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Free Dodger Dogs, but not for peanuts

Times Staff Writer

IT’S 10:15 on a Friday night, and as the Dodgers take on the New York Mets, all the TV screens in the sleek little lounge are tuned to baseball. The warm voice of broadcaster Vin Scully fills the place, chronicling the seesaw battle. And there’s not a customer in sight.

Exactly the way it should be at the Martini Bar.

The watering hole near the Dugout Club at Dodger Stadium is empty because during the game patrons have their fannies in their pricey seats behind home plate -- those new, dark-blue chairs located so close to the action you can tell when catcher Jason Phillips’ glasses fog up.

The “premium” seats start at $375 per ticket (better than three-quarters of them are sold out for the season), and that buys you more than proximity. A few steps away, the 6 1/2 -year-old Dugout Club offers an all-you-can-eat buffet with a menu including salads, stir fry, a taco bar and assorted ballpark fare. Only alcoholic beverages cost extra.

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And, yes, that’s a self-serve Dodger Dog bar (with chili and cheese), right below the case holding the team’s 1981 World Series trophy and not far from a wall of historic photographs, including one of Babe Ruth in a Dodger uniform (he was Brooklyn’s first-base coach in 1938).

“If I could always go to a game under these conditions,” says fan Brenda Knutson, enjoying the VIP treatment as the guest of a friend, “I’d go to every game.”

Many do, dressing as casually (if a bit less religious about wearing blue) as their comrades in the cheap seats.

“It’s friendly, it’s clean and people treat it as their home base,” says Drew McCourt, the team’s director of marketing. “And the bar is a great place to spend the postgame and let the traffic blow over.”

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Indeed, the new-for-2005 Martini Bar attracts fans, the occasional Hollywood type and a few of the Dodgers themselves. If the blue crew posts a victory, the postgame truly is a happy hour.

When the sound system is not tuned to the action or the postgame “Dodger Talk” (which originates from the lounge), regular bartender Betty Ward often plugs in her iPod to provide music. Imagine, a mixologist and baseball fan who knows the rock band Swervedriver.

Popular among the $9.50 martinis are the Brooklyn Dodger (apple martini) and the Squeeze Play (a lemon drop), but the menu includes a Dodger Blue (Skyy vodka and DeKuyper blue curacao). Or, maybe if you’re left-handed, ask for the Fernandomania (Sauza Commemorativo, Grand Marnier and sweet and sour).

That’ll keep ‘em loose in the bullpen.

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Martini Bar

Where: Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Ave., L.A.

When: Open before, during and after Dodger home games

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Price: Premium tickets start at $375, which includes all-you-can-

eat buffet at the Dugout Club.

Info: (866) DODGERS or www.ladodgers.com


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