Baseball Diamonds that Shine | Sports Destination Management

Baseball Diamonds that Shine

May 01, 2023 | By: Peter Francesconi

The Great American Pastime continues its greatness, despite a very slight drop in total participation during the pandemic. According to the most recent Participation Report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, about 15.5 million people played baseball in 2022, and that number is expected to start climbing again as more Americans continue to engage in sports activities, including team sports.

Across the country, sports venues and parks and recs pride themselves on lush, well-maintained baseball diamonds. Here are some key venues to consider for your next baseball tournament or event.

Arlington, Texas

Arlington, TX
Arlington, TX | Photo Courtesy of Arlington Sports Commission

Arlington is serious about baseball, says Matt Wilson, executive director of the Arlington Sports Commission. As proof, the area features several top-notch multi-diamond facilities, including the Arlington ISD, which has six baseball/slow-pitch softball fields with 300-foot fences and 10 youth baseball/fast-pitch diamonds, with 190- to 210-foot fences. Arlington Parks & Rec offers 18 baseball/slow-pitch fields with 300-foot fences and three T-ball fields; the Harold Patterson Sports Center has more than 130 acres of field space. There’s also Globe Life Park / Texas Rangers Youth Ballpark. Many of the venues have movable mounds and fences.

Arlington hosts a lot of baseball events of all sizes year-round, including Pony League, Perfect Game, Super Series, Triple Crown, ASA and more. One of the largest is the USSSA DFW World Series in July, which often draws more than 500 teams to area fields.

The Sports Commission and CVB work with Arlington Parks & Rec for field availability, then work with local partners to augment events for athletes and their families. Off the field, there’s a lot to do, too, and the CVB can help arrange restaurant discounts, attraction discounts, awards ceremonies and more. “The whole family will have plenty to do and explore,” says Wilson.

Burlington, Washington

Burlington, WA
Burlington, WA | Photo Courtesy of City of Burlington Parks & Recreation

Burlington, Washington, is in the northwest corner of the state, about an hour north of Seattle and an hour south of Vancouver and the Canadian border, nicely positioned between Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains. There’s plenty to explore and experience in the area, and for baseball tournament organizers, there’s also a venue that can handle all types of events.

The Sports Complex at the 80-acre Skagit River Park features four Little League baseball fields (and four youth softball fields) complete with full outfields and scoreboards. There’s also an adult-sized field with an outfield fence. All fields have plenty of seating for fans, and the complex features a concessions area, restrooms, playgrounds and play structures for families, a picnic pavilion, plenty of walking trails, trails along the Skagit River and other amenities.

“Our baseball fields are fantastic,” says Jim Rabenstein, Parks Supervisor for the City of Burlington. “We have the best Little League fields in the area.” The Sports Complex has held district Little League tournaments, in addition to adult softball events.

The city can help out event owners in a number of ways, including offering staff support for tournament weekends. Off the field, there’s plenty to do — especially when it comes to outdoor adventures. A short drive down Highway 20 to the east puts you in the North Cascades; to the west, the San Juan Islands.

Chicago Southland

Chicago Southland, IL
Chicago Southland, IL | Photo Courtesy of Chicago Southland CVB

The Chicago Southland area hosts hundreds of tournaments, especially for kids, with dozens of venues in the area. Some of the larger sites include Memorial Park in Midlothian, Illinois, which offers six grass fields, all lighted and with covered dugouts and batting cages. There also are concession stands and bathrooms, along with bleachers at each field.

The Mokena (Illinois) Park District has 15 fields available, including four lighted diamonds at Main Park with bathrooms and bleachers, and four fields at Hecht Park, which have covered dugouts, batting cages, bleachers and bathrooms.

The village of Orland Park, Illinois, has 39 total diamonds, including nine at Centennial Park, all with lights, along with concessions and bathrooms. The John Humphrey Complex has 11 baseball fields, and Veterans Park has four lighted diamonds. Lynwood, Illinois, offers the Southland Center, with five grass diamonds (two for youth, three for adult; two with lights) and covered dugouts, along with batting cages, bullpens, restrooms and concessions. Last June, Orland Park hosted 65 teams in an event with USSSA Baseball.

In Crestwood, Illinois, Ozinga Field is a stadium with seating for 2,600, and can accommodate an additional 1,000 tables and standing room, along with parking for 1,800 cars. The lighted, artificial turf field has covered and protected dugouts, multiple restrooms, a public address system and press box, batting cages and bullpens, locker rooms and concession stands. Ozinga Field is home to the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League.

“In the heart of the Midwest, you won’t find a more convenient location,” says Andy Ritter of the Chicago Southland CVB. “We’re located within a five-hour drive from seven other states (Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin).”

The CVB staff can assist in a variety of ways, including site selection and inspection tours; itinerary planning; hotel blocking; incentives; event services such as welcome banners, welcome bags and restaurant coupons; and marketing, including local grants, social media and event public relations.

Flint-Genesee, Michigan

Flint-Genesee, MI
Flint-Genesee, MI | Photo Courtesy of Explore Flint & Genessee

Creasey Bicentennial Park in Grand Blanc, Michigan, is the premier destination for outdoor sports in the Flint-Genesee area and includes 10 baseball/softball fields. Each July, the venue hosts the FireStix College Exposure Tournament, which brings up to 200 teams from around the U.S. and 50 college coaching scouts.

Other key venues for baseball include the Clio Area Youth Sports Complex, which features eight youth baseball fields; the Mott Community College Kearsley Park Baseball Diamond, which is ideal for amateur or collegiate competition; and the Genesee Fieldhouse, which can host baseball camps and skills training events in its indoor, domed, 68,000-square-feet space.

