Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Time For Dodger Fan Fest

With the Holiday Season and the regular NFL season both finished, it's time to look forward to some baseball, and on Saturday, thousands of Dodger fans returned to Dodger Stadium for the second annual Dodger Fan Fest.

It was a semi-game day atmosphere, with cars in the parking lot, Dodger Dogs being consumed for the first time in 2016 and players in uniform (or at least wearing their jerseys), with everything but a ball in play, and a way to rev fans up for the upcoming 2016 baseball season (with Spring Training just weeks away).

The Militant decided to check out the fun, and took his familiar Metro Bus and hike up the street to be soon known as Vin Scully Avenue. Unlike the usual games, he was able to gain entry into the field level (well the tickets were free) and walk onto the field, which had the base paths cordoned-off for kids to run the bases, some baseball-themed games and rides, and a couple stages where Dodger players and broadcast personalities made appearances. And, for a fee, you could get a Dodger player or legend to sign a John Hancock for you.

Of course, this offseason left us with many changes: We have a new manager in former outfielder Dave Roberts (heading a generally-new coaching staff) no Greinke, a couple new pitchers, no more organ player and a whole lot more questions than answers. Will we get into the playoffs again? Will Kershaw dominate? Will Ryu return to form? Will new pitchers Maeda and Kazmir deliver? Will our bullpen improve? Will young players like Puig and Pederson be more consistent?

It was cool to be in the presence of blue-bleeding and blue-wearing Dodger fans for the first time since mid-October, but, maybe it was the overcast nature of the day, but the event felt a little...blah.

The smell of garlic fries wafting in the air prompted The Militant to queue in a very short line for an $8.25 tray of that stuff, which was far less salty, greasy and garlicky than usual. Honestly they haven't been the same since the Gordon Biersch license expired, but The Militant had no choice but to smother the dang thing in ketchup, mustard and onions for any semblance of flavor. Whatup?!

And then there was the dreadful organ music. Dunno if it was a recording or someone on the Dodger Stadium Roland Organ, but it definitely wasn't The Great Nancy Bea Hefley. The bouncy, cheery, ragtime-influenced playing of Hefley was tragically absent in place of someone (or a recording of someone) playing '70s and '80s pop songs that sounded like they were being played at a funeral. Even the great Hefley adds that wonderful cheery ragtime bounce when she does her renditions of '70s and '80s songs.

And thought it was great to see some Dodgers players again, it kinda gets old to hear some of them say,"We're gonna win the World Series this year!" as they have been saying every year (of course, that's what every MLB team says before the start of the season...). At least The Great Tommy Lasorda, who normally says that, gave us a more general, "We owe you fans a championship!" statement, which can't be argued with.

Lasorda: "We owe you a Championship!"
 Maybe The Militant is getting older. Maybe these Dodger doldrums will fade away come April. Or in late October. Or maybe he would have had more fun if he had more cash to blow on autographs, souvenirs, or had his own Lil'Mils (that he knows of) to run around the bases with.

One thing's for sure, the "wait" for "next year" is getting shorter and shorter.

Additional pics, because it happened:

L to R: So Cal native and new OF Trayce Thompson, Joc Pederson, 'Dodger Talk' co-hosts Kevin Kennedy and David Vasseigh.

We asked for a new skipper, and here he is. Will he kick ass right out of the gate or will he require a learning curve?
Kenley Jansen with the save.
All was not lost, The Militant got some free Carne Asada flavor packets from Chef Merito.

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: A Militant Preview

Whatup and Happy Militant New Year! It's 2016 already, and we have a year ahead of us that may or may not be the greatest year ever (of course we say that every year)!

2016 is already a year of big changes, or the changing of the guard, as many notable people are leaving their beloved roles that we've known them play for years. On New Year's Day, Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards already made their final Tournament of Roses Parade broadcast after 35 years (Entertainment Tonight alums Leeza Gibbons and Mark Steines take over the reins in 2017).

2016 is also the year of Pershing Square's Sesquicentennial, having been dedicated in 1866 by Mayor Cristobal Aguilar as "La Plaza Abaja" (relative to the main plaza in El Pueblo, located a bit higher up on the map). But time has somehow erased the exact date of the dedication, so let's just celebrate its 150th birthday all year long!

Here's a calendar of upcoming events and milestones in Los Angeles to look out for in the year ahead. Of course, in between them will be the new and the unexpected, which will seal them in their own places in history.

