Dodgers officially say goodbye to Vero Beach


Not exactly what I wanted to read with my morning coffee, but…

VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Los Angeles Dodgers made their departure from Vero Beach official, terminating their facility use agreement.

After calling Vero Beach their spring home for 61 years dating to when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, they informed Indian River County, Fla., officials that they were exercising their option to terminate the agreement in anticipation of opening a $100 million, two-team facility in Glendale, Ariz.

Craig Callan, the Dodgers’ vice president of spring training and minor league facilities, notified Indian River County administrator Joe Baird and Vero Beach City Manager Jim Gabbard of the decision Thursday evening.

“I guess there’s no particular place in the world — including my home — that holds more memories for me than Dodgertown,” Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully said Friday in the Dodger Stadium press box that bears his name.

“I’ve been going there for 59 years, and just imagine the parade of players, coaches, newspapermen, owners and managers that went through there. So it really has always been cherished ground for me. But nothing is forever, and it was time. I mean, that was hallowed ground for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But it should be closer to Los Angeles, so I’m all for it. To me, there’s no deep sentiment. I’m not touched by leaving there.”

Scully’s oldest recollection from the Dodgertown years took place in 1950, his first season in the team’s broadcast booth. First baseman Chuck Connors, who eventually gained fame on television as “The Rifleman,” offered to drive him to the beach one afternoon. And it was a harrowing experience.

“Chuck was a character,” Scully recalled. “There was an old wooden bridge that led out to the beach, and we got into a convertible and drove over that wooden bridge. Whatever the law allowed, we went faster — and bits and pieces of wood were flying in the air. I was scared to death.”

Beginning next spring, the Dodgers will write another chapter in their new facility, which they will share with the Chicago White Sox — the team they beat in the 1959 World Series for their first championship in Los Angeles.

Scully, who had former Dodgers coach Leo Durocher as a roommate at Dodgertown for several years, is one of a handful of Dodger luminaries over the years who have been honored with a street named after him in Vero Beach. This spring, he asked Callan to save him one of the signs that say “Vin Scully Way.”

“It’s one of those things that would be nice to have,” Scully said. “I’ll hang it on the front door of the house and really confuse the mailman.”

The Dodgers agreed to terms of an exit agreement in February, and the team had until next Tuesday to inform the county — without penalty — if they were not planning to return in 2009.

Although the Nov. 19 groundbreaking in Glendale was later than originally anticipated, construction crews are making up lost time by working double shifts each day, and Callan said the Dodgers were comfortable with the progress made in recent months.

“The comfort level was such that we felt it was appropriate that we move on,” he said.

It’s time for Indian River County to move on as well. Baird said he has a draft agreement with a replacement team, believed to be the Baltimore Orioles but not confirmed.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with the Dodgers,” Baird said. “It’s kind of sad. They’ve been good to the community. They’ve had a 60-year relationship. But we had anticipated this.

“It’s a definite that they aren’t going to be here. That’s the good thing, so we can get another team in.”

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press


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