"At night you'd
have 18 guys hanging around the pool table in the Koufax Room, waiting their
turn, except for the three nights each week we had the motivational
speeches," says catcher Ken Huckaby, who has returned as a nonroster
invitee after spending springs at Dodgertown from 1991 through '97. "This
place is special. I always thought this was one of the few places--the Yankees
are another--where the uniform is bigger than any individual."
definitely miss it; I'd be lying if I said no," says Bill DeLury, a team
executive who began as an office boy and is spending his 44th spring in
Dodgertown. "It'll be sad. But it's like Mr. O'Malley said, 'Nothing is
forever.' Everything comes to an end. You've got to change."
DeLury stood near
the rightfield bullpen in Holman Stadium, where millionaire relievers watch
games from a grass berm, shaded only by a tall palm. On the field, players
moved through their conditioning drills, not all too differently from 1948,
except now they don't keep fungo bats handy to kill the occasional snake. It
was the same humble start to another long, grueling season. But this time, even
on a morning as fresh, crisp and clear as Saturday's, it was the beginning of
the end of something much bigger.