Every spring the natural fancy of any young man’s mind turns to two things: love and Baseball. While every spring a Dodger fans mind begins to think of “ITS TIME FOR DODGER BASEBALL” . However when spring comes around my mind still thinks of Vero Beach Florida, and Dodgertown. It’s something that will always come to mind every spring. Vero Beach Florida at Dodgertown was the Dodger’s Spring training home from 1948-2008.
Now I have never been to Vero Beach. I wish I had. Frank McCourt moved the Dodgers to Camelback Ranch for the 2009 season. Sure he had valid reasons for it I guess. I understand, it is closer to LA, making it much easier for Dodger fans to travel to spring training, and some of the players as well. Vero Beach, Holman stadium was an old complex, and this was a brand spanking new complex they would be sharing with the White Sox separated by a fake river that runs down the middle of the complex. Even with legitimate reasons for leaving, it should have never been allowed. Think about it for a second, the Dodgers moved out of Dodgertown. Perhaps this is the last collected sin of the Frank McCourt regime.
The Dodgers were one of the first teams to have spring training in Florida. MLB teams either train in Florida or Arizona. The teams that train in Florida are in the Grapefruit League, while the teams in Arizona are part of the Cactus League. Vero Beach Florida at Dodgertown was a fixture of spring training on Florida’s east coast for half a century.
Holman Stadium was not built until 1953. The beautiful vision of Walter O’Malley Dedicated to Bud L. Holman, a local business man, who helped lobby for the Dodgers to move their Spring training home to Vero Beach. Holman stadium seated 6,500 fans and cost 63,000 dollars to build. Then Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley made the dedication before the first game, which was inscribed on the plaque in front of Holman Stadium. The dedication read…
"The Brooklyn Dodgers Dedicate Holman Stadium to Honor Bud L. Holman of the Friendly City of Vero Beach, Walter F. O’Malley, President, Emil H. Praeger, C.E., Designer, 1953"
In the very first game at Holman Stadium, the Dodgers beat the A’s by a score of 4-2, as team president and former manager Connie Mack was in attendance. Dodger starter Carl Erskine pitched and got the win. The Dodgers had been down 1-0 early, but rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Duke Snider drove in two of those three runs in the Dodger win.
Walter O’Malley was apparently a horticulturist, and he considered things like landscaping and color as important elements when designing the stadium. It was O’Malley who was responsible for putting in the royal palm trees that aligned the outside of the outfield walls. He also built a heart shaped lake behind the ballpark in tribute to his wife Kay, who was a big Baseball fan and kept score of every game.
The sleepy beach community surrounding Holman Stadium became known as Dodgertown. Holman Stadium has also hosted a few NFL teams like the New Orleans Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Two Japanese Baseball teams have also trained there as well. The Baltimore Orioles considered moving there after the Dodgers left, but they failed to reach an agreement. Vero Beach changed their minds, and it never happened. The Vero Beach Devil Rays of the Florida State League also called Vero Beach their home for many years as well.
The Dodgers moving might start a sad precedence for Spring Training Baseball on Florida’s East coast. Besides the Dodgers moving, six other teams left the east coast of the east. Four teams: Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, and the Yankees all relocated within Florida. While Texas, the Dodgers, and Cincinnati moved to Arizona for spring. Only four teams still train on the east coast of Florida: yhe Mets, Washington, St.Louis, and Marlins. The Nationals are considering leaving their home of Brevard County, so the list might dwindle down to three.
The MLB Players Association considered using Vero Beach as a home training grounds for free agent players in 2009, but they never went forward with the idea.
Much like Dodgers Stadium, Vero Beach at Dodgertown is an iconic piece of Dodger and Baseball history. All of the great Dodger legends played there. Never changing, the open air dugouts of Holman Stadium was a unique feature not seen anywhere else. I remember growing up, the images from Vero Beach provided us our first glimpses of the Dodgers each year. Whenever the grainy images from the spring training games showed the beautiful palm trees, and open-air dugouts, we would always get excited. We knew it meant that a full season of Dodger Baseball was right around the corner.
The Dodgers played their final spring training game at Vero beach on March 17th, 2008.That was a very sad day indeed. Dodgertown changed its name to the Vero Beach Sports Village in 2010, and is now used for Baseball and Football tournaments, concerts, and other various events. We feel that Dodger Tradition has been slowly slipping away from us in recent years, and we can’t let this continue to happen. This is why I am so vocal against any kind of major changes within the Dodger culture. While Camelback Ranch is nice and new, it has no connection to the Dodgers. Maybe in 30 or 40 years it will, but for now it’s just a building. It’s just a complex, a mere vessel for the Dodgers to train. Just bricks and concrete.
The true spring training home of the Dodgers will always be at Vero Beach at Dodgertown. Vero Beach will forever be ingrained in our memories and hearts. Farewell Vero Beach. The spirit of the town that housed our Boys in Blue for 50 springs will last forever. Dodgertown will never die.