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Dodger Stadium Makes Changes for ’05:

When fans visit Dodger Stadium beginning Tuesday they’ll find a different look, not only in a reshaped roster but in the ballpark itself.

That’s because $20 million in changes were made in the off-season.

The most striking change is the presence of 1,600 new seats down the first base and third base lines. There is less room for fielders now in foul territory, but there are still eight feet of room because the seats don’t extend right to the foul line.

I attended an exhibition game against the Angels Saturday. Looking out at the field and comparing it to a photo of Angel Stadium, there remains more foul territory for fielders at Dodger Stadium. In Anaheim,  the seats do extend right to the foul line.

The other striking change is an enlargement of the dugouts. They are now 30 feet closer to the field and twice as big – with the addition  of a railng and two steps to the conventional bench. For most of the game players will stand at the railing and be visible to fans.

There has been considerable speculation since Frank and Jamie McCourt purchased the Dodgers a year ago that the stadium will eventually be replaced by a real estate venture on the valuable land. There is no evidence of that from the stadium improvements and more planned for next off-season, which will consist mainly of upgrading old seats.

“Dodger Stadium is the best,” said Frank McCourt. “We merely want to make a few additions.”

Some changes were made in the interest of bringing in more money. A group of sketches of  former Dodger greats on the outfield wall is gone. In its place is advertising.

Another change is removal of the rubberized warning track, which was hard on players’ legs. Now there is a dirt warning track.

In addition, there is a ribbon board at the base of the loge level. It is colorful and will provide statistical information.

The Dodgers have sold about two thirds of the new seats for the season. With advance sales going well, they’re certain to draw their usual three million fans again. The opener Tuesday against the Giants is sold out.

Time will tell if the Dodgers were wise to tear apart the roster of a division championship team. New general manager Paul DePodesta did that even though the Dodgers won a playoff game for the first time in 16 years.

The Dodgers no longer have Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green or Steve Finley but have brought in J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent.

Eric Gagne, the Cy Young Award-winning relief ace, begins the season on the disabled list.

The Dodgers’ division opponents have changed too. The Giants will be without controversial Barry Bonds for most of the season due to injuries.

The Padres recently cancelled a scheduled two-year contract extension for manager Bruce Bochy, and appeared to put pressure on him when G.M. Kevin Towers said: “We’re confident we can go deep into the playoffs.”

The DiamondBacks signed Troy Glaus, who had 47 home runs one year and 41 in another with the Angels, to a four-year contract.

Beltre, now with Seattle, said during spring training he can’t figure out why the Dodgers so severely altered their club.A lot of fans can’t figure it out either but they’re still buying tickets.

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