GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even during a Tuesday afternoon of threatening clouds and chilly winds, the Estrella Mountains looked majestic in the distance behind the walls of the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch.
No place in the Cactus League has a larger seating capacity.
Oh, and the whole complex has more than 118,000 square feet of clubhouse space for the major and minor leaguers, 13 baseball fields, walking trails, an orange grove and a two-acre lake stuffed with a fisherman's delight.
If that isn't enough, the water system is as "green" as Al Gore, and the hitter's backfield in center field is surrounded by Afghan trees.
This is just another example of how baseball folks keep firing knockdown pitches at one of their most precious commodities: history. Otherwise, you'd have more day World Series games (as opposed to zero), no designated hitters, two-hour contests and the Los Angeles Dodgers training in Vero Beach, Fla. -- home to their incomparable Dodgertown for more than 60 years.
Instead, the Dodgers are spending their second consecutive spring at a place dominated by splash but devoid magic.
"Well, I think history still is very important in baseball, but when it gets in the way of finances, it has to step aside," said Maury Wills, 77, straight-faced, as he stood by one of the Dodgers' new state-of-the-art facilities.
Wills was taking a break from his eternal spring role with the Dodgers of teaching the finer points of bunting and base-stealing. He perfected both in the 1960s when he helped the Dodgers win three world championships along his way to five All-Star teams, a National League MVP award and two Gold Gloves.
All of those seasons for Wills and others began with a sun-splashed stay in Dodgertown, everybody's baseball fantasy world.
You always had those perfectly manicured grounds that smelled of freshly cut grass and Florida citrus. Nothing separated fans from their heroes as they all moved easily from the clubhouse to the fields. Many players spent years living on site at the cottages along the streets named after Dodger Hall of Famers. Holman Stadium also was unique, because it featured dugouts without roofs. Plus, for the longest time, there were just palm trees in the far reaches of its outfield instead of fences.
Wills nodded with the memories. Then he studied the baseball diamonds across the way through misty eyes.
"When you leave Vero Beach, you lose the spirit of Jackie Robinson playing on a particular field," said Willis, pointing and sighing. Then he glanced in another direction, before saying, "And you lose Duke Snider on that particular field. There is no such thing of saying that Maury Wills broke in while playing over there, for instance.
"We don't have any of that kind of nostalgia at this place. But we plan to be here for another 100 years, so we have time to get it."
Wills laughed, maybe to keep the tears away.
Now it is 15 to 15.
The Dodgers also benefited for decades from having their old Brooklyn crowd either vacationing each spring in Vero Beach or joining the slew of Snowbirds who migrated to Florida from New York to live. Those Snowbirds often drove to Vero Beach to see the old Bums. The thing is, the Dodgers left for California during the late 1950s, which means many among that old Brooklyn crowd is with the Big Dodger In The Sky or just physically unable to attend spring games.
As a result, large sections of Holman Stadium's 6,000 seats weren't filled during much of this century. And when they were, they frequently contained loud fans for the other team, which was enough to make Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier shrug at his spiffy new locker over his franchise's Florida past.
He prefers its Arizona present.
"Any time you can move to within 300 miles of your home city instead of sitting 2,000 miles away, I think it's going to bring a little bit more truth to what your attendance should be with your own fans at your spring games," said Ethier, saying what the numbers show. A burst of unusually cold weather for Arizona (52 degrees, 24 mph winds) kept Tuesday's attendance against the Colorado Rockies at 4,140, but the Dodgers still average more than 9,000 fans per game in Arizona.
Added Either, a Phoenix native, who grew up as a Dodgers fan, "It was definitely time for us to move on. You're talking about a 60-year-old place compared to one that is only two years old. But Dodgertown was nice, because you really don't have much more here than you did in Vero as it pertains to things that are useful for us.
"We have the same amount a batting cages in both places. The same fields. The same weight room. The same locker rooms. The water might get warmer a little quicker in the shower, but there really is no difference."
Yes, there is.
Just like there is a difference between the place they call Yankee Stadium now compared to the one they did for 86 years across the street before last season.
Joe Torre knows the deal here.
"Well, I hope there still is that tie into baseball's past," said Torre, a career baseball man, who is the Dodgers manager after leading the New York Yankees to four world championships during his 12 years with the franchise through 2007.
Added Torre, "Yankee Stadium had a lot of nostalgia with the fact that they were going to tear it down, but the time comes when you have to move on. As much as you knew that Yankee Stadium was very special, the fact is that it was falling apart, and you weren't left with much of a choice."
Dodgertown was in great shape, and the Dodgers had a choice.