To see all of my posts from this visit to Historic Dodgertown (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
The fifth stop on this, my first Minor League ballpark road trip of the season, was Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach. Historic Dodgertown, which opened in 1948 without the “Historic” designation, is a former naval barracks converted by Branch Rickey into the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Spring Training home. Its creation was largely motivated by the desire to provide the team with a racially integrated training site.
The sprawling grounds of Dodgertown — words which should be a refrain in a Bruce Springsteen song — include Holman Stadium.
This facility hasn’t hosted a Minor League Baseball team since 2008 (RIP Vero Beach Devil Rays), but it comes alive each April 15 for the annual Jackie Robinson Celebration Game. The 2015 iteration of this game was to feature the Brevard County Manatees and St. Lucie Mets. This is what I was in Vero Beach to witness.
To see all of my posts from this visit to Historic Dodgertown (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
I visited eight ballparks on my April 2015 Florida road trip. Of these eight ballparks, 62-year-old Holman Stadium was the most memorable.
Holman Stadium hasn’t hosted a Minor League team since 2008. The annual Jackie Robinson Celebration Game, first implemented in 2014 and on track to be a recurring event for years to come, represents the only chance to witness a professional baseball played at this facility. I wrote all about the Jackie Robinson game over on MiLB.com. A relevant excerpt follows, though I’d ask that you please read the whole thing if time and attention span allow.
Dodgertown, located in Vero Beach, Florida, served as the Dodgers’ Spring Training home from 1948 through 2008. The 80-acre facility, now officially known as “Historic Dodgertown” has since found a second life as a multi-sport training and tournament venue. But, once a year, Dodgertown returns to its professional baseball roots with the Florida State League’s Jackie Robinson Celebration Game.
The 2015 Jackie Robinson Celebration Game took place on Wednesday, April 15, a day on which Robinson’s legacy is celebrated throughout professional baseball. The game’s participants were the Brevard County Manatees and St. Lucie Mets — the Florida State League teams located nearest Vero Beach — and a near-capacity crowd of 5,915 was on hand at Dodgertown’s Holman Stadium to witness it. Holman Stadium, which last hosted a Minor League Baseball team in the form of the FSL’s Vero Beach Devil Rays in 2008, was built on the Dodgertown grounds in 1953. The first player to hit a home run in the stadium was none other than Jackie Robinson.
Jackie Robinson is truly a man worth celebrating…
…and it was a beautiful day for a ballgame.
This was my first time in Vero Beach, but I’ve been on this beat long enough that I occasionally used to cover the promotions staged by the Vero Beach Devil Rays (the last team to play at Holman Stadium and, also, the last team to use the “Devil Rays” name).
Here, for example, is a guy using a urine cup (distributed as part of an “Anti-Doping Night” promotion) to hold his beer.
And here, mascot Squeeze forces the British to surrender during “Revolutionary War Night.”
There would be no such shenanigans on this evening, of course. The Jackie Robinson Celebration Game is a decidedly more straightforward affair.
I arrived before the gates opened, giving me the opportunity to photograph the seats before they were occupied. And what an opportunity it was.
This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing a short, on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my possibly triumphant return home, I will provide the exhilarating blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. So let’s get to it!
April 15, 2015 — Holman Stadium, located within the historic Dodgertown complex (Spring Training home of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1948 through 2008).
Event: Jackie Robinson Game, between the Brevard County Manatees and St. Lucie Mets. Robinson trained at Dodgertown throughout the bulk of his career, and even hit the first home run at Holman Stadium.
Holman Stadium, from the outside:
Holman Stadium, from within: Some 6,000 people were in attendance, a huge crowd by Florida State League standards, no matter what the context.
Culinary Delight: I skipped my usual food coverage, given that this was a one-time event. But here’s a shot of one of the main food and beverage areas. You can imagine how cramped this became once some 6,000 people were in the ballpark.
Waiting for the Punch-Vine (my nightly attempt at telling an “original” ballpark joke in six seconds):
My jokes have become so groundbreaking and subversive that at this point they’re not even jokes. https://t.co/87tR2o8PFi
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 16, 2015
At Random: Old signage is the best kind of signage.
In Conclusion: Thanks, Jackie.
Next Up: St. Lucie Mets. Tonight! April 16!
4/17: Brevard County Manatees
4/18: Jacksonville Suns