18 - Kingdom Day Parade
Los Angeles' annual celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday gets underway on the 18th along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Crenshaw and Western, and then south on Crenshaw to Vernon (it's broadcast live on KABC Channel 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.). It should be interesting as the parade will end in a construction area, as Crenshaw Boulevard is currently undergoing the building of the upcoming Metro Crenshaw/LAX Rail Project.

25 -The 6th Street Bridge Closes - For Reals This Time
After a big-ass farewell party in October, it was revealed that the 1932 6th Street Viaduct would close on January 4, 2016 before being replaced by its Version 2.0 upgrade. So The Militant recently took a bike ride on the bridge to say his final goodbyes, where a number of photographers, dog-walkers and lowrider trucks also wanted to bid their own adios. But stop the presses, L.A. City Councilman and 6th Street Bridge Fanboy Jose Huizar himself tweeted to The Militant that the 6th Street Bridge 1.0 would be open for another couple more weeks:
So there you go. Enjoy the bridge before the 25th. If there's yet another delay after that, Huizar owes us another party, with War performing in concert again.

30 - Dodgers 2016 Fan Fest, Dodger Stadium
Welcome to the post-Mattingly, post-Greinke era. Like The Militant himself, a lot is still unknown. Will the Dodgers get more pitching? Will the Dodgers even make the postseason? Will the Dodgers finally be seen on television by the majority of its fans? Who knows. But this free event at the Stadium will give us all an excuse to wear our Dodger Blue for the day.
14 - XXXI Los Angeles Marathon
Do you love Los Angeles? Do you love running 26.2 miles from Elysian Park to Santa Monica? Then this is where you're spending your Valentine's Day, either running on the streets or cheering on the runners.

21 - 116th Golden Dragon Parade, Chinatown
The streets of Los Angeles' Chinatown will be alive with drums, firecrackers, lion dances and those confetti bazookas everyone loves to fire off as the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration takes place. This year is The Year of The Monkey, so this year is gonna be b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

TBA - Metrolink 91 Line Perris Valley Extension Opening
Southern California's 388-mile commuter rail system will get its first line extension in over 20 years this month as the 91 Line is lengthened 24 miles farther east to the Inland Empire city of Perris.  

5 - Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Opening
The first of two Metro Rail line extension openings this year kicks off on the first Saturday in March as the Metro Gold Line is extended 11.5 miles from East Pasadena to Azusa, also serving the San Gabriel Valley cities of Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte and Irwindale (Do you remember how all of those cities got their names? If not, you might want to brush up). Upon the opening of this extension, the Metro Rail system will grow to just over 99 miles in length.

6 - CicLAvia - The Valley
The 16th CicLAvia will mark a return to the 818 for the first open streets event of 2016. This time around, it's a 4-mile stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard running through Panorama City, North Hills, Arleta and Pacoima (Which reminds The Militant, its time to start his research on the next Epic CicLAvia Tour post). Take note, though, this will be the first-ever CicLAvia where the course is not serviced by a Metro Rail station (there are Antelope Valley Line Metrolink stations a few miles from the Pacoima terminus, though). This is going to be interesting. Plus, let's hope the Godzilla El NiƱo we're getting this year will at least take a breather on the first Sunday of this month.

9 & 10 - Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, USC
Los Angeles' favorite literary event is back on the second weekend of April as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books returns to the University of Southern California campus for the fifth time.

12 - Dodgers Opening Day, Dodger Stadium
It's time for Dodger baseball, at long last. It will be a bittersweet season opener as new skipper Dave Roberts begins his managerial career and legendary announcer Vin Scully prepares to end his. And would ya know it, the Dodgers will be facing none other than the Arizona Diamondbacks during the home opener, and you just know it's going to be a Kershaw vs. Greinke showdown on the mound.

13 - Kobe Bryant's Final Lakers Home Game, Staples Center
Wednesday, April 13 is the Los Angeles Lakers' final home game of the season, and barring a playoff berth miracle of some sort, the Lakers will just end their season on this date, with the Black Mamba playing the final game of his 20 season-long legendary career.

19 - Angel Stadium's 50th Anniversary
Angel Stadium of Anaheim, originally known as Anaheim Stadium, opened on April 19, 1966. The stadium gave Gene Autry's major league baseball team with a historic geographical identity crisis a home all to itself after being roommates with the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine for its first five seasons.

15 - CicLAvia - Southeast Cities
The second CicLAvia of the year will take us to good ol' Watts for the very first time, as well as venturing outside of the city limits on an as-yet-unspecified route venturing into the neighboring 'burbs of Huntington Park, Walnut Park, Florence-Firestone, South Gate and Lynwood. Check the CicLAvia website this Spring for full route information.

