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McCourt confident about club's direction

McCourt confident about club's direction

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Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt spent an hour discussing his long-term goals for the organization during a live Web chat with fans on Tuesday. He talked about the offseason changes that were made on and off the field and the renovations to Dodger Stadium.

Frank McCourt: I'd like to start out by thanking you all for taking part in this chat. We're real excited today because it was the first full-squad workout and I'm looking forward to answering your questions.

Base_Ball: What do you think of the job that Ned Colletti is doing and did you have any influence on this acquisition?

McCourt: I'm thrilled with the start that Ned is off to. It makes all the difference in the world when the owner is on the same page as the general manager and vice versa. His experience, leadership capabilities and his overall ability to communicate a clear vision is paying huge dividends in a short period of time.

Minork_Calles: Will the Dodgers do better this season after last year's disappointing one?

McCourt: They'd better ... the reason we made the changes we did in the offseason was for exactly that reason and I have every hope and expectation that we will do far better this upcoming season than last year. I think everybody in the organization shares that feeling and I certainly hope you do, too.

truebluenan: Now that we have a whole new team, how about putting the players' names on their jerseys?

McCourt: Truthfully, I hear that quite a bit and we're going to look into that. Without making excuses, there's a little bit more to it than just putting the names back on. Major League Baseball has rules and there was no way we could do it for this year, but we're looking into it for the '07 season.

travelminute: The Dodgers seem to have been acknowledging their Brooklyn roots over the past couple of seasons. Do you expect to expand on it?

McCourt: Our view is that tradition and history are very important and last year gave us a great opportunity to pay tribute to the 1955 world championship team, the only one we had in Brooklyn. Speaking of which, this upcoming season, we'll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the great 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers team.

56b56: As a successful businessman, what advice can you give to a young entrepreneur?

McCourt: I appreciate your kind words and here are my thoughts: Don't be afraid to follow your dream. That said, you've got to turn that dream into a plan of action. Have a plan and then have the perseverance to stick to it. But if you persevere and work hard and you follow that dream, hopefully it'll come true for you. It certainly has for me. Whatever yours is, I wish you luck.

Bobby_OShea: How do you feel when you see that the Dodgers farm system was just rated No. 1 by Baseball America?

McCourt: Very pleased and very proud of those individuals in the organization -- Terry Collins and Logan White and all of their colleagues who are responsible for a ranking like this. It's been a process over several years and it's a core commitment of my stewardship that we not only get the farm system to the No. 1 ranking, but do everything in our power to keep it there. To make the Dodgers a successful team year in and year out, we need to have a superior farm system. Having a strong farm system is a piece of the puzzle. What we did this offseason, by bringing in seasoned veterans with postseason experience, gives us the ability to do everything in our power to win now without mortgaging that great future. Although a No. 1 ranking is a real compliment to the organization, we still have to go out and win baseball games in order to win a world championship.

Steven_Sirkin: What other renovations can we expect at Dodger Stadium?

McCourt: About a year ago, we made the commitment to play at Dodger Stadium for at least the next 25 years and when we made that announcement, we also said we were going to undertake a massive restoration of Dodger Stadium, which is clearly one of the most beautiful ballparks in America. In my opinion, the most beautiful. This offseason and last, we were able to tackle the first two phases of that restoration and over the next three or so years, we hope to complete it. I had a chance to recently inspect the work and the re-seating and the concrete cleaning and repair is going beautifully and the new seats, which will have the original color palette, look great. The new "Hollywood Bowl" field boxes are starting to go in and they look great as well. I hope that when you get out to Dodger Stadium to see the completed project, you'll let me know what you think. As far as future phases, we'll be making an announcement regarding next year's project soon, and although we haven't made any final decisions, we are still exploring the development of some kind of experience beyond the outfield pavilions for all you fans to enjoy before, during and after the games.

Seamus_Otoole: I recently attended the Dodger Caravan and had a great time meeting some of the players. What were your impressions of the Caravan and what other events will the Dodgers have in the community this season?

McCourt: I had a chance to take part in the Caravan and I was impressed with both the level of excitement that all of our die-hard fans showed for this upcoming season, as well as the excitement that our players, coaches, manager and general manager exhibited. As I've said on many occasions, one of our three primary goals is to be a model franchise as far as being out in the community. Everybody in the organization is working on a number of ways for players, coaches, front office folks and so forth to be out in and be a part of the community, such as our Play Ball L.A. Clinics that have become so popular. We're soon to be renovating three new Dodger Dream Fields throughout the Los Angeles area and we continue to partner with the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program to help spread the word about Dodger baseball throughout the inner city. The major fundraiser was just two weeks ago at CityWalk where and Eric Gagne and Willie Davis were both honored. Speaking of Eric, he'll be having his bowling extravaganza coming up in May, which will benefit the Dodgers Dream Foundation and the annual golf tournament in July. We'll also be announcing the 42 college scholarships that my wife and I have agreed to contribute annually in conjunction with the Jackie Robinson Foundation for qualified high school students in Los Angeles. The list goes on and on, from our players visiting local hospitals, schools and libraries. There's so much going on, the best way to find out is to keep checking out Dodgers.com under the community section.

ibleedblue777: Given the widespread changes on and off the field and going into your third season as Dodgers chairman, is there a different feeling this year than in either of the previous two?

