Jackie Robinson Training Complex: Black Baseball’s Field Of Dreams

If you build it, they will come.

MLB announced that “Historic Dodgertown,” the former Spring Training site of the legendary Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers in Vero Beach, will be renamed the “Jackie Robinson Training Complex”. The new Jackie Robinson Training Complex will serve as a year-round Field of Dreams for amateur development initiatives and events designed to diversify and strengthen the talent pipelines of baseball and softball.

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It’s historically appropriate that the first integrated MLB Spring Training location in the South will now serve as home to a variety of diversity-focused efforts led by MLB.

Major League Baseball has been strategic, active and blatant in its efforts to diversify the sport from the grass root levels up through the minor leagues, MLB and executive ranks. The progress MLB has made in reintroducing the game of baseball to the African-American community has been slow but evident as three African-American ballers were chosen in the first 10 picks in 2017 and three more — including potential NFL No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray — were chosen in the first round in 2018.  

Preserving and celebrating Jackie Robinson’s incomparable legacy is always the launching point for the various initiatives that MLB’s diversity/inclusion and youth development teams implement each season.

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The announcement was made at a press conference attended by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., former Historic Dodgertown Chairman & Dodger Owner Peter O’Malley, and members of the Robinson Family, including Rachel, Sharon, and David – Jackie’s wife, daughter and son, respectively.

The Robinson Family said: “We’re thrilled that MLB will rename Dodgertown after Jack. 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.”

MLB is commemorating the centennial celebration of the birth of  Jackie Robinson throughout 2019, with League and Club efforts boosting activities led by the Jackie Robinson Foundation. This includes a year-long schedule honoring Jackie’s legacy as an athlete, civil rights leader, politician and philanthropist, including the dedication of the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.

Last month, Oscar-winning director Spike Lee and The JRC debuted “Impact” , a three-minute film about Jackie’s cultural impact. The centennial celebration concludes with the grand opening of Manhattan’s Jackie Robinson Museum in December.

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Constructing Baseball’s Diversity Haven

MLB will soon begin renovations on the Jackie Robinson Training Complex.  A new indoor training facility for consistent training and workout opportunities for young athletes as well as improvements to Holman Stadium.

Currently, the Jackie Robinson Training Complex features Holman Stadium (6,500 seat capacity), four additional full-size baseball fields, one half field (90-foot base paths, no outfield), four softball and youth baseball fields, eight indoor and lighted batting/pitching tunnels, four outdoor batting tunnels with pitching machines, 32 mounds & home plates for individual work, and a 60-yard agility & warm-up area.

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Field Of Dreams

MLB, which assumed operational control of the facility on January 2nd, will immediately begin planning a series of youth-focused events at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex,  which come at no cost to the participants.

These events, which are scheduled throughout the summer in 2019 in conjunction with USA Baseball and Major League Baseball Players Association.

Baseball Breakthrough Series East – June 6th-10th

Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series – June 14th-18th

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Softball Elite Development Invitational – July 12th-16th

RBI Baseball & Softball World Series – August 4th-15th

The Hank Aaron Invitational (July 21st-August 2nd) is one of the crown jewels of MLB’s youth development initiatives. The event, formerly known as EDI (Elite Development Invitational) will host approximately 250 players (ages 13-18) from across the United States to receive elite-level training from former Major League players and coaches.

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EDI began in 2015 and claim more than 100 alumni who either play professionally in Club Minor League systems or at the collegiate level.

There’s no lack of inspiration for the participants. Previous event instructors included former Major League manager Jerry Manuel and former All-Stars such as Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Patrick Mahomes Sr., Tom “Flash” Gordon, Eric Davis, Marquis Grissom, Reggie Smith, Bo Porter, and Delino DeShields, just to name a few.  

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.