On March 23, 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers signed a 21-year lease with the city of Vero Beach to use an abandoned naval base as their Spring Training home in Florida for the Grapefruit League. The site would affectionately become known as Dodgertown and was where the Dodgers held Spring Training until moving to Camelback Ranch in 2009.
What became Historic Dodgertown was originally utilized as a housing base during World War II for all of the members of the Navy and Marines who trained at an air station located across the street. Local businessman Bud Holman introduced then-Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey to the site, although it was Buzzie Bavasi who toured the location.
In December 1947, the Dodgers and city of Vero Beach agreed to an initial five-year lease. Prior to that point, the Dodgers held Spring Training in multiple locations, including Havana, Cuba.
However, Rickey sought a return to the United States for Spring Training and a location where not only the Dodgers could prepare for the regular season, but also their more than two dozen Minor League teams.
During the early years at Dodgertown, it was home to more than 600 players who trained and lived on the grounds. It featured a post office, barber shop and Western Union office, among other amenities. That was of particular importance considering the Dodgers had the likes of Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella on their roster during a time when racial tension remained high.
O’Malley upgraded Dodgertown over the years, both improving the quality of food and adding more facilities — including a nine-hole golf course.
In 1953, a 5,000-seat stadium for Dodgers Spring Training games was built. Holman Stadium capacity now is 6,000 fans.
The Dodgers played their final game at Dodgertown on March 17, 2008.
In 2016, Peter O’Malley committed to restoring Dodgertown and ensuring it would not be shuttered. Two years later, Indian River County and MLB reached an agreement to jointly invest resources into the location, which was renamed the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in 2019.
“I think that’s fantastic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at the time. “That’s always Dodgertown, so to be named after Jackie, now you’re talking about prospects from our country and outside the country, to be training, it’s fantastic.
“It’s such a great property to be maximized. I have very good memories of going to Dodgertown, hitting late after practice with Tommy Lasorda throwing me BP and telling me to chop down at the ball. I have a lot of good memories.”
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