Cowabunga, or Hang Ten, or Something

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-Large, intimidating West Coast waves?  Check.
-Brand-new surf board, dragged across the driveway to make it look worn?  Check.
-Embarrassingly skintight wet suit?  Check.
-One former New York resident who doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing out here and therefore can’t do much more than paddle around for an hour?  Check.

That pretty much sums up my first go at surfing.  And I lost my Dodgers cap, which I don’t think I was supposed to wear for this particular activity anyway.

Bummer, dude.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

Baseball’s Stunt Double

So I made a lot of changes this past season, if you haven’t heard; a different team, moving across the country, trading New York snow for Los Angeles sun… but another thing is switching from the American League to the National League.  Now, I’ve heard a million opinions about the differences between the two: the AL’s smaller and home-run-friendly ballparks, the dimensions of the strike zones and varying styles of the umpires, the AL’s tendency toward power-hitting versus the NL’s focus on pitching and running the bases.  But of course, the biggest and most obvious different is the AL’s Designated Hitters for its pitchers.

The way I explained the whole DH thing to Californians is that in the American League, the pitcher gets sort of a stunt double.  Which is funny, since here I am in the land of stunt doubles, and my NL pitchers will have to fend for themselves at the plate.  It’s taking a bit of getting used to again, but I don’t mind.  Baseball is baseball.  Maybe I’ll just get a stunt double to use at press conferences.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

Go Dodger$$$

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I was hanging out at the stadium before a game last week, and I saw a fan wearing a Dodgers cap.  Sounds about right, yeah?  But this wasn’t just any baseball cap; the nice blue L.A. logo was stitched onto the front, but it also had the stamp of a swanky clothing brand printed all over it.  I pointed this out to one of my players, and he said that hat costs more than $100.  For a baseball cap.  That’s not even AUTOGRAPHED.

My buddy went on to tell me that one of the big sports brands recently came out with a baseball glove that costs several hundred dollars.  This thing is made of top-notch Italian leather and is supposed to be a lot more comfortable and durable, but still, I can remember running down to the local sports-goods store in Brooklyn and picking up a perfectly good glove that’d last for years for around $15 or so.

So I’m starting to think this kind of status thing is L.A.-centric, what with Rodeo Drive and the high quantities of “beautiful people” residing here.  Sure, New York has Madison Avenue and all the fashion mags, but what do New Yorkers do for four months of every year?  Bundle up in huge scarves and big puffy coats, and stay indoors as much as possible, that’s what.  L.A. is a fashion capital all year long.

What does this mean for me?  Well, maybe nothing; after all, I clean up pretty good when I’m not in my uniform — no cut-off shorts or muscle shirts or anything.  Then again, maybe you’ll spot me at a game wearing a swanky brand or an Italian leather something or other.  But don’t hold your breath.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

Wheatgrass is Still Just Grass

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It was a strange transition, moving from Deli-and-Dog City to the Health Food Capital of the U.S.  I’m pretty sure there are plenty of weird foods anywhere you go (fried snack cakes, anybody?), but I think L.A. takes the prize for the highest concentration of them.

Let’s take wheatgrass, for example.  It is EXACTLY what it sounds like: the grass of wheat.  From what I’ve read, wheatgrass contains good-for-you stuff like vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and it’s really caught on as a health thing; out here, lots of people squeeze it and put it into drinks like juices or shakes, and some folks grow it themselves.  I’m not quite that ambitious, but I like to think I’m open to trying new things.  Let’s just say it tastes like somewhere in the neighborhood of where chalk meets… well, GRASS.  Yuck.

If there’s a lesson here, I guess it’s just to take small steps into a new experience.  I’m proud of myself for taking a step into the health-focused L.A. food culture, but I think the next thing I try will be something a little less outlandish… like sushi or blowfish.  As for wheatgrass?  Hey, I can say I tried it, and be perfectly satisfied that my grass of choice is in the outfield at the ball park.

See more of Joe’s L.A. Adventures at www.torrestories.com

LA Landmarks

One of the nice things about moving to a new city is that you can be a tourist at first. So once I got settled, I figured I’d get to know my new hometown so I could start to fit in a little better (or at least fake it for my East Coast friends when they come visit). Oh sure, I saw the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame and the La Brea Tar Pits, but there’s also a bunch of other stuff to visit. So here are a few places this LA newbie can recommend.

Griffith Observatory
This place has been around since 1935 and sits on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood; the view of LA below is second-to-none. It’s THE place to see stars, and I don’t mean the ones that end up in the tabloids.

Dodgers Stadium
Okay okay, I know if you’re reading this blog you’re familiar with this ballpark, but I have to put in a plug–did you know we have tours? The friendly guides will take you through restricted areas for a behind-the-scenes look at one of the game’s most notable stadiums. Come over and say hi if I’m around while you’re here.

The Original Farmers Market
Sample cuisine from all over the world, take home an international souvenir or two, and hang around for the special events that always seem to be taking place.

And then there’s the food; you could eat every meal there for a week and never have the same dish twice. But you won’t find much stuff like the pretzel or Italian ice stands I’m used to frequenting back in NYC. Squid salad? Uh, no thanks, pal.

