Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Original Dodgertown Continues to Live On as the Vero Beach Sports Village

I'll be honest with ya... I really miss Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida.  Sure, it was several thousand miles across the country, but I didn't care.  The handful of times I had a chance to go there made me feel like I was on a real vacation - going to some far off land totally foreign to me, as if another country.  It was like a quaint little backyard park that reminded you of the simplicity of the game, and I loved it.  The main field was no better than a high school ballpark with only a waist-level chain linked fence separating the fans from the players.  The access we had to the players was incredible, and the ambiance of the place gave it a homey feel.

I will forever miss the former Dodgers Spring home.  Fortunately, the Dodgers leaving town did not mean that it would disappear and become only a memory.  Old Dodgertown still exist, albeit renamed and refocused towards something new.

A year after the Dodgers left Vero Beach, Minor League Baseball reactivated the complex and renamed it the Vero Beach Sports Village. It had minor league ball, various tournaments and an umpire school.  Still, it struggled to survive.  Then in 2012, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley came in with some partners to save the site from potentially closing for a second time.

After a year of heightened activity and seemingly good business, O'Malley has just signed a new long-term renewal of the facility lease agreement with Indian River County for a period of 5 years, ending in 2019.  Per a press release from the Vero Beach Sports Village:
“We greatly appreciate the confidence of the County Commissioners in our vision,” said O’Malley, whose family has been affiliated with Dodgertown since it first opened in 1948. “We also thank Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner for stepping up to reactivate the property in May 2009.   Prior to Pat’s accepting the responsibility of Dodgertown, its future was not bright.”

Joe Flescher, County Commission Chairman said, “ Vero Beach Sports Village has been a great asset to our entire community and we are grateful for the efforts of Peter O’Malley and his partners to maintain a strong business presence at the former Dodgertown property. This renewal of the agreement provides a solid foundation for a strong relationship for years to come.”
Vero Beach Sports Village Vice President Craig Callan said: “We are grateful to the County that we reached a mutually beneficial accord that has a long-term view.  This means that we will continue to have a significant economic impact in Indian River County and in Vero Beach . Our site is steeped in tradition and our plan is to grow the business, which will further benefit the community.” 
Go here to the sites website to see what they offer.  It looks like it's working on becoming a go to place for all things sports.  There is high school and college baseball and softball camps, an adult baseball camp, umpire camp, and camps for swimming, soccer, lacrosse and football.

One of these days I am going to go by there, just for the heck of it.

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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