VERO BEACH — USF's football team has played its past two bowl games on baseball fields, but for coach Skip Holtz, Monday was his first time ever practicing in an outfield.
Not far from the corner of Jackie Robinson Avenue and Pee Wee Reese Boulevard, the Bulls opened 12 days of preseason camp at the Vero Beach Sports Village, known for 50 years as Dodgertown, spring training home of the Dodgers until two years ago.
USF has full run of the five baseball fields, and tonight's practice will take place under the lights in Holman Stadium, where the Dodgers played their spring training games. After arriving Sunday night, the Bulls were reminded of the history of championships won by Dodger teams that trained on the same fields they're now using.
"It's been everything and more," Holtz said. "Remember, this was built for a professional team to come to camp. … We had a talk last night about the history and the great sports teams that have been through this facility, the number of championships that have been won that started right here. We talked about what we're trying to build, about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and everything else. … We're not just at a camp. We're at Dodgertown.
"The legends that have walked across these fields and stayed in these dorm rooms and eaten in this dining facility, that's all part of what they need to understand, the history and tradition through this great place."
Holtz and his team opened their stay in Vero Beach with a three-hour practice under blue skies and unrelenting heat. DLs Ryne Giddins and Cory Grissom and TE Jeff Hawkins got breaks from practice after overheating. OLs Jake Sims and Jeremiah Warren and FB Chase Griffiths did not practice as a precaution against concussion after complaining of headaches.
As for football on a baseball field, as his team has enjoyed in winning bowl games in St. Petersburg and Toronto, Holtz can remember when Notre Dame played Navy at Veterans Stadium, with pitching mounds not-so-subtlely covered up on the field.
"Once you get inside these lines, as long as it's 100 yards and has a couple end zones and is 53 yards wide," Holtz said.
THIS AND THAT: Freshman WR Deonte Welch continued to show promise, catching a long touchdown pass from freshman QB Jamius Gunsby, though Holtz said he'd prefer to see the talented freshman redshirt. Much of that decision will hinge on how Welch can fare in the first scrimmage of the preseason Saturday. … Junior S Jerrell Young had two interceptions in passing drills, and freshman CB Terrence Mitchell, making a case to play immediately this fall, worked with the second-team defense.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com.