Bordow: $200 ticket? Dodgers' fans are here - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Bordow: $200 ticket? Dodgers' fans are here

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Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008 5:15 pm | Updated: 9:31 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It's just past 9:30 Thursday morning when I pull into the Phoenix Municipal Stadium parking lot.

Read Scott Bordow's blog

The Cactus League game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox won't begin for another 5 1/2 hours, but there's already four other cars in the lot.

Two men have their windows rolled down and are talking. They're both wearing Dodger blue T-shirts.

"I paid $200 for my tickets today," one of the men says.

"Two hundred?" the second guy says.

I'm thinking the same thing as I throw my computer bag over my shoulder and head to the press box.

Two hundred dollars for a spring training game?

What is the guy, nuts?

No, he's a Dodgers fan.

Los Angeles christened its move to the Valley with a game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, and if the crowd at Phoenix Muni was any indication, the Cubs will have trouble retaining their title as the Valley's most popular Cactus League team.

Fans who had never been to Vero Beach, Fla. - the Dodgers' spring training site since 1948 - greedily snapped up seats. The game against the White Sox was standing room only more than three hours before the first pitch.

Those same fans say they'll make the trek to Glendale next spring when the Dodgers officially open their new spring training home.

"Vero Beach was magical, but I'm thrilled they're out here," said Bo Pollard, 48, a lifelong Dodgers fan who lives in Lake Tahoe, Nev. "It's probably 20 years overdue. Now it's just a quick flight on Southwest Airlines for me."

Luring Los Angeles west is a coup for the Cactus League.

People forget, but this was a Dodger town long before the Diamondbacks moved in. Dodger games were on local radio from the late 1960s until 1993. Arizona broadcaster Jeff Munn remembers listening to legendary Dodgers play-by-play voice Vin Scully as a kid and thinking that's what he wanted to do with his life.

"We've wanted them for a long time," Cactus League president J.P. de la Montaigne said. "They were the one western team we didn't have. They'll be a perfect fit in Glendale."

The Dodgers' relocation is sure to crank up their simmering rivalry with the Diamondbacks.

Already, there's a built-in divide between the two franchises that transcends the geographical boundaries of the National League West.

Los Angeles is old school; Arizona is - relatively speaking - the new kid on the block.

The Dodgers' payroll was $108 million in 2007; the Diamondbacks spent less than half that at $52 million.

And the fact Arizona won the division and advanced to the National League championship series while watching every nickel only galls Dodger fans that much more.

Now the two teams will not only play each other 18 times during the regular season, they'll hook up several times in Cactus League play.

"As a manager, I don't think it makes much difference because to be honest, I'm oblivious to the other club during the spring," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "But I think it does matter for the fans, no question."

When the Phoenix Muni gates opened at 1 p.m., Dodger fans rushed to the first few rows of seats along the first-base line.

About a half hour later, former L.A. manager Tommy Lasorda stepped out of the dugout and slowly made his way to the practice field, where the Dodgers were working out.

Fans applauded Lasorda every step of the way, and Lasorda responded with a tip of his cap and some of his long-memorized Dodger shtick.

"Remember," Lasorda said, "If you don't pull for the Dodgers, you may not get into heaven."

Sure it's corny.

But can you imagine anybody saying that about the Tampa Bay Rays?

 

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