It’s a long escalator ride from Mary Hart’s $300-plus seats on camera behind home plate to Fat Daddy (Rick) Angona’s $10 seats on the Top Deck of Dodger Stadium.
In Mary’s seats, you get to see the player’s up close and personal, maybe even get a smile from them. In Fat Daddy’s seats, you’re as far away from up close and personal as you can get, and still be in the stadium.
So, why do Fat Daddy and his team of veteran ushers think their fans on the Top Deck have the best seat in the house? And why do they choose to work there when they could work any level closer to the field?
Because the Top Deck, they swear, is “the best kept secret at Dodger Stadium.”
You’ve got beautiful panoramic views, gorgeous sunsets, cheaper seats, shorter concession lines, less crowds, a better view of the whole field, and, maybe the most important thing of all to a Dodger fan — a quicker exit out of the parking lot after the game.
OK, so maybe the players look like ants from up there, but you can always bring your binoculars, and, really, you already know what they look like, right?
For ten bucks a seat, you get a drone’s eye view of the entire field — better than the one either Mary Hart or manager Dave Roberts has from the dugout.
It’s a no-brainer, said Angona, captain of the Top Deck ushers and former manager of the Dodger ushers softball team from the 1970s and 80s — Fat Daddy and the Boys.
They used to play the Angel ushers at the stadium the day after the season ended. Beat those Orange County boys pretty bad, Fat Daddy said.
He came over to the Dodgers from the gas company in 1975. Many of his teammates played their ball for the post office. They did their 20 years, kissed the mail and growling dogs goodbye, and went to finish out their careers with the Dodgers.
“I worked the visiting dugout on field level for 20 years and it was fun, but I love it up here,” Angona said. “You’ve got more time to mingle and talk to the fans, and it’s less crowded. I’ve made a lot of new friends working the Top Deck.”
So has James Harvey, the dean of ushers. He’s been with the Dodgers for 53 years, and still bats “clean-up.” If he goes three more years, he’ll set the all-time LA Dodger record for ushers.
“I’m feeling good, keeping in shape. I think I’ll make it,” said the former science teacher retired from La Cañada High School.
“From 1973 to 1999, I was the O’Malley family’s usher at the owners box,” Harvey said. “I met a couple of presidents, Hall of Fame ballplayers and all sorts of entertainers. I thought I was in heaven.”
He’s a lot closer to heaven now on the Top Deck. “We’re the best kept secret at Dodger Stadium,” Harvey said.
Virginia Rodriquez, who ushers at UCLA half the year and Dodger Stadium the other half, became one of Fat Daddy’s crew six years ago. She had season tickets to the ballgames until she decided to turn the tables.
“I said to myself, you know what, let the Dodgers pay me for a change,” she said with a laugh.
The average salary posted on the Dodger employment website for about five hours work a game is $17 to $19 an hour, so it’s going to take awhile before Virginia and the Dodgers are even, but she’s in no rush. She’s got the best seat in the house.
“I worked the club level one season and saw a lot of celebrities, but you’re not in the crowd, and the crowd is my thing,” she said. “When the crowd gets excited there’s no better feeling, especially when you love the Dodgers like we all do.”
Eddie Vidana was nicknamed “Dodger Eddie” by season ticket holders in the left field pavilion where he worked as an usher’s supervisor before moving to the Top Deck. He came to the Dodgers from United Parcel Service.
The day after Kirk Gibson hit his memorable home run to win the first game of the 1988 World Series, Dodger Eddie — who painted his car (go ahead, take a wild guess) Dodger Blue — went out and got a Dodger tattoo on his arm that he’ll be more than happy to show you.
“It was my first tattoo ever,” Dodger Eddie said proudly, rolling up his sleeve. “That homer was the most iconic, crazy, memorable moment I’ve seen in all my years working here.”
So, there you have it — the best-kept secret at Dodger Stadium.
It’s not down there with Mary Hart in the $300 seats behind home plate.
It’s upstairs on the Top Deck in the $10 seats with Fat Daddy and the Boys.
Dennis McCarthy’s column runs on Sunday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.