Major League Baseball yesterday announced that “Historic Dodgertown,” the former Spring Training site of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, will be renamed the “Jackie Robinson Training Complex” to serve as a year-round hub of amateur development initiatives and events designed to diversify and strengthen the talent pipelines of baseball and softball. The announcement was made at a press conference attended by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., former Historic Dodgertown Chairman & Dodger Owner Peter O’Malley, and members of the Robinson Family, including Rachel, Sharon and David – Jackie’s wife, daughter and son, respectively. MLB is commemorating the centennial celebration of the birth of Hall of Famer and Baseball Pioneer Jackie Robinson throughout 2019, with League and Club efforts complementing activities led by the Jackie Robinson Foundation. This includes a year-long schedule honoring Jackie’s legacy in baseball and throughout society, including the dedication of the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.
MLB, which assumed operational control of the facility on January 2nd of this year, will immediately begin planning a series of youth-focused events, which come at no cost to the participants, at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex. These events, which are scheduled throughout the summer in 2019 in conjunction with the sports’ governing bodies, include the following:
· Baseball Breakthrough Series East (w/ USA Baseball) – June 6th-10th
· Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series (w/ USA Baseball) – June 14th-18th
· Softball Elite Development Invitational (w/ USA Softball) – July 12th-16th
· Hank Aaron Invitational (w/ USA Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association) – July 21st-August 2nd
· RBI Baseball & Softball World Series – August 4th-15th
MLB will soon begin renovations on the Jackie Robinson Training Complex, which will most prominently include a new indoor training facility that will allow consistent training and workout opportunities for young athletes as well as improvements to Holman Stadium. Additional renovations will be announced at a later date. Currently, the Jackie Robinson Training Complex features Holman Stadium (6,500 seat capacity), four additional full-size baseball fields, one half field (90-foot basepaths, no outfield), four softball and youth baseball fields, eight indoor and lighted batting/pitching tunnels, four outdoor batting tunnels with pitching machines, 32 mounds & home plates for individual work, and a 60-yard agility & warm-up area.
“The Jackie Robinson Training Complex will honor the history and legacy of Dodgertown by fostering the development of the diverse collection of young men and women who are the future of our game,” said Commissioner Manfred. “Our plans for the facility extend beyond the playing field and will include growth opportunities for the athletes as they learn about personal character and those who paved the way before them, especially Jackie. We believe those who play at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex will be among some of the most passionate and dedicated players in the country.”
The Robinson Family said: “We’re thrilled that MLB will rename Dodgertown after Jack. He was devoted to young people and we’re excited to know that boys and girls will come here to advance their baseball skills while learning to be compassionate, productive, well-educated adults.”
“Major League Baseball is the ideal leader for Dodgertown’s next chapter,” O’Malley said. “Commissioner Rob Manfred and his colleagues understand the historical significance of this unique place and they’ll do an excellent job being responsible for it. The people of Vero Beach and Indian River County will be very proud of having Major League Baseball members of their community.”
MLB has utilized the facility over the last few years for a variety of special amateur camps that focus on developing and diversifying the future talent pool in baseball. Some of the most talented high school baseball and softball players from around the country have participated in these events and received elite-level instruction from former Major League players & managers, former professional & Olympic medal-winning softball players, and members of the Women’s National Baseball Team. In each of these camps, a contingent of college recruiters and professional scouts attended to evaluate players who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to showcase their skills through other events.
Notably for this year, the Hank Aaron Invitational will host approximately 250 players (ages 13-18) from across the United States to receive elite-level training from former Major League players and coaches. Previous event instructors included former Major League manager Jerry Manuel and former All-Stars such as Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Tom “Flash” Gordon, Eric Davis, Marquis Grissom, Reggie Smith, and Delino DeShields, among others. This effort, which began in 2015 as the Elite Development Invitational and is operated jointly by MLB/USA Baseball/MLBPA, currently can claim more than 100 alumni who either play professionally in Club Minor League systems or at the collegiate level. This equates to more than half of the participants who graduated high school in 2017 or 2018.
Once a U.S. Naval Air Station training night fighter pilots during World War II, the facility had previously served for 60 years as the Dodgers’ Spring Training home (1948-2008), including Jackie’s Brooklyn Dodgers. Opening as the first fully-integrated Spring Training site in the South during the time of Jim Crow Laws, the complex was recently added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks where activists challenged segregation in the 1950s and 1960s to advance social justice. It stands as the only sports property on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Most recently, the facility, which is also a Florida Heritage Landmark, has been used for youth baseball and other sport programs and events. Over the years, the site has welcomed visitors from all over the globe, including Japan, South Korea, Mexico, China, Russia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Italy, Australia, Holland, Nigeria, Nicaragua and Ireland, to observe and learn training techniques, improving their baseball knowledge, and establish relationships to grow the game.