Before the franchise moved to Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Dodgers reigned as one of the premier teams in baseball. Historic figures and legends that every baseball aficionado has since marveled over, developed with the Dodgers franchise, together as one.
For the Dodgers, there was one location that provided the close-knit group opportunities to perfect their craft while becoming lifelong friends with their teammates. That facility was known around the world as Dodgertown.
Dodgertown was created in 1948 for the Brooklyn franchise, as a permanent Spring Training staple for the organization. Even after former owner Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles, the complex was still used for Spring Training up until 2008.
In 2008, the franchise decided to move their Spring Training home to Arizona, building a new facility — Camelback Ranch — and joining the Cactus League.
Upon the departure to the Arizona complex, the illustrious Dodgertown was in threat to be vacated and replaced, until O’Malley’s, son Peter, stepped in to carry on the family tradition.
O’Malley’s work now has the facility being used by several different organizations and schools, via Paul Newberry of the Associated Press:
But, thanks largely to former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, the sprawling complex located on a former World War II military base has made quite a comeback, serving as a training hub for hundreds of college and high school teams, as well as international squads and even the Canadian Football League.
After the Dodgers departed for Camelback Ranch, the historic location was left for minimal projects, which eventually failed and led to the complex being renamed to the Vero Beach Sports Village.
O’Malley’s efforts to breathe life back into the cherished grounds included getting approval to use the Dodgertown name:
“It was about to be shuttered for the second time,” he said. “I told my sister, ‘If it’s shuttered for the second time, it’s over. It will become light industry for the airport (next week).’ It has too much history and is too unique to let that happen.” O’Malley took over the complex in 2013 and, with financial assistance from the local government, set out to restore Dodgertown to its former glory. First, he worked out a deal with the Dodgers and Major League Baseball to restore the name. A lake was filled in, providing room for four new softball and youth baseball fields. A half diamond once used by the Dodgers was converted into a multi-purpose field, capable of hosting football, soccer and lacrosse. Lights were installed on the outer fields, giving the complex much more flexibility for luring in business.
The 1970s villas, dining hall, tennis courts, and pool all remain intact, offering a remembrance of the Dodgers’ storied history in Florida. In addition, the field still boasts the infamous palm trees that were lined beyond the outfield fence.
It’s now common for high school and college teams to book the facilities for use. Dodgertown set a precedent that many of the Spring Training complexes today stride to recreate.