When Dodgertown opened in 1948, one year after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, the players shared living quarters and other facilities, no matter what their race. The golf course there opened in 1954, even as public golf courses outside the Dodgertown gates were segregated.
The Dodgers abandoned their historic Florida spring home in 2008, but the facility was revitalized Tuesday with a new name: the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.
The city of Vero Beach never did secure a team to replace the Dodgers as a spring training tenant. Now, after former Dodgers president Peter O’Malley revived the complex under the “Historic Dodgertown” name, Major League Baseball has agreed to operate the facility for at least a decade and use it as a home for several of its diversity programs.
“It is a symbol of our commitment to make baseball look like America,” commissioner Rob Manfred said at a news conference in Vero Beach.
The league plans to move its RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) championships to Vero Beach, as well as hold invitationals and youth leagues in boys’ baseball, girls’ baseball and softball.
“It’s fitting that we combine the legacy of Jackie Robinson,” Manfred said, “and the legacy of this important facility.”
The site is the only sports property on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which includes the Atlanta birthplace of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Alabama bridge where, in 1965, the first major march for voting rights ended in violence.
“That’s always Dodgertown, so to be named after Jackie, and now you’re talking about prospects from our country and outside the country … as a resource, it’s fantastic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s just such a great property to not be used, to be maximized.
“I have very good memories of Dodgertown, hitting late after practice with Tommy Lasorda throwing my BP, telling me to chop down on the ball. Great place.”
Jackie Robinson would have turned 100 this year. His wife, Rachel, was in attendance at Tuesday’s news conference. O’Malley said he supported the name change from Dodgertown and hoped it would inspire the youth who would play on the fields that Robinson did.
“Some of them may not know who Jackie was, what he accomplished, or what he stood for when they arrive,” O’Malley said. “But, when they all leave, they will all know about Jackie’s life and what he did. And that is a great part of this name.”