LA County Arboretum/Botanical Garden
Remember “Fantasy Island”? Who doesn’t, right? You’ll see the Queen Anne Mansion from the series at this urban oasis. And in general, it’s a pretty place to visit. That’s all I’ve got for this one–I’m more of a city fella.

Skeletons in the Closet
The LA County Coroner’s office has a gift shop (no, I’m not kidding). You can buy coroner-themed t-shirts, mugs, corpse-shaped Post-It notes and even toe-tag key chains. I filed this under “I just don’t get it,” but that didn’t stop me from buying a chalk-outlined mousepad for my office.

I guess if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that it’s never too early–or too late–to get to know your town. I mean, I lived in New York forever, and now that I live across the country, I wish I would’ve gone sightseeing a little more often. Well, there’s always the away games against the Mets. Think I’ll start with the Statue of Liberty.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

Downward Facing What?!

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Today I went to a yoga class. For all of you who aren’t familiar with yoga, it doesn’t involve learning to use the Force and talking backwards.  Apparently, the goal of yoga is to get you “in touch with your inner self.” Now, I don’t know if I’m the kind of guy who’s okay with touching my inner anything, but I figured I might as well try it. And for something that’s supposed to at least be “relaxing,” it was a bit stressful at first; contorting myself into 18 different “poses” in front of a bunch of strangers isn’t exactly my style, either. But everyone seemed to mind their own business, and I think I did okay until we got to Downward Facing Dog (or Butt In the Air, as I called it).

I think just about any new experience–skydiving, your first day at a new job, driving on the freeway–can be stressful, but once you get the hang of it, you realize it’s pretty good for you. Just start out slow and easy and work your way up, sort of how I began with the Cow Pose; by the time I got to Downward Facing Dog, I felt pretty confident. And the proper attire never hurts.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

Changing History With A Swing

Changing_history.jpgThere are so many great Home Run moments in baseball
history. Some, like Roger Maris’s 61st (I’
m happy to report the
infamous “*” that downplayed his record because of a newly extended season never
got officially entered in the record books) or Hank Aaron’s 715th,
marked a changing of the guard for America’s pastime. But one of my very
favorites would have to be the first time a World Series was decided by a home
run, and, in all the years of baseball, has happened only ONCE in Game 7. In
1960, Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates knocked one deep to win the
Series 4-3; not only was it the defining moment of Maz’s career, it also
informally ushered in a new era for the game: the popularity of the walk-off
home run.

See more of Joe’s L.A.
adventures at
www.torrestories.com

He Who is No Longer Car-Free

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So I just moved from a
town where nearly three-quarters of the residents don’t own cars to one where
more than three-quarters DO. Welcome to LA. Only about seven percent of LA
residents took public transit in ’06 (yes, I looked all this stuff up), so I’m
thinking the car culture here probably won’t change all that much…which means
I’ll be driving again. It’s gonna be a big adjustment for this former Brooklynite.

-Gas prices haven’t
stopped climbing even after they went through the roof. Who’d have guessed that
a gallon of gas would end up costing as much as a hot dog at your favorite MLB
stadium?

Stay tuned, I’ll let you
know how it goes. Meantime, I’m gonna head to the stadium. For some reason I’m
dying for a hot dog.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

LA and Teeny Dogs

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Here’s an interesting
tidbit about LA culture. It’s not just a TV cliché: People really DO carry
pocket dogs around with them wherever they go. I have no idea where you’d put
these little yip-yaps when you go to the restroom, or even why they’re such a hot
accessory; then again, I just moved from a town where people buy color-coordinated
pepper spray cans. But I do know it’s a real phenomenon; I learned about it
first-hand when I found myself walking down Rodeo Drive with this little white
Maltese or Pomeranian named Butch under my arm. The funniest (or saddest) part
was that I didn’t look one bit out of place. Hey, if that’s all it takes to fit
into LA, I’m in–at least the white fur will match my uniform. Maybe I can get a
gray one for my away games.

Okay, gotta run. I need
to get Butch to the groomer’s before his hair starts getting poufy.

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com

A first time for everything

A_first_time_for_everything.jpgWell, here’s my first blog entry. I was a little nervous at first, but the guys who blog on MLBlogs said it was sort of like keeping an online diary, so I figured how hard could it be? Aside from the fact that men don’t usually have diaries; even the word “diary” brings to mind a little pink book with a heart-shaped lock and a label that reads “My Secrets” in lavender bubble letters. But that’s not really me, so I think a blog is a more acceptable “dude-like” version.

Some of the guys talk about their team or their swing, their away game trips, some even write restaurant reviews (thanks for the reco, Ethier). Me? I’m just a coach with a new team, a new city, a new life as a West-Coaster, and above all a new outlook on life.

First up, though, I’ll be figuring out this blogging thing since I’m a little behind the times. For example, I saw one of those little candy Valentine’s hearts printed with “LOL” and thought it was a typo right up until I started reading about blogs and Web acronyms. I mean, WTF(udge), right? Then there are “web smileys” like ;-) and :-( which frankly make me a bit >:-P (I just made that one up). But live and learn.

Until then, I’ll just say BFN, because I have to GBTW, but I’ll BCNU soon. But JFTR, I don’t think I’m going to be using a lot of this Web slang. IMHO, plain old English works just fine. TYVM and TTYL.
AA

See more of Joe’s L.A. adventures at www.torrestories.com
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