Thursday, November 06, 2014

Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach is Now a Florida Heritage Landmark

Well... It's about time!

This coming Monday, November 10th at noon, a special ceremony will be held along a well-known path between Holman Stadium and Historic Dodgertown’s all-purpose conference center.  They will unveil a two-sided marker (shown above) that designates the Dodgers former Spring Training home, Historic Dodgertown, as an Florida Heritage Landmark.  It says:

Baseball and Dodgertown
Dodgertown was the spring training facility of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.  Originally part of a World War II Naval Air Station, Dodgertown became the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948, when local business leader Bud Holman convinced the Dodgers to set up a spring training facility in Vero Beach.  Here, Dodger President Branch Rickey sought to create a "baseball campus" where players could live and play together.  Dodgertown was the South's first racially integrated spring training camp, where 600-plus players from the Brooklyn Dodgers 26 minor league teams played.  Hall of Famer players Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella were among the first African American players to train here.  In 1953, Dodger President Walter O'Malley privately built the 6,500-seat Holman Stadium, a state-of-the-art ball park at Dodgertown.  During its history, 6 World Championships and 14 National League Pennant-winning teams played at Dodgertown.  In 2001, the Dodgers sold Dodgertown to Indian River County, then leased it back until 2008, when their spring training facilities moves west to Arizona.  In 2012, the O'Malley family stepped up to manage historic Dodgertown as a year-round multi-sport complex.
For anyone who has ever visited Dodgertown you know how incredible the place is.  It's a quaint little baseball hamlet surrounded by palm trees and ball fields more reminiscent of a small town little league park rather than a Major League facility.  It's that kind of charm that endeared fans to Dodgertown, and transformed the former Naval Station into a must visit Baseball mecca. 

Over my life I've had an opportunity to visit during spring training on four different occasions and each time was an absolute blast.  There was no place better to chat it up with other fans, and no facility provided fans the kind of closeness it allowed to the players.  I still think back about how uniquely wonderful Dodgertown was, and feel bad that Dodger fans today will never have an opportunity to experience it.

Per a press release:
Participating in the ceremonies at noon are Hall of Fame Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda, as well as O’Malley and other Dodger legends, who are serving as instructors at the 53rd Los Angeles Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp from November 9-15 at Historic Dodgertown. Instructors include Ron Cey, Tommy Davis, Steve Garvey, Mickey Hatcher, Ken Landreaux, Rick Monday, Jerry Reuss, Maury Wills and Steve Yeager. Lasorda and former National League umpire Bruce Froemming will be guest instructors. Former Dodger scout Guy Wellman serves as the camp coordinator as he has since the first camp in 1983.
Per Peter O'Malley:
“This recognition is appropriate because of Historic Dodgertown’s significance in baseball history. It truly is unique and we appreciate the efforts of all those involved to gain this special designation.”
Here is something I did not know about Dodgertown.  Walter O'Malley built a golf course in Dodgertown called Dodgertown Golf Club and it was the first integrated golf course in Vero Beach.  O'Malley had wanted his African-American ballplayers to have an opportunity to enjoy the game, since they couldn't anywhere else.

Check out the Historic Dodgertown website here for information about the facility.  Today, it is a year-round, multi-sport training site and conference center for all manner of sport.  You can also check out a bunch of photos from my past Dodgertown spring training adventures here.

The photo at the very top courtesy of Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Fla.

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