INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A 1950’s-era model of the Jackie Robinson Training Complex – which includes the former U.S. Naval Air Station barracks – is now on permanent display in the Indian River County Administration Building lobby.
Peter O’Malley, former owner and president of the L.A. Dodgers, presented the 3 by 5-foot model to the county at noon Tuesday during an unveiling. For O’Malley, the model preserves a unique part of the history of Vero Beach.
“Dodgertown in the 1950’s was historic. I thought a model would capture that,” O’Malley said. “The model should last a long time. I wanted it here.”
World Series banners for the L.A. Dodgers championship games in 1978, 1981 and 1988 hung over the railings as county commissioners spoke about the history of Jackie Robinson Training Complex – formerly known as Historic Dodgertown. For Commissioner Peter O’Bryan, the facility will always be ‘Dodgertown.’
“This model will remind us of our past,” O’Bryan said. “It’s always a great day at Dodgertown.” The model was created by Brett Pevey, 24, of California, who drew sketches and used materials including basswood, wood sticks, foam core and felt grass.
It includes the former U.S. Naval Air Station barracks from World War II, which the Dogders used from 1948 to 1971 while training at the site. The barracks – used by the military when it was still segregated – were wooden, elevated by stilts and surrounded by tall pine trees.
The barracks had no heating or air conditioning, and had paper thin walls before Walter O’Malley, Peter O’Malley’s father who was also the former Dodgers president, upgraded the facility in 1951. In 1972, the villas were added to the complex, which the Dodgers continued to use up until 2008.
The model also shows the Holman Stadium, three baseball fields, batting cages, sliding pit, orange trees and a competition-sized swimming pool.
Unveiling of 1950’s era model of Historic Dodgertown, now known as Jackie Robinson Training Complex, happening at the IRC Administration Building. pic.twitter.com/L8yXcbabNF
— Nicholas Samuel (@JournalistNickS) November 5, 2019
“I was truly amazed when I saw the photographs of the other stadium models made by Brett and it occurred to me that Historic Dodgertown deserved a model showing how it looked in the 1950’s,” O’Malley said. “I asked Brett if he could do it working from old pictures and his answer was ‘I would really enjoy that.’ He is a special, young talent and his work belongs in Vero Beach and Indian River County. Well done.”
When Holman Stadium was built, a man-made, heart-shaped lake was constructed by digging up sand, muck and marl, officials said. The 2-acre lake, which can be seen in the model, was a valentine gift from Walter O’Malley to his wife, Kay.
Jackie Robinson Complex throughout the years
This year, significant changes have come to Jackie Robinson Training Complex, where the L.A. Dodgers gathered to train for the upcoming season.
Major League Baseball took operational control over the complex in January. In April, the facility was renamed Jackie Robinson Training Complex.
In January, the complex was added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail on the 100th birthday of baseball legend and Dodgers Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, who used to train at the facility. The trail is a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks mainly in southern states.
Robinson died of a heart attack in 1972. The baseball icon broke the color barrier when he was signed to major league baseball in 1947.
“Dodgertown, Vero Beach played a pioneering role in advancing rights for African-Americans starting in 1948 and continuing throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s,” O’Malley previously said.
The complex was the first fully integrated Major League Baseball spring training site in the south after the Dodgers arrived. It also was named a Florida Heritage Landmark in 2014 for its role in the civil rights movement.
Today, the multi-sports complex has welcomed players worldwide to train and improve their baseball skills. The complex, located at 3901 26th Street, is used year-round for the development of amateur players in baseball and other sports including soccer, lacrosse, rugby and football.
Residents will be reminded of Jackie Robinson Training Complex’s history every time they go into the ‘A’ Indian River County Administration Building.
“The model will be a great way to walk my kids through history,” Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc said. “It’s a great tool to have. It’s a great day honoring the history of Dodgertown and the O’Malley family.”
Photos by Kaila Jones and Nick Samuel