Years ago, the powers that be moved a baseball team from a historical location, leaving the town baseball-less for the first time in decades.
Since 2014, games featuring professional baseball talent have been held in the old stadium. These annual games have drawn very well and have been glowingly publicized.
Meanwhile, there is a current team in the league that has struggled with attendance, finishing last five years in a row. Despite their struggles at the gate, this current team finished with a higher attendance than the historical team when baseball was played at the historical location. This current team is also involved in stadium negotiations with the city government where they play.
So where is this historical location?
Here’s a hint: Jackie Robinson played here.
If you guessed Montreal, you would be wrong.
The location I am talking about is Vero Beach, home of Dodgertown. On April 15th, 2014, Dodgertown hosted the first Jackie Robinson Celebration Game, drawing over 4,000 fans to Holman Stadium to watch the Brevard County Manatees and the Lakeland Flying Tigers. On April 15th, 2015, the Manatees took on the St. Lucie Mets at Dodgertown for the second Jackie Robinson Celebration game, an event that drew 5,915 fans.
Despite the great turn out, no one is advocating the Dunedin Blue Jays move to Vero Beach, despite the Blue Jays consistently low attendance and despite the fact their stadium lease with Dunedin expires in 2017. Moving to Vero Beach hasn’t even been an option for the Blue Jays, who initially explored moving to a new facility in West Palm Beach before entering “closed door” negotiations with the City of Dunedin.
The big knock against Vero Beach is market size. Although Dunedin is one of the smallest towns in Minor League Baseball with only 35,321 residents, Vero Beach is even smaller, with only 15,220. And Vero Beach does not have bigger metro area such as Clearwater from which to draw attendance.
But that there isn’t even one op-ed advocating the return of Minor League Baseball to Vero Beach is surprising. Not one sports editorial in the TCPalm about how attendance at the two Jackie Robinson Celebration Games is indicative of a passion for baseball in Vero Beach that was ripped away. Not one column about how Vero Beach would embrace the Dunedin Blue Jays and their attendance would be much better at Holman Stadium. It’s as if the people of Vero Beach are accepting of their status as a place for baseball exhibitions.
Meanwhile dozens, if not hundreds of articles have been written about the same amount of exhibitions in Montreal.