The Palm Beach County Sports Commission hosted the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier for the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020 from May 31-June 5 at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The United States advanced to the Olympics after an undefeated five-game campaign.
Eight nations competed over 16 games for the second-to-last spot in the six-team tournament. The U.S., Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, Canada, and Colombia participated in the event which took place at two venues – the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach and Clover Park in Port Saint Lucie.
Throughout the competition, fans were treated to elite-level baseball featuring a mix of up-and-coming players and veteran major leaguers. Familiar names like Jose Bautista, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera, and Anibal Sanchez played alongside rising prospects in the minor leagues like Matthew Liberatore and Julio Rodriguez, the no. 30 and no. 5 prospects in baseball respectively, per MLB.com.
Household names were aplenty at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches with the Palm Beach County Sports Commission honoring multiple MLB greats and hall of famers with ceremonial first pitches. Legends like Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez, David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz, Andre Dawson, Larry Walker, Jeff Conine, Johnny Bench, Tony Armas, Liván Hernández, Dennis Martínez, and Bucky Dent made appearances throughout the week.
Despite Covid-19 safety restrictions to limit capacity, the two venues generated impressive attendance figures with over 25,000 fans attending at least one game throughout the week. The game was broadcast in over 70 countries and territories for those not in attendance while over 2,000,000 fans engaged with the tournament through social media.
The local and international media provided plenty of coverage, especially across North, South, and Central America with close to 200 accredited media members for the tournament – attending personally or virtually – taking advantage of the post-game press conferences provided in English and Spanish.
The tournament also made a different kind of impact with on-site coronavirus vaccinations available each day. Thanks to the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, vaccines were available for free to all attendees. The Health Care District also vaccinated the players and staff of each team in need before the tournament began.
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission expected the tournament to make a strong economic impact in Palm Beach County. With eight teams, personnel, and fans, the event brought an added boost to already surging tourism trends.
“The United States will play in this summer’s Olympics and it all started right here in The Palm Beaches,” said George Linley, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. “The Palm Beach County Sports Commission could not have been more honored to host the WBSC Baseball Americas Qualifier for the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020.”
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches might be Palm Beach County’s newest professional baseball facility but it is no stranger to hosting world-class baseball. Two recent World Series champions, the Houston Astros (2017) and Washington Nationals (2019) call the ballpark home each year for their Major League Baseball Spring Training games. Many elite baseball events have also played at the park including the Prospect Select Wave Invitational, Baseball Canada Junior Nationals, Palm Beach Classic, and Perfect Game USA 14U Florida Showcase.
The ballpark contains 13 MLB fields and five multipurpose athletic fields covered in beautiful Bermuda grass and caters to soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, and more. Among the eclectic events that the venue has hosted are Battlepark Mixed Martial Arts, SoFlo Turkey Shootout in lacrosse, The Palm Beach Cup in soccer, and Sunshine Games Ultimate Frisbee.