For the record, I was in love with Vero. I thought that there could never be another place like it.
After all, it was hallowed ground.
When I walked the morning fields at what was once Dodgertown, I swear I could hear and see the ghosts of Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Junior Gilliam, Roy Campanella, Mike Sharperson and other Dodger legends playing catch on the morning-dew shiny, wet grass of the back diamonds right there in Vero Beach with Walter Alston and Walter O’Malley watching in the background.
I once saw SANDY KOUFAX throwing on one of the back diamonds when he was in his early 50′s. The writers said he was hitting 90 MPH on the gun. He left after a small crowd gathered (typical Sandy). That was a magical time.
I loved Bobby’s Restaurant which was on the beach in Vero. The walls were lined with photos of current and former Dodgers. Tommy was all over, as were the Walters, Sandy (who lives in Vero) and so many other Dodgers I can’t count. I once looked down and saw Sandy Koufax in the car beside me at the stoplight. He gave the little smile he does, and sped away in his Mercedes.
Vero Beach was a magical place. I was there for the last game. Carl Erskine played the National Anthem on his harmonica and Tommy Lasorda told the fans that if they didn’t root for the Dodgers they might not get into heaven (Tommy was always so subtle).
Clayton Kershaw gave my 6 year-old son his first autograph before that game. As I walked out after the game, I knew that no place would ever replace Vero Beach. I knew the move to Arizona had to happen, but I just knew that it couldn’t be a good thing, this Camelback Ranch.
However, I went down the first year for a week and I was blown away. It wasn’t Vero (nothing ever could be) but it was AS GOOD… actually better than Vero Beach. It was different, but better. I was in love again….
The rest of this week, I will tell you how to maximize your experience if you are going to Camelback Ranch this year. Stay tuned.