Photo provided by Steven Martine/MLB Photos
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Three months after Historic Dodgertown was added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail on the 100th birthday of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, officials renamed the facility after the Hall of Fame player.
“We’re thrilled that MLB will rename Dodgertown after Jack,” The Robinson family said during a Tuesday news conference. “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 Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. made the announcement about Historic Dodgertown during the noon news conference, MLB officials confirmed. The stadium will now be known as the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in honor of Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball in the modern era.
Manfred spoke at the multi-sports facility, where Robinson once trained with the Brooklyn Dodgers, at 3901 26th Street. Tony Brown, president of the NAACP chapter for Indian River County, said the name change is “big time” and a step in the right direction.
“It is an awesome day for Indian River County and a step in the right direction,” Brown said. “I commend all those involved. But, we still have work to do in recognizing achievements of blacks in the county.”
The Jackie Robinson Training Complex will operate year-round for the development of amateur baseball and softball players, officials said. The facility, which MLB took operational control over on Jan. 2, will also have events designed to diversify and strengthen players.
The MLB is also planning to make renovations at the complex, including a new indoor training facility for consistent training and workout opportunities for young athletes. The facility is comprised of the 6,500 seat Holman Stadium, four extra full-sized baseball fields, one half-field, four softball and youth baseball fields and more.
Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, the chair and founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, joined Manfred for the announcement, MLB officials said. Robinson’s daughter, Sharon, and son, David, were also at the event.
Sharon is the vice-chairperson for the foundation and is also a MLB educational programming consultant and author, officials said. David is the founder and president of United Harlem Growth, Inc., and is the managing director for the Higher Ground Development Corporation.
Also in attendance was Peter O’Malley, former owner and president of the L.A. Dodgers and former chairman for Historic Dodgertown.
The Jackie Robinson Training Complex – formerly Historic Dodgertown – was founded in 1948. The complex is an all-inclusive area where teams can train, play, dine and stay together.
The facility was the first fully integrated MLB spring training site in the south, officials said. The Jackie Robinson Training Complex was named a Florida Heritage Landmark in 2014 for its role in the civil rights movement.
Robinson was a hero both on and off the field. The Hall of Famer broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he was signed in 1947.
Robinson led the Dodgers to six World Series and one World Series Championship in a 10-year span, among other achievements, according to his website. Robinson served on the board of directors for the NAACP from 1957 to 1967.
He also established the Jackie Robinson Construction Company in 1970 to build housing for families with low incomes. Robinson died of a heart attack October 24, 1972, at age 53 at his Connecticut home.
The Jackie Robinson Training Complex has welcomed players worldwide to train and improve their baseball skills, officials said.
Brown said there have been other county facilities named after prominent local African Americans. Those include the Robert J. Taylor Gymnasium at Gifford Middle School, the Joe N. Idlette Technical Education Center room at the School District of Indian River County headquarters and the Bill Wilson Track at Vero Beach High School.
Photos provided by Steven Martine/MLB Photos and Jackie Robinson Training Complex