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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
The Boys of Spring are gone but the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches has a full summer lineup.
As the nearly crisp 70-degree weather has given way to hot and heavy 80s and even 90s, the new ballpark and its 12 nearly pristine practice fields remain busy with Houston Astros, Washington Nationals and a steady lineup of athletic events, from soccer to lacrosse to high school and Division I and Division II college baseball and a University of Miami-coached football camp for youths.
The 160-acre, $148.5 million facility is even advertising itself as a wedding venue but no takers yet, said Brady Ballard, general manager of the ballpark since before it opened in January.
Athletes seem wedded to the place, though. For a full listing of events, visit ballparkpalmbeaches.com and click on events and then, tournaments.
On Wednesday Miami coach Mark Richt is holding a football camp for youths from age 5 through rising ninth-graders (Anyone who has taken high school classes is not eligible).
A new wood bat league, Collegiate League of the Palm Beaches, has a full schedule at the ballpark this month through early August. The games take place on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, with one feature game every Saturday in the stadium. The public is welcome to attend, with tickets ranging from $3 to $5, depending on age.
While there's no minor league team set up at the ballpark -- and none anticipated anytime soon, Ballard said -- the league gives the facility to host one stadium game a week.
The Palm Beach Classic, one of the largest high-school age baseball tournaments, takes place from Friday to June 14. Some 280 teams will play.
Ballpark of the Palm Beaches is the event hub but the games also will be played at the Lawnwood Sports Complex, Roger Dean Stadium, the Santaluces Sports Complex and Tradition Field.
Though most of the Astros and Nationals major leaguers cleared out at the end of March, 82 Astros and 73 Nationals still train at the ballpark, every day but Sunday, starting as early as 7:15 a.m.
The players are there for a variety of reasons: to extend their spring training, recondition themselves after an injury, or if they haven't yet earned a roster spot on a minor league team, to work their way up.
The stadium is closed during these workouts but the public is free to wander by the practice fields and watch the stars-in-the-making.
A number of local high school and college baseball players already have had the chance to dig their cleats into the manicured fields. Oxbridge Academy and Dwyer High students have played there, as have teams from Florida Atlantic, Keiser and Lynn universities.
A soccer tournament also took place a couple of weeks ago, on the county fields constructed as part of the ballpark project. Meanwhile, the city park on the southwestern portion of the site is under construction.
Ballard said the summer events show the new ballpark's ability to cater to a number of sports.
As the summer rolls on, the facility's most consistent visitors — construction crews — continue to show up, as they complete the touch-up work they couldn't get to before the Astros and Nationals descended for spring training.
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