terry Francona. I heard the
last question: "Have you had a chance to see [Dodgers Cy Young
Award-winning reliever] Eric Gagne?"

"I have a TV," Tito said, "so I've seen enough! He's just got great
stuff."

But the real highlight for both the players I interviewed and me came
with the unveiling of my new series of questions, "Foul Territory." The
Lizard and I agreed that the players are by this point in camp, tired of
the same old questions, so we devised the following, which amused most of
the guys I talked to.

1. What is in your CD player right now?
2. Who do you want to play you in a movie about your life?
3. What are your favorite TV programs?
4. What is your favorite movie?
5. What is your favorite dinner?

Dodgers' pitcher Odalis Perez grinned ear to ear when he heard the kinds
of questions I was going to be asking. At first, he was reluctant to
give any interviews, but after a minute or two, he seemed to wish we
could talk a little longer. He answered every question.

1. "Latin music, man. Merengue and Bachata. Latin and Salsa!"
2. "Lima. Jose Lima. He's crazy."
3. "'Sister, Sister' and 'The Fresh Prince'"
4. "'The Rock' with Sean Connery, no doubt man. I love that movie."
5. "Rice and red beans and chicken."

Next on the list was Tito Francona. He was a little taken aback when I
told him I wanted to ask some non-baseball questions. "Now?" he said.
"I've been here all day!" Nevertheless, he obliged.

1. "You want to know what? Everything. I like everything. 70s, 80s,
90s, everything."
2. "Hopefully someone alive."
3. No answer
4. No answer
5. "A really big salad with shrimp and oysters and all kinds of seafood
on it. I love that."

I managed to track down Bubba Trammell, the burly outfielder for the
Dodgers. He grinned and laughed to whole time. He probably would have
talked for a very long time, too. And after he answered the questions,
he offered a hearty handshake. The guy absolutely crushed my hand with
his vice-like grip. It was worth it though, as he was a really nice guy.

1. "Toby Keith, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard."
2. "Kevin Costner, I'd say." ("Are you more interesting in real life
than he is?)
3. "I mostly watch CNN and the stock market, really" (I asked him if
that was to keep up with his big portfolio, to which he just laughed.)
4. "The Shawshank Redemption. I love that one."
5. "Steak and Lobster."

The last interview for the day came with Sox minor leaguer Eric Glazer.
He seemed pleased just to be asked some questions, and happily obliged.
The most notable thing about this pitcher was that he was at least 6'7".

1. "I have a six disc changer with mostly Black Crowes." [You know,
Eric, you can buy more than just six discs for it and trade them out…]
2. "Kevin Costner."
3. "Seinfeld."
4. "The Shawshank Redemption"
5. "Oops! Gotta go - sorry!" [Bus was leaving.]

So it was a very successful day in Vero Beach, and the trip was off to a
great start. We headed back to Kissimmee and located an all-you-can-eat
rib joint. Here, I discovered that "all-I-can-eat" is not nearly as much
as "all-David-Powell-can-eat." See you tomorrow!

Welcome to Dodgertown!
The Lizard, seen here near the press entrance, was happy to arrive in Vero Beach..
The Vero Beach Dodgers logo, one of the LA minor league affiliates.
Fabulous Holman Stadium, once an Air Force Base, then an all-inclusive spring training compound for the Brooklyn Dodgers, is now one of the last remanining old-time spring training facilities. The Dodgers hold to tradition as spring training becomes big business and "requires" bigger, better facilities elsewhere.
Personnel and press offices were located in this building, where the Lizard and I went for our press passes.
The Lizard maintains an interest in the Brooklyn franchise, once followed by his grandfather, B. W. Rogers. Here we are seen in front of a photo of an old sign welcoming visitors to Vero Beach back in 1956.
Trees growing out of the middle of the stands?  Absolutely!  "What kind," you might ask, if you are David Smoak.  "i don't know, " I'd reply, "I'm not a botonist."
Talk about player access - the Dodger dugout is little more than a bench on the other side of a short fence.
Curt Schilling delivers a warm-up toss.
PLAY BALL! Holmon Stadium from atop the press box.
A great view of the outfield grass fans, as seen from the player area beyond the fence.
Johnny Damon signs an autograph for a security officer.
The Red Sox bullpen takes in the action. The press access allowed me to sit in the bullpen area and interview players after the game.
Jason Varitek heads out after a hard day's work.
Bubba Trammel tries to make the team.
Yours truly seen at the corner ofDuke Snider Drive and Vin Scully Way.