Orioles could replace the Dodgers in Vero

Times Staff Writer

Cal Ripken Jr. could replace Tom Lasorda as the resident icon at Dodgertown.

A major league club has reserved the option to replace the Dodgers when they move from their longtime spring home in Vero Beach, Fla., Mayor Tom White said Friday. He said the deal could enable spring training in Vero Beach -- a tradition since 1948 -- to continue uninterrupted after the Dodgers leave.

White would not identify the club, but it is believed to be the Baltimore Orioles.

The deal cannot be concluded until the Dodgers determine their departure date from Florida. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is scheduled to meet next month with officials in Glendale, Ariz., and decide whether the Dodgers can move into a new training complex there as scheduled in 2009.


Although the Dodgers have been unable to guarantee when they will vacate Dodgertown, White said, the team replacing them has been patient.

“We’ve been talking to them for quite a while,” White said. “They’re anxious too, but they’ve worked well with us.

“I think it’s great that we can go without missing a season. That’s huge for us, for the economic vitality of the area.”

Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird, the lead government negotiator, has not returned calls from The Times this week, but he confirmed to Treasure Coast (Fla.) Newspapers on Friday that a club has signed an option agreement to move to Dodgertown when the Dodgers vacate the property.

An option could enable the Orioles to pit Vero Beach against their current spring home of Fort Lauderdale. The Orioles’ lease in Fort Lauderdale extends through 2009, and they have long asked for renovations there.

Orioles spokesman Greg Bader would not comment on Vero Beach but noted the team has “no obligation or commitment to any city for a long-term spring training relationship.” Fort Lauderdale spokeswoman Shannon Vezina said the Orioles “have given the city no indication they intend to move.”

If next spring is indeed the Dodgers’ final one in Vero Beach, the relationship between team and city officials could be frosty. In order to accommodate an exhibition tour of China, the Dodgers cut their Vero Beach schedule from 17 games last spring to 10, the minimum required by their lease.

And, counting travel time to China, Manager Joe Torre and many regular players might not appear at more than six games in Vero Beach.

“We’re kind of upset because they’re doing this in their last year,” White said. “We would like to get a full season in. But, as long as they honor their contract, there’s not much we can do.”