Following an excellent turn out for a game last week, some are wondering what it would take for Minor League Baseball to return to Vero Beach’s Holman Stadium.
Part of the historic Dodgertown complex, Holman Stadium has a long history that includes a run as the home of the Vero Beach Dodgers (High A; Florida State League), who were later known as the Vero Beach Devil Rays. The Los Angeles Dodgers played their final spring training game at the ballpark in 2008, and the Devils Rays closed out the ballpark’s time in the Florida State League later that season.
Since the Devil Rays moved to Port Charlotte, where they are now known as the Charlotte Stone Crabs, Holman Stadium is without an MiLB tenant. The Dodgertown complex, however, remains an active year-round facility, and for the past four seasons, the ballpark has hosted an annual Florida State League game on April 15 to coincide with Jackie Robinson Day.
Aside from becoming one of baseball’s best traditions on Jackie Robinson Day, the annual contest has proven to be a hit with local fans, who have turned out in large numbers. Last Saturday’s matchup between the St. Lucie Mets and the Florida Fire Frogs drew a reported crowd of 6,849 spectators, topping the total of 4,623 from 2016.
With that level of support for the game, some are wondering whether Holman Stadium could ever host an MiLB team on a full-time basis. Laurence Reisman of TCPalm spoke to several people recently, including MiLB president Pat O’Conner, about what it make take to land another franchise:
O’Connor said it’s possible Minor League Baseball could return to Holman Stadium. One scenario might be getting one of the four private owners in the Florida State League to move and getting the St. Lucie Mets to OK the deal. The Florida Fire Frogs moved this year from Space Coast Stadium to Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee in a four-year deal.
“I wouldn’t write it off totally,” O’Connor said of my skepticism a team might relocate to Vero Beach.
The bottom line: There are plenty of hurdles. A modernized Holman Stadium, serving ballpark food, local beer and grub, and continuing fun promotions and traditions in-between innings might generate enough fans, especially now that there’s no Florida State League team in Brevard County.
But, as O’Connor said, it’s up to the community to decide whether it wants a baseball team. While almost 7,000 of us are willing to pay $8 to support United Way and head to the stadium on a nice night to watch a game, are we willing to do the other things that would make a minor league team a reality?
I’m not so sure.
It would remain to be seen how much work Holman Stadium would need in the process, and what the scope and cost of potential renovations would be. While there are probably still other questions that would need to be addressed in the process, the success of the games on Jackie Robinson Day has shown that Vero Beach still has a lot of affection for both Holman Stadium and Dodgertown.