Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Another of baseball's longtime showpieces may be on its final legs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have moved their spring training base to Arizona, vacating sun-kissed Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL after 60 consecutive springs. It may be that some major league team eventually will return to this once pristine "village" with its immaculate grooming, its celebrity-identified streets (i.e. Drysdale, Koufax, Alston, etc.), its comfy apartments for players and staff and Holman Stadium, where once upon a time outfielders had to challenge the knoll beyond the outfielders to retrieve long blasts.

But it seems more likely the facility never again will have a regular major league tenant.

What brings all of this to mind was a conversation with Talmadge ("T") Nunnari, who wears both the general manager's and the field manager's hats for the Pensacola (FL) Pelicans these days. He does have help, folks, especially for the tedious task of selling the business side of the American Association club.

"T" roamed Dodgertown last month as part of what he feels likely will be the last baseball event in the East Coast of Florida facility, at least for some time.

Nunnari managed the Gators in a dawn to dusk event staged by The Baseball Factory during a four-day pre-New Year's event in which 200 young men--those hoping to one day perform on the big stage of the major leagues--came from all across the country to work on their baseball skills. Nunnari was a manager and a talent evaluator, roles which will be essential when he sizes up older professional player who may be able to help fly a pennant over Pensacola's Pelican Park this summer.

Nunnari, who will turn 34 before the American Association season opens, was a ninth round draft choice of the Montreal Expos in 1997, and the first baseman-outfielder got into 18 National League games in 2000. He can preach on-base percentage to the Pelicans because his was a robust .583 in his brief major league stint when he had one hit and drew six walks while only gathering five official at-bats.

His best year may well have been 1999 when his left-handed swing accounted for 11 homers, 73 runs batted in and a .344 average combined in 134 games between Class A and Double-A. Nunnari's only Independent playing experience included a month at the end of 2002 when he helped the Pelicans win the Southeastern League title and about a week in 2005 when he was reactivated to help during a Central League roster shortage.

I can only hope "T" will share his memories of the final days of Dodgertown during down-time with the Pelicans this summer. Everyone should know the story of this baseball jewel. It was blessed with everything from Hall of Fame players to palm trees to Tommy Lasorda holding court in the unique, open-topped dugouts.

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