VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa skeptically raised an eyebrow on Friday when he was asked if any of his players requested to come to Dodgertown one last time.
The skipper, who has been in professional baseball for 46 years, doubted that many -- or even any -- of his players understood the significance of the venerable facility. But he might have been surprised. Several Cardinals, particularly some of the team's Los Angeles natives, have great reverence for the complex, which will no longer host Dodgers Spring Training after 2008.
"I watched as a kid at home," said Skip Schumaker, who hails from Torrance, Calif. "I never thought this would be the last game the [Cardinals] would play here. The team's been here, what, 60 years? Last game I'll probably ever play here. I'm glad I got to play here and be one of the last ones to get on the field, that's for sure."
Friday's Cardinals-Dodgers game is scheduled to be the third-to-last Dodgers game at Holman Stadium, and the last time St. Louis will visit. The Dodgers have played in Vero Beach, since 1948, but they plan to move to Arizona for Spring Training in 2009. Some reports have linked the Orioles to the facility here, but no new tenant is officially set.
Brian Barton, born in Los Angeles, has a particularly special connection to Dodgertown. He was drafted by the L.A. organization, and he even played an exhibition game in Vero Beach when he was at the University of Miami.
"It's sad to see it go," Barton said. "Not necessarily go, but not to see the Dodgers be here. It's history. For this to be the last year to play here... it kind of goes against tradition. But like with anything, it's a business decision and sometimes you've got to move on. I'm quite sure the Orioles will represent it well, and baseball will continue to go on.
"It's going to be weird to see another team here."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.