Frank McCourt: Fans have been positive

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Appearing at the Dodgers' training facility for the first time this spring, owner Frank McCourt, who remains embroiled in a bitter divorce, declined to address the widespread criticism he has received because of the perception that the divorce has negatively impacted player payroll.

McCourt spoke to a small gathering of reporters during the Dodgers' Cactus League game, an 8-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox, but he declined to specifically address those issues.

And that was when he wasn't denying that they even existed.

"All I can tell you is my own interactions with our fans have been very positive," said McCourt, who signed autographs as he entered the ballpark just before game time. "I think our fans want to focus on baseball, and what they want is for us to win a championship."

McCourt was asked repeatedly about his divorce -- or more specifically, the beating his public image has taken in the wake of a handful of media reports that have emerged as a result of court filings by his estranged wife, former Dodgers president Jamie McCourt -- but never provided any specific responses.

"I'm not going to comment on any of that," McCourt said. "I firmly believe in taking the high road... and I have tried to live my life that way. I'm not going to get into the back and forth. I will leave the divorce proceedings to the lawyers."

The next significant date in McCourt's divorce is May 24, when a trial is scheduled to determine the validity of a document Jamie McCourt signed in 2004 disavowing any claim to ownership of the club. Jamie McCourt is seeking to have that document overturned.

Frank McCourt's public stance has been to insist that the document is airtight, that his wife has no legitimate claim to ownership and that it's so unlikely that the court will rule in her favor that there is no need for him to formulate a contingency plan in the event that it does.

McCourt also addressed the team itself, saying he believes the Dodgers, who have advanced to the National League Championship Series each of the past two seasons, are better now than they were at this point last year.

"But every season is different," he said. "Like every season since I have owned the club, it's going to be tough. Our goal is to win it all. I like this team a lot. I think it's a better team on paper than it was last year, but you don't win games on paper... I think we're a little bit more balanced, I think we're a little deeper, and I think our young talent is a year older."

Although club officials were quietly concerned as recently as a couple of months ago with the pace of season-ticket sales, McCourt said he was comfortable with overall tickets sales now, and he was especially pleased with the pace of single-game sales, which began on Saturday. Team spokesperson Josh Rawitch said in an email that about 3,500 fans showed up at Dodger Stadium and that the April 13 home opener against Arizona sold out in 10 minutes.

"We are doing very well," McCourt said. "We are ahead of where we were last year. On an overall basis, we are continuing to do as well as we have done the last several years, which is pretty amazing when you think about what the economy is like. I empathize with what people have been through because it has been a tough couple of years for everybody."