By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- If baseball fields were runners, the fields at Vero Beach Sports Village would definitely qualify as "Ironmen" based on their use during this year's high school and college spring training days.
The spring training season began Feb. 18 and will wrap up on April 26, but not before 155 baseball teams from 26 states, three Canadian provinces, France and Japan have kicked up the clay at the historic fields of Vero Beach Sports Village.
The future of the management of Vero Beach Sports Village may still be in limbo because of discussions and negotiations at the county level, but the impact of events this spring have definitely been noticeable around the county.
"This has been the best spring training ever at Vero Beach Sports Village," said Craig Callan, vice president and manager of the sports complex.
Jeff Biddle, director of athletics and marketing, estimated 3,300 athletes and coaches will have used the facility in about 600 baseball games through April 26.
Of the 155 teams, 62 stayed on-base using the facility's hotel rooms, while 75 other teams used Vero Beach Sports Village as the booking agent for rooms elsewhere in the county, Mr. Biddle said.
If each team needs eight rooms for five nights, that equals 3,000 room nights for local hoteliers, and that's just for the teams, not counting the entourage of parents, grandparents and siblings that often accompany the teams, who travel to Vero Beach during their spring break week.
Greg Logan, head baseball coach of Greenup County High School in Greenup, Ky., brought 36 baseball players from the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams and several coaches and stayed at Vero Beach Sports Village for nearly a full week of baseball games.
"Vero Beach Sports Village is a first-class facility, from the complex to the people," Coach Logan said. "I get emails from other places offering discounts to come and play with them. We get one week of spring break and this is the third year we've come to Vero Beach. As long as I am coach and the school district allows us to, we're not leaving Vero Beach Sports Village."
The facility set up helps the team grow together as a family, but also train and grow as a team during a time of year where it isn't feasible to play at home, he said.
"It's 32 degrees in Kentucky, so how can we go wrong with this (weather) right here?" Coach Logan said. "The spring training gets the students a chance to start working on their skills about one month before many of the other Kentucky teams can even begin to practice together."
Greenup County High School players even brought radio station representatives with them to their games, giving the fans back home a taste of Vero Beach baseball in their living rooms.
"The local radio station broadcasts all of our games back home and we have a huge following. We are 2-1 so far this week," Coach Logan said.
Having an all-in-one training facility is a huge draw for Greenup County's team, but so is the historical aspect of the site, as it is for many other teams, Mr. Biddle said.
The Brooklyn, then Los Angeles Dodgers spent 60 years coming to Vero Beach for spring training, and many players have trained right where the high school and college baseball players are training this season.
The management group of the sports village is Verotown and is led by Peter O'Malley, former president of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Discussions between the county and Verotown concerning the future of Verotown's management of the facility are ongoing and will be covered in subsequent Hometown News issues.
For more information about activities and events at Vero Beach Sports Village, visit www.vbsportsvillage.com.