The CVB assists event owners with housing and finding the ideal venue for their events, provides customized itineraries for teams, marketing and promotion support, and more. Off the field, a multitude of activities and entertainment options await athletes, fans and families.

“Flint & Genesee is located in the heart of Michigan and has a variety of historic and community sporting venues perfect for a variety of sports,” says Amari Steward, Executive Director of Explore Flint & Genesee. “We want to be your personal concierge, ensuring that your sporting event is a great experience for planners and players.”

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL | Photo Courtesy of Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events

The premier venues for baseball along Alabama’s Gulf Coast include the Orange Beach Sportsplex and the Gulf Shores Sportsplex. The facility in Orange Beach features nine diamonds, seating for 1,800, concessions, restrooms, playground and batting cages. The Gulf Shores facility offers seven diamonds, seating for 1,400, concessions, restrooms, press box and more. Both easily handle youth, high school, collegiate and adult events. Gulf Shores also has Johnnie Sims Park, with four diamonds, seating for 800, restrooms, batting cages, a pavilion, playground and more.

“What started [in 2005] with facilitating a few youth baseball events per year has evolved into hosting a variety of tournaments for all ages through the spring and summer,” says Michelle Russ, STS, vice president of sales, sports & events for Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events. The Gulf Coast Classic, held at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex, often brings in 120 teams. The area also hosts the Perfect Game World Series; last year, more than 810 teams signed up.

The Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events team helps planners by offering grants for qualifying events, seeking the best accommodation options and rates for groups, coordinating on-site activities, supplying marketing and promotional tools, recommending vendors and suppliers and providing welcome bags with coupons.

Harford, Maryland

Harford County, MD
Harford County, MD | Photo Courtesy of Ripken Experience-Aberdeen/Visit Harford

The Ripken Experience-Aberdeen is home to nine fields (eight diamonds for smaller games for 9- to 12-year-olds and one diamond for larger games, for 13+ year-olds). Athletes also may be treated to playing in Ripken Stadium, where the Triple-A Ironbirds play. All stadiums have bleachers for guests, as well as food trucks, restrooms, handicap accessibility (with golf cart services) and lawn space for blankets, tents and lawn chairs.

The Memorial Day Classic is the largest annual event hosted by the Ripken Experience-Aberdeen, with 70 teams on average participating. The franchise also offers week-long experiences that run from Sunday to Friday, with athletes playing six to nine games. Activities at these events include meeting Bill and Cal Ripken Jr., competing in Opening Day & Skills Competitions and more.

“The Ripken Experience-Aberdeen does an amazing job in providing minors with a major-league experience,” says Matthew Scales, executive director of Visit Harford.

Other events taking place on different Harford Parks and Recreation fields include the Upper Chesapeake Baseball Festival’s Spring Classic in April and Summer Classic in late June, which bring teams from all over the Mid-Atlantic region.

Visit Harford works closely with facilities and provides support in the form of marketing, advertising and sponsorships, and spreads the word about events via its website, social media and newsletter. Visit Harford also is part of TEAM Maryland, a collaboration among DMOs in the state that invest in sports tourism.

Lackawanna, Pennsylvania

Lackawanna, PA
Lackawanna, PA | Photo Courtesy of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Baseball diamonds in the Lackawanna County area are all within a few minutes of one another, so that players, organizers, fans and families don’t have to travel extensively to get from venue to venue.

Sports venues in Lackawanna County are ranked according to tiers: Tier 1 are pro and college venues and Tier 2 are topnotch high school and private locations, all suitable for an excellent tournament experience, says Alexa Peregrim of the Lackawanna County/Northeast Pennsylvania Visitors Bureau. There are about 42 fields in tiers 1 and 2.

Larger venues include the 10,000-seat PNC Field in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area, home to the SWB RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. Schautz Stadium in Dunmore is a turf field that includes batting cages, stadium seating, LED scoreboard, concessions and more. And both the University of Scranton and Penn State-Scranton offer grass fields.

Excellent park and high school facilities include Connell Park Baseball Fields in Scranton, which has a senior league field and accommodates both Little League and softball and Valley View High School in Archbald, with a beautiful and well-maintained diamond. Mid Valley High School in Throop will have all-new amenities within the next year. All have lights, along with bleachers and/or permanent seating.

The CVB brings in groups for site tours and can help with lodging, providing
welcome bags, signs and visitors’ guides.

“We’re starting to break out and do more tournaments in our area,” says Peregrim. “This is an area we’ve really been pushing recently.”

Perry, Oklahoma

Perry, OK
Perry, OK | Photo Courtesy of City of Perry

Owned by the City of Perry, the four-field Perry Sports Complex is known locally as the BMAC, a memorial to its namesake, local baseball star Brendon “BMAC” McLarty. The facility is a premier, natural grass, lighted hotspot for baseball. It has two fields for 8U and 10U play (210 feet and 250 feet to centerfield), and two for 12U and 14U (250 feet to 300 feet). There are concessions located at the center of the cloverleaf, and shaded bleachers on each side, with room for more seating as needed. All fields also have shaded dugouts.

Ballpark Manager Lee Harmon says the complex hosts about two tournaments a month, including a large Memorial Day event with up to 36 teams. “Everybody loves coming here,” Harmon says. “It’s just the nicest facility. We really pride ourselves on being the cleanest, nicest playing field in all ways.”

Perry is only about 20 minutes from Stillwater, Oklahoma, home of Oklahoma State University and at least seven other colleges and universities. The area also has a number of lakes, stocked with trout and other fish. SDM

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