Last week I went to Dodger Stadium and saw how LA’s upper crust studies the finer mechanics of a baseball game: safe inside an underground tunnel called the Lexus Dugout Club, lining up for hand-carved turkey while watching the game on television. They have it down to a science.
I scored a ticket from a friend whose uncle is a Hollywood screenwriter. We were told to look for glass doors, and descended a staircase that led us past a hallway adorned with glimmering trophies. “Welcome to the Dugout Club,” a blonde said, arm extended, palm upward. "Dessert will be available in the second inning." [Keep still, Justin, don’t ask questions, you'll only sound stupid.]
The Dugout Club is billed as the "most exclusive experience" at Dodger Stadium, and, as my friend pointed out, it feels like a Vegas casino. Exclusive as in, I'm so lucky. What am I doing here? Look at these ridiculous people. [Wait, I am one of these people.] In the Lexus Dugout Club there are several elaborate buffet stations with food for the taking. Also booths and tables, a bar, and flat-screen televisions tuned to various programs. Now, I'm talking buffet stations with the works: salmon with tomatoes and spinach, various grilled vegetables, large slabs of protein, pastas, a salad bar. Good ol’ baseball fare.
The grill station was encased in a glass box like a trophy; things were actually being grilled. We’re talking chicken sausages and bratwursts with real char marks. I grabbed an onion roll and placed a big ol' brat on top, and loaded the bun with whole-grain mustard, because whole-grain is how we do things down here. [Don't be such a newb.] Oh sure, I'll have some steak, too. And some of that roast turkey breast over there. End pieces please.
“I'm pounding this meat!” I said it aloud. Oops, wrong metaphor, but my night became this game of compulsive eating. When you're used to paying $50 for beer and a lousy hot dog out in the stands, you can't seem to get enough of the Lexus Dugout Club, an alternate reality where quinoa is the new Cracker Jack. And so it goes.
I couldn’t skip the wild arugula salad with blueberries and peanuts because … baseball! I walked over to another stand with banh mi, which, from what I could tell, were just pulled pork and coleslaw on baguettes (that’s usually called barbecue). "They look kinda sketch, but they're pretty good," said the guy working the station. Fersher dude, fersher. If all this seemed out of your league and you wanted a taste of the familiar, there was a chafing dish lined to the brim with prewrapped Dodger Dogs. 'Twas luxury.
We finally made our way toward the seats. The buffet played this magic trick that made us forget we were only 15 feet away from the action. One guy we passed was at a table talking to a waitress, with only a plate of M&M's. Another baseball superfan and his friend were watching playoff basketball when one turned to his right and muttered, "Oh, Cliff Lee is pitching." Lee was on the opposing Philadelphia team. It was already the second inning.
Before you ascend from the underworld of the Lexus Dugout Club, you pass another large snack station: free popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jack, Abba-Zabas, caramels, lollipops. I don't like candy, but I took a fistful and pumped my hand in the air. "Hashtag Dugout Club," a vendor chirped. [On it.]
The beer went down as fast as the pitches came. We were so close that I could stare at Tim Federowicz’s impossible name on his jersey and repeat it to myself a few times without interruption. Yasiel Puig strode with his enormously wide frame to the on-deck circle. When the umpire called strike you could see Puig roll his eyes and say, "Oh my God," like a 23-year-old kid because, well, that’s what he is.
Another sighting! It was the esteemed owner of the Tommy Lasorda Trattoria, the Dodgers’ new Italian bistro. He was taking pictures with fans, so I had to go over and pay my respects to the man who is arguably the team’s greatest manager ever. We handed over a camera to an usher, and I feebly told Tommy how I was given his autograph for my bar mitzvah. No response. "Hey kid, put that beer away." I lowered my cup and smiled for the camera. [Only for you, Tommy, only for you.]
Photos by Justin Bolois