Spring Training 05: Tales from the Grapefruit League Game 2

Game 2
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
Florida Marlins vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida

It’s nearly impossible to find two stadiums that are more opposite each other than Disney’s complex in Kissimmee and Holman Stadium in Vero Beach.

After Sunday’s game in a very corporate environment, our trip to Dodgertown showed us Spring Training in its purest form. As the Marlins and the Dodgers squared off in the quaint stadium, we could see the Dodgers’ young players practicing at the nearby fields. The tiny stadium — with a paid admission of just over 2000 — is one of the oldest in the Grapefruit League. It was built to house the Spring Training trips of the Brooklyn Dodgers and has seemingly escaped any attempts of modernization from the public address system to the very simple food stands to the barebones souvenir shops.

But it was great. The weather was perfect; it was 80 degrees and sunny. The matchup was pretty good too. Last year’s World Series and ALCS hero Derek Lowe faced Brian Moehler. One man is pitching to justify a four-year, $36 million contract, and the other is trying to win a spot in the Marlins starting rotation.

Both pitchers looked sharp. Lowe threw four scoreless innings, giving up three hits and one walk while striking out three. Generally, he kept the ball down, and he has to do that to be successful. Moehler looked good against a lineup with only two Dodger starters — J.D. Drew and Hee Seop Choi. In three innings, he gave up just four hits but didn’t record a strike out.

After Lowe came out, Kaz Ishii came in. Fighting for a spot in the Dodgers rotation, Ishii was less than impressive. He didn’t allow a hit, but he walked two and couldn’t find the strike zone. Sloppy fielding led to three unearned runs. The Marlins’ runs would be all they would need as the game ended 3-0.

While the game featured mainly youngsters from two deep organizations, the Marlins had a few stand-out performances. Non-roster invitee Lew Walrond looked good. He struck out five while surrendering just one hit in three innings. Guillermo Mota closed out the game. On the Dodgers’ side, Yhency Brazoban pitched the 9th, striking out two while giving up just one hit. It was, in all regards, a game about pitching.

As for the environment, the stadium seemed like it had been plucked from 1953. The announcer plays bingo for every Dodger at-bat. Whenever someone on LA did anything at the plate, the announcer would call out a corresponding bingo number. It certainly kept the fans in the game. The stadium featured just one tier and no luxury boxes. The newest addition was an office complex built behind the right field fence, but it was hardly intrusive.

Game Two was another great day. While the Dodgers’ fielding had its rough points and the offense was nearly nonexistent, it didn’t matter. We had seats right behind third base and even spotted Tommy Lasorda during the game. Dodgertown is Spring Training as its meant to be. No obnoxious between-inning gimmicks. No corporate Disney-fied atmosphere. It was just baseball players gearing up for a great season.

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