29 - City of Monterey Park Centennial
The 626 city of Monterey Park was incorporated on May 29, 1916. The San Gabriel Valley city is currently in the process of organizing several events to celebrate its centennial later this year.

TBA - Metro Expo Line Phase 2 Extension Opening
It's not quite the "Subway To The Sea," but we'll take the Streetcar To The Sea since it's finally coming this Spring, the second of two rail openings this year. The Metro Expo Line, which initially opened four years ago, will finally be complete as the 6.6-mile extension opens with seven new stations between Culver City and Santa Monica. This summer is gonna be pretty awesome as Angelenos will finally be able to ride a train to Santa Monica Beach for the first time in 63 years. Upon the opening of this line, the Los Angeles Metro Rail system will grow to a total route length of 106 miles. But let's hope and pray those Westside drivers will finally get their act together and not drive their cars onto the paths of the light rail trains.

3, 4 & 5 - Lummis Day Festival, Highland Park 
The 11th annual Lummis Day gets underway during the first weekend of June, celebrating the history of the Northeast Los Angeles area. This is the one time of the year where all the new hipsters in the neighborhood will learn who exactly Charles Fletcher Lummis is and pretend to care.

TBA - Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup Parade, Downtown
It's an even-numbered year, which means our Los Angeles Kings will likely win another Stanley Cup (as they did in 2012 and 2014), which is not entirely out of the question, as the team is currently 1st place in the NHL's Pacific Division. Go Kings Go!

9 & 10 - Lotus Festival, Echo Park
Having attended these since he was a Lil'Mil, this is one of The Militant's favorite annual city festivals, taking place in the middle of the year, during the Summer, next to a lake with a wonderful view of the Downtown skyline. This year's 36th Lotus Festival will feature the culture of South Korea. With the issues of budget, lake renovation and the dearth of lotus plants now behind us, we can all focus on trying to get the fireworks show back on the festival's Saturday night. The festival is just not the same without it!

7 - CicLAvia - Iconic Wilshire Boulevard
The third CicLAvia of 2016 brings us back to Wilshire Boulevard for the third time (and for the first time since April 2014) this Summer. It will likely be the same linear route between Grand and Fairfax avenues. You've all done it before, and it's not even a long CicLAvia route, but you're all gonna be there anyway, right?

2 to 25 - Los Angeles County Fair, Pomona
The best fair in all of Los Angeles County (well, it's only county fair...) gets underway on September 2nd. An annual tradition since 1922 (with the exception of the World War II years), this year's edition should be very interesting, especially in light of recent accusations of corruption within the fair's organizing body, the Los Angeles County Fair Association. 

4 - Los Angeles' 235th Birthday
Our beloved city turns 235 years old!

2 - Vin Scully's Final Broadcast
Barring a postseason appearance, this is the last regular season game for the Dodgers and may or may not be the last time we will hear the great Vincent Edward Scully, the voice of the Dodgers since 1950, call a game. The Dodgers play the hated S.F. Giants on the road, a great way to cap off a most legendary career.

9 - CicLAvia - Heart of L.A.
It's October, which means its time for the classic "Heart of L.A." route, emanating from Downtown into Westlake and the Eastside. Celebrate CicLAvia's 6th birthday, the last CicLAvia of 2016 and the 19th CicLAvia event on the streets where it (mostly) all began.

28 - Los Angeles Zoo's 50th Anniversary
The original Los Angeles Zoo opened in Griffith Park and was in operation from 1912 to 1966. The current, 133-acre location of the Los Angeles Zoo opened on November 28, 1966, two miles north of the old location, in the former spot of a temporary post-World War II public housing project and a small airport. With 2016 being the big 50th year, expect some Golden Anniversary celebrations this year and most likely a special edition of this year's Holiday Zoo Lights display.

All Month - Holiday Light Displays
"Tis the season - again! In addition to the Los Angeles Zoo's annual holiday light display, there are a number of neighborhoods around town that put up ginormous Christmas light displays on their houses and yards. Take your pick from Christmas Tree Lane (Santa Rosa Avenue) and the Balian Mansion in AltadenaChristmas Tree Lane (Daisy Avenue) in Long Beach, Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills, another Candy Cane Lane (Acacia Avenue) in El Segundo and Sleepy Hollow (Calle Mayor) in Torrance. Before you know it, we'll be doing this all over again, this time, looking ahead to 2017...