Excerpt from Florida Spring Training by Alan Byrd
If you can make it to only one Spring Training site in Florida, this is the one you must visit. No other park in Florida captures the feeling of old-time Spring Training as well as Dodgertown’s Holman Stadium in Vero Beach. It is the poster child for Spring Training as it ought to be.
No other Spring Training ballpark brings you as close to the players as this one. No other park lets you see as clearly what type of person each player is. And no other park welcomes autograph seekers as warmly. In short, it’s fantastic.
Seeing the Los Angeles Dodgers in Vero Beach is an experience you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to enjoy. Get to the ballpark early. Holman Stadium is one of the few Grapefruit League parks that opens its practice fields to fans before the game. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to see players outside the glare of the game. Watching practice is also a great way to see the difference between the minor league players and the big leaguers.
One of the joys of this park is that every player is accessible to the fans on his way from the practice fields to the stadium. To get there, each has to walk (or ride a golf cart) over a bridge and through the parking lot, both of which are open to fans. You can stand on the bridge and walk through the lot with your favorite players. In fact, the players enter the stadium through the same entrance as the fans do.
Enter the stadium and you can tell that you’re in a different world. You walk up a garden pathway to what is technically the main concourse and find that all the seats are below it. The stadium looks as if they simply pushed the dirt to the outside and put the ballpark in the middle. You’ll also notice something very strange and different: there are no dugouts. There are just areas where the players sit behind a chain link fence.
Every seat in the stadium is close to the field and you can get very close to the players. They are literally within a foot or two of the stands while they wait for their turn at bat. You’re also going to get a better view of the bullpen here than you will at any other ballpark. All of which makes watching a game here unlike watching one anywhere else.
There are some drawbacks, of course. There is no shade for any of the stands, and if it rains, you will get wet. The seats are adequate, but a whole lot more comfortable if you bring your own cushion. Except for a tent at the front gate, the concession stands are concentrated in a single area in the center of the stadium, which gets packed. The ballpark itself is hidden away from the main highways and the parking is scattered throughout the complex.
But if you can visit only one Spring Training site, make it Dodgertown. This park is literally a shrine to Spring Training. It’s a historical treasure that can and should be experienced.
Reprinted with permission from Florida Spring Training
, 3rd ed., by Alan Byrd, (c) 2007, all rights reserved.
Published by The Intrepid Traveler, $14.95.
Dodgertown Without the Dodgers?
In a sign of the times, the Dodgers will probably leave Vero Beach to train in Glendale, AZ
, where they would share a new $76.8 million facility with the White Sox. In fact, the Dodgers have agreed to a memorandum of understanding
with Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, to occupy a new 12,000-seat ballpark that is planned to open in 2009.
"I understand the Dodgers really don't want to leave," Vero Beach Mayor Tom White said. "They just want to be closer to L.A., and I can understand that." The Dodgers are the only west coast based team that still trains in Florida, and they have been in Vero Beach since 1948, nine years before the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.