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Shame of the Dodgers: Dodgertown is anywhere but Vero Beach

April 12, 2010 |  5:02 pm

Embarrassing. Really, it’s completely shameful.

One of those things so completely stupid that you shake your head several times simply trying to get it to compute. Not that it will happen.

Tuesday the Dodgers will welcome the faithful to Dodger Stadium for their home opener.

Notice to Frank McCourt and his organization: That’s Dodger Stadium, not Dodgertown.

See, Dodgertown is an actual place. It has been for over 60 years. It’s in Vero Beach, Fla. The most famous and historic spring training site in the world.

It is not some misbegotten marketing campaign, some ethereal concept no one who doesn’t draw a paycheck from McCourt claims to understand.

Right now the franchise splashes the name "Dodgertown" around everything.

We want people to feel like Dodgertown is wherever they are," said Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch.

That’s wherever they are … unless they’re actually in Dodgertown.

See, if that goofy marketing campaign wasn’t bad enough, the really stupid part is the Dodgers won’t allow Dodgertown to call itself Dodgertown.

The complex, which the team sold to Indian River County a decade ago, is now leased to Minor League Baseball, which wants to continue to call it Dodgertown. At least in some fashion.

"We’re currently in negotiations with them to keep the name Dodgertown," Rawitch said.

And have been for over a year. That’s a negotiation that should have taken as long as it takes to say, "Where do I sign?"

It’s a no-brainer. McCourt can spiel on and on about wanting to honor the Dodgers’ past, but he can’t bring himself to let Dodgertown call itself Dodgertown.

What could they possibly be waiting for? Minor League Baseball grew so frustrated waiting, it finally gave it another name just so it could market the complex for use by various sports teams.

Last St. Patrick’s Day, always a special time in Dodgertown, it announced the complex would now be called the Vero Beach Sports Village.

Wrote the Vero Beach Press Journal: "It sounds like a subdivision for active seniors — maybe a little tennis, golf, bocce, softball, golf, shuffleboard, badminton?"

They are now negotiating with the Dodgers to call the complex: Vero Beach Sports Village at Dodgertown. So catchy.

Craig Callan is the director of the complex, essentially the same position he held for the Dodgers for 30 years until helping them open Camelback Ranch and briefly retiring.

"Is Minor League Baseball frustrated? Yes," Callan said. "We very much want to continue the Dodgers’ legacy and brand in Vero Beach."

The complex is almost a small town within Vero Beach. The former naval air station has rooms, a dining hall, office space, a bar, a golf course, lakes and six fields.

Nearby is Dodgertown Elementary School. On Highway 60 the state directional sign points to Dodgertown. The streets are still named Sandy Koufax Lane and Vin Scully Way.

"Everything is still the same," Callan said. "It’s clean. It looks identical. It’s still Dodgertown."

Alas, except in name. Get this, the only place I can find that can still call it Dodgertown is the Dodgers media guide. It devotes two pages to Dodgertown, that place that doesn’t exist.

Rawitch said the negotiation is more involved that most realize.

"It involves using logos and MLB marks, and there’s a process that goes with it," he said.

Meanwhile, the franchise continues with its Dodgertown marketing campaign, which is actually -- I think -- a subdivision of its "This Is My Town" campaign, a campaign created to battle Arte Moreno and his Angels’ inroads into Los Angeles.

One bad marketing campaign should be enough. Nobody made the Dodgers leave Vero Beach, a community that was wed to the team for over half a century. They left Dodgertown, they can’t take it with them. When you divorce, you don’t get a new spouse and the old one too.

(By the way, if Dodgertown is supposed to be anywhere in the world a Dodgers fan is, why does the marketing campaign read: Dodgertown, USA?)

Rawitch said no disrespect was intended toward Dodgertown by usurping its name for a marketing campaign.

"We don’t feel like it’s any slight to Vero Beach, Fla.," he said. "Anybody who has been there, knows what a special place that was. I think most people now having been to Camelback understand our reasons for leaving there.

"That was Dodgertown to generations of people who went there for years and years, but since we are no longer in Vero Beach . . .  the next generation has to have an idea of what Dodgertown is as well."

And good luck to that generation figuring it out.

The marketing campaign should be dumped, but at the very least, Dodgertown should be allowed to call itself what it’s been since 1948. And erase the organizational disgrace.

--Steve Dilbeck

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