Dodgertown, St. Patrick's Day and the ignorable loss of history
And a happy St. Patrick’s Day to ye. May the wind always be at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face … and if you’ve been called Dodgertown for 60 years, may you still be called Dodgertown.
There are Irish blessings, and apparently, simple Irish flights of fancy.
This used to be the best day of spring at Dodgertown. A special time because the O’Malleys made it a family day for the entire organization. A day to celebrate in the offices, on the field, in the dining room and, I’ve been told, in the Dodgertown bar.
The celebration permeated throughout Vero Beach. It was a happening that helped break up the doldrums of spring training. Further built the bond between the Dodgers and their Florida second home.
Now it’s just another day, save for the green bases and wearing of green caps and jerseys, a trend the Dodgers started and which has become standard fare throughout baseball. (The Dodgers will sign their jerseys after Thursday's game, to be auctioned off by the Dodgers Dream Foundation during the season.)
Meanwhile, there is Dodgertown, abandoned by the Dodgers three years ago so they could make the migration to Arizona. It was the most historic -- and, OK, romantic -- of all spring sites. It was the first and easily most unique, with players living in the old naval barracks surrounding the storied camp.
Only it is no longer Dodgertown, not officially anyway. It is now called the Vero Beach Sports Village. Just so catchy.
The Dodgers would not permit the facility, now owned by Indian River County and leased to Minor League Baseball, to continue to call itself Dodgertown. Which is sort of like Walter Knott selling his amusement park to Cedar Fair Entertainment, only not allowing it to be called Knott’s Berry Farm.
There were several negotiations, the complex's new operators very much wanting to be able to call it Dodgertown, but they could never reach an agreement with the Dodgers.
Last December, the iconic Dodgertown signs around the former spring training site were replaced by the Vero Beach Sports Village logo. Dodgertown signs were placed in storage.
"We had to move on with our rebranding,'' said Craig Craig Callan, director of the complex, the same position he held with the Dodgers for 30 years.
"But at the same we would welcome being able to use the Dodgertown name again we had used since 1948. There is only one Dodgertown, and that's in Vero Beach, Fla.''
Which everyone seems to know ... except the Dodgers.
The team fought the continued use of the Dodgertown name last season while using a ludicrous marketing campaign aimed at Arte Moreno and the Angels that promoted everywhere as Dodgertown. Minus, naturally, that certain place in Vero Beach.
Now the Dodgers' marketers have moved on to a much more palatable "It’s time for Dodger baseball" campaign. (Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has several photos of billboards using the new campaign, including a killer one with Vin Scully himself.)
Meanwhile, Dodgertown tries to promote itself as a training facility for teams using a name that sounds like a place senior citizens have poker tournaments.
This silliness is a black mark on the Dodgers’ history, something the Dodgers used to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day.
At the real Dodgertown on Thursday, high school and college baseball teams were working out, minor league umpires were being evaluated -- and employees were all wearin' the green.
"We have kept the tradition alive,'' Callan said.
Which sometimes requires action, not words.
-- Steve Dilbeck