Friday, February 5, 2010

Dodgers Caravan Best Buy Event Recap

Complete with pictures, a fun after-the-event story, and a screw-up of Campanis's of fairly epic proportions, so you know it's good!

A quick thanks to Eric Stephen at True Blue L.A. for posting the info which alerted me to the event.

My friend and I arrived for the Wednesday event (3:00 start time) at about 1:15ish, wanting to ensure that we saw, at the least, Matt Kemp. It took us a while to find the line (thanks Best Buy, great customer service you got there!), and when we did we found around 15 people already in line, far less than I thought would be there. As we passed the time, talking with some of the other Dodger fans there (shockingly they don't like Billingsley and Broxton, thankfully they don't run the team), the line grew at a very slow pace, culminating at about 40 by the time we were herded into the store.

We were shown the various lines, and then told, much to our shock, that no current players would be signing autographs at the event.

Obviously, this was a huge disappointment to everyone there, as the choice between playing video games with the players or getting autographs and talking pictures with them was quite an easy one for all involved. There was a fair amount of consensus that the players could be talked into signing, considering only about 5 little kids were in the video game lines, while the rest of the crowd, numbering around 60 by this point, were patiently waiting in the autograph line.

(As we were waiting, there was a loud screaming match between two fans, one of whom claimed the other owed him a picture from a previous event. It was quite the spectacle, with the man being accused of nefarious business challenging the other gentleman to a fight, which was comical because the other guy was clearly not going to leave his children and his spot at the front of the line to fight over some picture.)

I had called another buddy to come down, and while we were trying to direct him to where we were, he informed me that he was outside of the mall and could see the Caravan, complete with everyone we were waiting inside for. I eventually made my way out there, and much to my surprise, there was Matt Kemp, James McDonald, and the rest of the scheduled attendees.

Needless to say, I took advantage of the situation, with excellent results.

Kemp and Valenzuela

After snapping a few pictures, my buddy and I introduced ourselves to and took pictures with Charley Steiner, Matt Kemp, and Fernando Valenzuela, also managing to snag autographs from Kemp and Fernando. I mentioned to Steiner that I thought he was great at the UCLA event I attended in early January (which I have yet to recap, but still intend on doing so). My buddy had none of the traditional items one gets autographed on hand, so he is now the proud owner of a Matt Kemp autograph on a Disneyland ticket stub. Whatever it takes, I always say. Better to get an autograph then to not get one. Especially when it's Kemp's signature.

Mattycakes and Mickey

The highlight of this was of course when I got my Kemp autograph, but also what Kemp said. When I approached him, I mentioned that I knew they weren't supposed to sign, but I was hoping he could. With a straight face, he took my baseball from me and said "I'll sign what I want to sign!" Needless to say, Matt Kemp is one cool, funny, and supremely nice dude. And Kemp signed a lot during the event, as did the other current players, which leads me to the obvious question: why were we told no current players would be signing? We, as Dodger fans, already deal with enough bull from the team on a weekly basis. Thankfully this time, the bull was all bark and no bite.

McDonald was nagging Kemp the entire time we were outside, imploring him to hurry it up so they could go inside. My buddy swears McDonald called Kemp "Max" numerous times, and while that would certainly be interesting, and probably come with a riveting story, I'm not buying it. McDonald sounded as if he was too cold outside. It was probably about 75 degrees outside, so maybe he has a circulation problem of sorts?

The players, after a Kemp interview, headed in to Best Buy, and we followed right behind, almost ending up in the 8th picture in this slideshow found on the Dodgers website. Following the link and looking at the 8th picture, right between Kemp and McDonald is a guy with a Dodgers jacket on. Behind him is a gentleman in a hat. We were right behind him, as evidenced by this picture:

The event began with Charley Steiner introducing everybody in attendance, thanking all of us for attending, and a taking quick look forward to the 2010 season. I could have paid more attention, as evidenced later in the recap. Fernando and Yeager were chillin while waiting to sign. Brad Ausmus, Steve Yeager, and Jim Campanis were faces I hadn't expected to see.

After his intros, the current players began to play video games with the fans, while Fernando, Steve Yeager, and Jaime Jarrin signed autographs.

We picked up special cards the Dodgers had on hand, which Yeager, Fernando, and Jarrin signed. Fernando also signed at least one jersey, and I saw a few helmets already decked out with signatures a few spots ahead of me in line. I later used two of the cards to collect the autographs of Brad Ausmus, McDonald, and Ramon Troncoso. I had Ausmus sign the card which Yeager had signed, and McDonald and Tron signed the card Jarrin had signed.

