Today is an exciting day for baseball fans from the East Coast of Florida to the desert heat of Arizona. Fans will line up to get autographs, eat hot dogs, and fathers will bring their sons to the good old ballpark. However, in one Florida town, this will not be the atmosphere for the first time in 60 years.
Dodgertown was the home of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1949 until 2008. Located in Vero Beach, a small oceanfront community located on Florida's Treasure Coast, the stadium site is an old naval base, and had more snakes on it than people when it was built in the late '40s.
Eventually, the stadium and site would become historic—Holman Stadium became one of the first integrated stadiums in the South.
Dodgertown was rich in history. It saw a number of championship teams, Hall of Famers, and thousands, maybe even millions, of fans pass through the gate—a gate that closed forever last March.
Many in Vero Beach wondered, why?
They always did well in attendance. Sure, the stadium was a little bit older, but it had charm. Plus, it was a very fan-friendly facility. So why did they go?
Easy. It is all about the money.
The new Camelback Ranch stadium in Glendale, AZ basically bought away the Dodgers. This new multi-million dollar facility is being said to revolutionize Spring Training facilities. Hey, I think that is great. I have been to several of the newer Major League facilities, such as Bank One Ballpark, and Miller Park, and I love those places.
However, I believe the charm of Spring Training baseball is that of the smaller stadium, one that gives you to better access to the players, and one that won't cost you an arm and a leg to buy a ticket to get into. One that has history.
This year, Florida has also lost the Cleveland Indians to Arizona, and next year will be losing Cincinnati, as they will also be heading out West for a better facility.
I just ask, why? It seems that people are coming to Florida's East Coast to see baseball. The Mets, who are just 35 minutes south of Vero Beach, reached record numbers in attendance. How much more are these new stadiums bringing in for teams like the Dodgers, Reds, and Indians?
I was lucky enough to get the chance to go to Dodgertown last year. Tommy Lasorda managed. I had a Dodger Dog. The Dodgers came back in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Cardinals.
But, this year in Vero Beach, there will be no ninth inning comebacks. No mouth watering Dodger Dogs. No buzz around town about today's game, and certainly not the millions in tourism dollars the Dodgers brought in for this small coastal city. This year, the millions go to an already thriving Glendale, AZ.
The one thing Glendale won't have are the memories of the Jackie Robinsons, the Tommy Lasordas, and the rich history of a stadium remembered for much more than just baseball. And, I'll go on the record as saying I bet those Dodger Dogs don't taste as good in Arizona as they did in that small coastal city of Vero Beach.
But that is just my opinion, I could be wrong, and hopefully the Orioles will come to their senses and sign a deal to come to Dodgertown next year.
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