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McCourt sees confidence at camp

McCourt sees confidence at Spring Training

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is getting a sense of confidence from the players at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. McCourt chatted with fans on March 20 and shared his views on a variety of topics, including the 2007 season, the recent and future renovations to Dodger Stadium, the names on the players' uniforms and moving the Spring Training location to Arizona in 2009.

Frank McCourt: Welcome everyone and I look forward to answering your questions. Let's get started.

YEAHHH: Do you think the Dodgers will go to the playoffs and probably win the World Series?

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McCourt: I think that we're entering this season with the momentum created last year, so I think we all have reason to have high hopes for the season. I certainly hope we make the playoffs. As far as predicting a World Series victory, that's a little difficult. There are a lot of things that play into that. By the way, we've just extended Grady Little's contract. I think he, the coaches, Ned Colletti and his staff are doing a very, very good job.

dodgrfan805: All fans recognize you in a dress shirt and coat. Would you ever show up to Dodger Stadium in a Dodgers jersey?

McCourt: With or without names on the back? All kidding aside, as you probably know by now, we've put the names back on the jerseys. Although I would love to wear a Dodgers jersey, I'm going to leave that to the players and the coaches.

LoWeCY86: Do you watch the NCAA tournament, if so who did you pick to win it?

McCourt: Seeing as I graduated from Georgetown, I'm a huge Hoya fan. I certainly hope they go all the way.

Thanatos: I noticed the Dodgers are one of the teams that likes to use this chat forum. Do you feel this really helps the team?

McCourt: I certainly do but I think the better question is, how do you and other fans feel about it? We welcome your feedback on the message boards.

dodgrfan805: I appreciate your visits to the TV booth to chat with Vin Scully. Do you plan to do that more often?

McCourt: Thank you. I enjoy my visits with Vin immensely. I feel like I'm sitting in the family room with him, talking baseball. As a matter of fact, if I have a chance I'm going to swing by and sit with him during tonight's broadcast on KCAL down here at Dodgertown.

astorkyle: Mr. McCourt, we have a tremendous farm system, yet many fans feel we may be inserting veterans and blocking their paths, say in the case of James Loney and Chad Billingsly. Is Ned Colletti's philosophy going to continue in this way?

McCourt: We are committed to finding and developing our own players. That said, we don't want to rush them. There will be times when we have difficult choices to make, but having to make those choices is far better than not having enough good players to win.

TrueBlue42: Are there any plans in the works to build a Dodger museum or "monument park," if you will? It seems long overdue for a team with such a storied legacy and legendary players.

McCourt: I agree with you that the Dodgers are one team that should have a museum and quite frankly, I think fans like you deserve one. So with that in mind, we're looking to create such a museum during one of the future Dodger Stadium restoration phases.

Seattle: What lessons have you learned, as the owner of a baseball team, over the past three years? Was the learning curve steeper than you thought? Best regards.

McCourt: It's not so much a lesson I learned as it is one of which I needed to be reminded. That is, that it's critically important to have everybody in the organization aligned and working towards the same goal. I think we have that now and that's why we extended Grady's contract today and I'm very comfortable that myself, Ned and Grady are on the same page now.

gstjohn: What has been your most memorable moment so far with the Dodgers?

McCourt: There have been so many, but I would have to say that the game on Sept. 18 against the Padres with first place in the division on the line, fighting back repeatedly during the game and of course the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs, capped off by Nomar Garciaparra's extra-inning walk off was something that I'll certainly never forget.

gstjohn: Coming from real estate development, what inspired you to get in the baseball business? Of all the clubs, why choose L.A.?

McCourt: My grandfather was an owner with the Boston Braves many years ago. I grew up loving the game and buying the Dodgers was like a dream come true.

moy23: I would like to know what new upgrades can we expect for Dodger Stadium in the upcoming years?

McCourt: The three biggest concerns we heard from the fans when we arrived here were the condition of the seats, the parking situation and the concession lines. As you know, last season we replaced all the seats. This offseason we are working to fix the parking situation (hopefully you'll be hearing a lot more about that starting today) and we've already begun the work to renovate the Field and Loge Level concourses to be finished by next offseason, which should alleviate the lines. When that work is complete, we have some exciting ideas for what we'd like to do in the future and I'll share them with you just as soon as I can.

cervantes909: What helped make your decision on moving Dodgertown to Arizona in 2009?

McCourt: The decision comes down to what's best for the fans and after talking to a lot of you, it became very apparent to us that if Spring Training was closer to L.A., more of you could come and you could come more often. Don't get me wrong, Dodgertown is beautiful and there is great history here, but we'll bring that history and some of the other things that make Dodgertown great to our new facility in Glendale. I think it's going to be something that the fans really appreciate.

jonkeymer: what's the mood like in spring camp? Are the players noticeably more positive than last year? I am rooting for you guys in a wintry Poland.

McCourt: The mood here is great. Everybody is very upbeat and I get a sense here that this ballclub is developing a real sense of confidence. I think our players are looking forward to the season starting as much as the fans.

crashBAT38: There was news recently about the Rangers getting their 'brand' back. You don't plan to 'lose' our 'brand' by selling naming rights to Dodger Stadium, do you? P.S. You're doing a great job, you're keeping us competitive.

McCourt: I think it's really important that Dodger Stadium stays Dodger Stadium. With that said, as we continue to look to increase revenue streams so that we can increase the quality of the farm system and the big-league team, we may look to name certain pavilions or terraces or parts of the ballpark, but Dodger Stadium is going to stay Dodger Stadium.

dodgerfreak1538: What kind of improvements have you seen in young players like Russell Martin, Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Matt Kemp?