McCourt: I feel I've learned a tremendous amount of the last two years. It's interesting -- when you buy a baseball team, it's not like buying a car. It doesn't come with an owner's manual and it takes some time to get your arms around things. I'll be the first to admit that I've made some mistakes along the way. But I do feel now that I've owned the team for more like 10 years. I think that's perhaps, in part, why we're starting to get some traction now. I can't tell you how excited everybody is down in Vero Beach. You can almost taste the optimism and I think we're pointed in a really great direction right now. That said, I recognize that we haven't won a game yet, but I do think that everybody in the organization has a lot of confidence right now.

56b56: What exactly is Tommy Lasorda's job?

McCourt: As you probably know, Tommy's official title is special advisor to the chairman, but as you can imagine, it's a little difficult to find a title that fully captures what Tommy means to the Dodgers. For instance, right now, he's acting as the ambassador for the World Baseball Classic, a great tribute to both him and the Dodgers. Tommy is in Vero Beach right now, in his element, coaching and motivating the players towards our No. 1 objective -- a world championship for Los Angeles. It's a great feeling when I have a decision to make, where I want to get the opinion of someone that I trust and respect, that I can just sit with Tommy and talk about it. He's a great resource for the organization.

meloco912: Frank, how do you plan on changing the mind set of us naysayers who question your ownership?

McCourt: I can talk about it until I'm blue in the face, no pun intended, but I'm a firm believer that actions speak louder than words. I have set out, I hope very clearly, the three goals for my stewardship. No. 1, championship caliber baseball, year in and year out and yes, that means winning more than our fair share of world championships. No. 2, the best experience for all of our fans, including making Dodger Stadium the No. 1 venue in all of sports. And No. 3, making the Dodgers a model franchise when it comes to partnering with and being an integral part of the greater Los Angeles community, as I spoke about earlier. These are our goals and objectives and I should be judged based on how well the organization achieves them. We're here for the long haul and I truly hope that I'll know that I've started to succeed when I've turned you from a naysayer into a supporter. In short, we plan to be a part of the community for a long, long time and I can assure that nobody wants to win as badly as I do.

zerbs63: Are there any plans right now to sell exclusive rights to the Dodger Stadium name?

McCourt: We don't have any plans to do that. It is kind of amazing that when the new Yankee Stadium is built, Dodger Stadium will be the third-oldest ballpark after Wrigley Field and Fenway Park and I think the name's great just the way it is.

56b56: Of our younger talents, which one catches your eye and why?

McCourt: If Baseball America has recognized we have the best farm system in baseball, that means we've got more than one or two good prospects to catch my eye. I know there's a lot of talk about the Jacksonville 5, but the great thing is, we have multiple prospects at each position, which is a great position to be in. On the other hand, as I said earlier, we don't want to rush our young players and that's why I think the job that Ned did this offseason, bringing in proven veterans to act as a bridge to the future, was done so skillfully. By the way, being No. 1 is a great accomplishment, but remember, our ultimate goal is obtaining a world championship at the big league level.

nbautist: How is your relationship with Grady Little and his staff?

McCourt: I feel I have a really solid relationship with Grady and his staff, but what's more important is that Grady and Ned be on the same page and from what I've seen, they have a great partnership developing, which I think is great. That relationship between the GM and the manager is critical to success.

Rhett_Bollinger: Mr. McCourt, what is your take on the ruling in the Angels name change situation?

McCourt: None of us have the time or interest in being distracted by other teams name changes or marketing efforts. We need to stay focused on our goals, namely championship baseball, the best fan experience in all of sports and a community relationship unlike any other. Furthermore, you and I both know that there's only one big league baseball team in Los Angeles and it's the Dodgers.

d4t9ers: Why don't we get Fernando Valenzuela a little more involved with the organization?

McCourt: We're very excited that Fernando is back for his fourth season in the broadcast booth and continues to be a huge part of the Dodger family.

Seamus_Otoole: I'm a huge Vin Scully fan and was wondering how long his contract is with the Dodgers?

McCourt: We are truly blessed to have Vin returning as the "Voice of the Dodgers" for the 57th year. Did you know that he was recently named the 2005 California Sportscaster of the Year for a record 27th time by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association? That's an incredible tribute to him and his work. Let me give you a little sneak preview of what I'm going to be announcing tomorrow at a press conference at Dodger Stadium; I'm going to announce that we're extending Vin's contract through the 2008 season. He's the glue that keeps generations of Dodger fans together and I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be making this announcement tomorrow.

McCourt: I want to thank you all for taking the time to participate in this chat. I really enjoyed it and hope that we can do it again soon.

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