Ausmus and Yeager

McDonald, Troncoso, and Jarrin

Fernando (given to a friend, she's fascinated that it appears to say "Ida")

My buddies and I then milled around, watching the current players play video games, taking pictures, and enjoying the great atmosphere. Ausmus was playing Guitar Hero, Beatles Edition; McDonald was on DJ Hero; Troncoso was locking down the Wii (and I'm sure a variety of games); not surprisingly, Kemp was playing a basketball video game, perhaps NBA 2K10, from what I overheard.

There were plenty of highlights, both from the players and the fans. McDonald told my friends that after playing DJ Hero, "my forearm be hurtin!" (hopefully nothing that will carry over, as McDonald also informed my friends and I that he'll be starting this season- you heard it here first (?) folks). Matt Kemp then had one of the few embarrassments he will ever know. Playing this kid who was at most 10 years old, Kemp had a one-point lead and fouled the kid with 0.9 seconds remaining. The kid then took the ball out and made a miraculous three quarters court-length shot to beat The Bison. Kemp jumped out of his chair, and the whole place burst into applause and laughter.

Ausmus played guitar hero with my 2 friends, and also scolded me after suggesting that they play "Come Together", due to the fact that "we just played that one!" Sorry Brad. I suggested to Brad that he spell Russell a little more to keep him fresh; he laughed and said Russ would be fine. My friend asked Ausmus for those spiffy glasses of his; he declined. My friend later told Steve Yeager of this, and Yeager gave an all time answer. I'm not sure whether I should include it or not, but thinking more about it, it really is such a classic answer, far too good to pass up: "If those were my glasses I'd f-cking give 'em to you!" Yeager is the man.

McDonald was trash talking all day long. He beat this little kid, then danced in his face (I believe the kids would say this little Dodgers fan got served?)

McDonald worked over my friend in DJ Hero as well. He destroyed him so badly that midway through, he stopped playing to sign autographs. He still won by roughly 20,000 points. McDonald was one of the funniest athletes I've ever come across, always joking around with the fans and his teammates.

A final collection of assorted pictures and notes:

McDonald & Jim Campanis, Guitar Hero; Campanis took vocals for a time

Steve Yeager's 1981 World Series Ring

The Bison Always Draws A Crowd

  • Ausmus checked out early
  • Kemp and McDonald laughed at fantasy baseball related questions
  • Yeager told us "to behave ourselves"
  • Caught a player grabbing a quick smoke before the caravan left- a former player
I saw a Campanis jersey, and my first assumption was, "Oh wow, it's Al Campanis". For the record, Al Campanis was before my time. I even told one of the other fans, who showed up late, that Al was in attendance, and when he replied to me "I thought he was dead", I calmly said "No, he's alive and well (or kicking)". Someone has egg on their face, don't they. Egg from 1998. Sorry Al, rest in peace. In retrospect, might have helped to listen closer to Steiner's introductions.

In the interest of protecting my wholly important anonymity, I have not included any pictures of myself. Much like the Sons Of Steve Garvey, I am a shadow in the night, and will remain that way for now. Plus, what if this site's namesake, Bill Plaschke, found out who I was? He would heap "shame on you" on me ad nauseam. Though maybe he would send me one of those spiffy argyle sweaters he likes to rock on Around The Horn. Hmmm....if you're reading this Bill, hit me up! I'm a solid interviewer (I imagine).

So, to recap my haul:

  • Matt Kemp and Fernando Valenzuela autographed baseball
  • 3 autographed Dodgers cards: Steve Yeager/Brad Ausmus, James McDonald/Ramon Troncoso/Jaime Jarrin, Fernando
  • Pictures with Kemp, Fernando, McDonald, Tron, Ausmus, Yeager, and Charley Steiner
  • Free Dodger Towel
  • Fun, Fun, Fun

This was one of the greatest Dodgers-related experiences of my life, and one of the greatest experiences of my life in general. The players and other attendees were fantastic, and it's always refreshing to see athletes and fans interacting nowadays. I really hope the Dodgers have more of these types of events during the season, and that I'm able to attend, because it's events like these that will help to build a new generation of Dodgers fans.


  1. Man, I should've gone to this one instead of the Olvera St. one. I was worried I wouldn't get the autographs I wanted (Kemp, McDonald mainly, and I did get them both at Olvera). I would've been neat to see the players playing around.

  2. I was pleasantly surprised at how interactive we were able to be with the players.

    A picture with and autograph from Kemp were my main goals, everything else was just gravy.

    To come away with such a fantastic experience was phenomenal.

    I imagine Olvera St. was packed.

  3. One of my favorite autographs in the collection is my Valenzuela. He was one of the hottest names in the business when I first started collecting.