Saturday, March 07, 2009

A Dodgertown Without Dodgers

You knew it was coming. Fresh off of last year's volumes of Vero Beach valentines, it was inevitable that the "empty fields of Florida" article would rear its ugly head this year. Joshua Robinson's piece in Sunday's NYT doesn't exactly describe tumbleweeds blowing down dusty streets, but it does describe a spring training site abandoned:

Sixty-one spring trainings after the Dodgers arrived here — and one year since their departure — the sun still glimmers off the heart-shaped lake. The smell of freshly cut grass hangs thick in the warm air. The sienna dirt has been finely groomed and the aisles between the seats at Holman Stadium have been swept. The block capitals over the home clubhouse still say, Think Blue.

But the afternoons are different. No one lays the chalk lines along the basepaths, the scoreboard stays off and the gates are padlocked. The Dodgers are running through their spring training paces nearly 2,000 miles away at an $80 million complex in Glendale, Ariz., that is closer to their home in Los Angeles. Dodgertown, ready for baseball in pristine condition, sits empty.

“It’s chock full of tradition and stories, and I could not live with myself if I was in charge and we let it go by the wayside,” said Steve Carlsward, a Vero Beach native who has been a groundskeeper at Dodgertown for 28 years. “But baseball is a business, so no animosity to the Dodgers. If you’d said to me five years ago that they would leave, though, I would have laughed at you.”

The Dodgers turned in their keys for good in July. The Vero Beach Devil Rays, a Florida State League Class A team, played their last game in September. Now, Indian River County, which owns the facility, spends about $100,000 a month maintaining it, waiting for another occupant to move in.

“If you maintain it, they will come,” the Indian River County administrator Joe Baird said.

Let's hope Camelback Ranch ends up being as successful for Dodger fans as McCourt had originally estimated...

photo: Barton Silverman/The New York Times


avmba said...

We posted a story about this over on dodgerfan a few weeks ago - the sad thing is how much money the local government invested to try to keep the Dodgers, only to see them leave. The burden on the taxpayers is going to be significant unless they can find another team or figure out another use...