The Dodgers recently celebrated their 60th anniversary in Vero Beach, a site selected when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. Throughout the Grapefruit League season, the organization honored its fans, legendary players, coaches, managers, executives, and local officials as part of a month-long opportunity to say "Thank you."
Among those honored were Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, Maury Wills, Manny Mota, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Rick Monday, and John Shelby, as well as Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin. Each of the legends was given the opportunity to express their appreciation to the city and the fans for their support.
While the departure is bittersweet, especially for those who ever spent any time at Dodgertown, its official announcement is the final and long anticipated step in bringing the organization to the West Coast.
"This is the culmination of a long journey designed to give Dodgers fans a shorter journey," said McCourt in a statement released by the team. "Since the start of this process, we sought to bring the Dodgers closer to the people of Los Angeles. They have supported this team for 50 years on the West Coast, and while we loved our spring home on the East Coast, we know that over the next 50 years, far more fans of the Dodgers can enjoy Spring Training if the trip is five hours by car instead of five hours by plane."
The Dodgers new facility, which will be shared with the Chicago White Sox, will be state-of-the-art, and will also include a restaurant, retail development, four-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course. The site is located at 111th Avenue, west of the Loop 101 between Camelback Road and Glendale Avenue. It reaches across both Glendale and Phoenix city borders.
"We have notified Indian River County and the City of Vero Beach that we will not exercise the option to remain in Vero Beach until 2021," McCourt said in the statement. "That option would have expired on March 31, 2008. While we are confident at this point that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, we will be able to conduct spring training in Glendale in 2009, we have until July 15 to make that determination."
Though the facilities at Dodgertown had become dated and inadequate, especially when compared to the Spring Training facilities their competitors enjoy, there are definitely aspects that will be missed.
Manager Joe Torre, who just completed his first and only season at Vero Beach, knew that he was experiencing something unique.
"You can see that it was a very special place, all you had to do was walk through the clubhouse and see all the pictures," said Torre. "To me, baseball is about history and special organizations that have been around since Day 1. And Vero Beach was a big part of that."
Thankfully many of those pictures and pieces of baseball as well as Dodgers history, will find their way to the team's home in Los Angeles. Earlier this month, McCourt announced plans to "take Dodgertown to Los Angeles," which includes the transfer of some of the historic and beloved elements from the longtime Spring Training facility to Dodger Stadium and its surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, what can't be taken is the up-close-and-personal feel that the fans experienced at Dodgertown.
Lasorda, who spent 59 springs in Vero Beach, remembered that "you walked alongside the fans and everyone would eat together. It was unique."
It was a fitting tribute that with a large contingent of the Dodgers in China, Lasorda was given the honor of managing the Dodgers' last game in Vero Beach on March 17.
"As is the case whenever a family moves out of the neighborhood, we are filled with mixed emotions," said Dodgers President Jamie McCourt. "The Dodgers established some deep friendships in Florida, and they will endure. And just as a family experiences in such a move, there are new friends to be made in our new neighborhood."
Glenn Rabney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.