McCourt: Since we arrived in 2004, we've been committed to bringing the Dodgers back to developing our own players. We were very pleased to learn this offseason that Baseball America named the Dodgers the Organization of the Year. So to see these players grown and prosper is evidence that our committment to the farm system is working. We're going to stay committed for the long-term. That said, let's just remember that these players are young, they have great futures and let's be patient with them. As far as the individuals you mentioned, I think that without getting specific, the improvement that they're showing is terrific.

cervantes909: It is my understanding that the Minor-A team has moved to San Bernardino? Can you confirm that and why the move?

McCourt: Our high-A team has moved to San Bernardino and will be playing in the California League as the Inland Empire 66ers. There are several reasons we moved from that team from Florida. One, to be closer to the fans. Also, so that it would be far easier for our baseball operations people to watch the team on a regular basis.

trueblue38: Mr. McCourt, as a full-season ticket holder for the past four years I would like to say 'thank you' for everything you have done to improve the greatest stadium in the country.

McCourt: I appreciate the comment, but I want to thank you and all your fellow season ticket holders for the support and loyalty that you have for your team.

turro26: Is the increase in GA Parking going to offset the cost of employing the additional personnel that will help with the new parking program? A $5 increase is a big hit on families.

McCourt: From what I've heard, there has been a problem with parking at Dodger Stadium for years and years. What we decided to do this offseason was take on the challenge of trying to fix it. Doubling the number of parking attendants is just one part of what it takes to attempt to fix the parking situation. There had to be physical changes to the lots -- paving, striping, security towers, signage, etc., etc. By the way, please spread the word to your friends and other fans that there are changes taking place because it's important that fans know what to expect before they get to the ballpark. After you've experienced the new parking system, please give us your feedback if there are ways that you think we can further improve the parking situation.

Mike_V: Mr. McCourt, how involved are you with decisions on player personnel? Do you have a payroll cap?

McCourt: Involved, yes. But I rely heavily on Ned and his staff to make the proper recommendations. As far as a cap is concerned, there is none. We'll spend what it takes to win. We obviously want to spend that money wisely.

abru3: Have you attended a Las Vegas 51s game, and what do you think about having Las Vegas as the Dodgers Triple-A team?

Yes, I have been to a 51s game. For the same reason that we moved the High-A team to San Bernardino, I think it's important when we can, to have our Minor League teams nearby for both the fans and also the proximity to L.A., so that our baseball operations people can get there with regularity. Furthermore, in the case of Las Vegas, because it's our Triple-A team, having our team close by in the event that we need to call up a player on short notice is a huge advantage.

Dodger_D: Respectfully, why were my season ticket prices raised over 76% in the last two years? It doesn't seem right since the product on the field hasn't improved since the fall 2004. Also, the food service was more inaccessible than ever -- I couldn't buy a $6 dog.

McCourt: Before I bought the team, I was a fan and a season-ticket holder, so I'm very aware of and sensitive to ticket pricing. Yes, we have raised the prices but we've also tried very hard to invest the additional revenue right back into the team. Not only have we invested heavily in the big-league ballclub, we've done the same throughout our Minor League system and to date, we've invested $60 million in restoring and refurbishing Dodger Stadium. Admittedly, some seat prices like yours have been raised, but we've also worked very hard to keep many of the seats at or below $10 so that it's still an affordable experience for any fan who wants to attend, as well as families that have to purchase multiple tickets.

Moderator: Let's do a couple more questions.

dodgrfan805: Your business staff has been on top of all the marketing trends to sell tickets. Are there any suggestions you received from fans that you have considered regarding promotions?

McCourt: I think that the feedback that we get from fans gives us some of our best ideas and we really appreciate it. As far as promotions are concerned, we're going to let you all decide who our final bobblehead will be this year and you can vote on dodgers.com to give your input. This is one of the many ways we try to involve the fans in our promotions and if you have other suggestions, please let me know.

TrueBlue42: Have you ever had a BBQ and played a pick-up softball or baseball game at the stadium with friends and family? I know I would if I was the owner.

McCourt: We have a softball game and picnic every season for the employees to reward them for all their hard work and it's really a lot of fun.

kenedodger: We fans really like chatting with you guys. Sometimes we wonder if you read our message boards at all.

McCourt: To be honest, I don't have a chance to read the message boards myself, however we have several employees whose job responsibilities include knowing what you are all discussing on the message boards. That way, as concerns are raised or feedback is given, we can address it.

brent1975: Mr. McCourt, it has been over 25 years since Dodger Stadium hosted an All-Star game. Why is it taking MLB so long to get back and is there anything that you can do?

McCourt: I agree with you, it's time for another All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. Maybe with all the improvements we're making at Dodger Stadium, we'll be in a better position to compete for an All-Star Game with some of the newer ballparks. Why don't you and your fellow fans start a campaign?

disguntleddodger: Frank, the people have spoken, and obviously you have listened. We thank you.

McCourt: I really have tried to listen and the feedback that I have received from you has really made a difference. Like I've said many times, before I became steward of the Dodgers, I was a fan just like you. (Still am.) As a matter of fact, I can't wait to see you all on April 9 at Opening Day or sometime later in the year.

McCourt: Don't be afraid to come up and say hello and here's hoping for a great season. I really enjoy this format because it allows me to answer a lot of questions at once. Thanks for your time and I look forward to doing this again. Go Dodgers!

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