Vero Beach, FL
Review by Gary
Holman Stadium is located within the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in what was once the Spring Training home to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was also home to the Vero Beach Dodgers and Devil Rays of the Florida State League from 1980 to 2008. Today, the complex is a year-round nerve center for the development of baseball and softball players.
In 1947, local businessman Bud Holman approached Dodgers ownership with the idea of transforming the vacated World War II US Naval Air Station in Vero Beach into their Spring Training home. What became “Dodgertown” officially opened its doors in 1948 with Holman Stadium opening in 1953. In homage to their former home, 1,500 steel chairs were brought from Ebbets Field since Brooklyn would have no use for them due to the exodus of “Dem Bums” to California. From Jackie Robinson to Sandy Koufax to Mike Piazza, generations of Dodgers called the 6500-seat Holman home every spring. The Dodgers converted the Navy barracks into villas where the players lived during training camp.
One of the notable features of Holman Stadium was the open-air dugouts that are literally dug out along the sides of the field, but not adjacent to the stands, with no structure to enclose the benches. Branch Rickey wanted to make the experience such that the fans could interact with the ballplayers as much as possible. Today, the dugouts are still in their same locations, but are now covered to keep the young players out of the Florida sun and rain. Unfortunately, this results in obstructed views for many fans along the 1st and 3rd base lines.
Another unusual feature of the ballpark is the trees that grow amongst the upper rows of seating. As there is no roof over much of the grandstand, one can imagine people clustering under these shade trees on a sunny Florida afternoon. This oddity was brought back in 2019 when improvements to the stadium were completed.
At the conclusion of Spring Training in 2008, the Dodgers left Vero Beach for a new spring home in Arizona. Dodgertown closed its doors, shutting down due to financial instability, and was deserted. When the Rays left, Holman Stadium was the last ballpark in the minors without covered dugouts.
In 2012 a group led by former owner Peter O’Malley, his sister Terry Sidler, and former Dodger pitchers Hideo Nomo and Chan Ho Park took over ownership of the property and restored Historic Dodgertown. In addition to making restorations to Holman Stadium, the group also made upgrades to reimagine Dodgertown as a 21st-century sports facility. Fields for youth baseball and softball and a full-sized grass field for football, soccer, lacrosse was installed. Over the years, a number of NFL and Canadian Football League teams have held camps at the site.
Today, light poles topped with red-laced baseballs line the sidewalks that connect the fields and buildings that adorn the Jackie Robinson Training Complex. We thank the employees who were toiling at Holman Stadium for permitting us access to visit this hallowed ground were generations of Dodgers trained from 1953 to 2008.