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Coronavirus not keeping baseball fans away from spring training games in Palm Beach County

Posted at 8:38 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 20:47:26-04

JUPITER, Fla. — The business of baseball is very important here in Florida, and coronavirus concerns haven't kept fans away from spring training games -- so far.

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However, that may be about to change as the spread of the virus and the fear of it grows.

That was evident at the Miami Marlins-New York Yankees game held Wednesday in Jupiter.

When the Yankees come to town, Roger Dean Stadium is busier than normal. Fans like Nina Rubenstein came from Fort Lauderdale to see the game.

“If there’s a chance to see the Yankees in South Florida, I’m going to take it,” Rubenstein said.

Frank Jazzo almost stayed in Virginia because he could only get standing-room tickets two years ago.

A few days ago he searched a website that resells tickets.

“And there were a lot of tickets available, so we said, ‘OK, we’re there,” said the Alexandria, Virginia, resident. “We think we are taking advantage of the coronavirus fears.”

WPTV put together attendance records for the five major league teams that train in West Palm Beach, Jupiter and Port St. Lucie.

For the first three weeks of spring training, attendance was up 5.7 percent overall as teams averaged nearly 300 more fans per game.

But from this weekend through Tuesday night, the numbers were down 3.7 percent compared to the same period last year.

“Everybody’s afraid,” said Susan Rubino, who joined her friend and fellow Port St. Lucie nurse Kelly Garcia for the game.

They believe concerns about the coronavirus are a likely reason for the drop in attendance.

They worry the concern discourages fans from out of state from traveling to Florida for the final three weeks of spring training.

“There’s a lot of snowbirds who come down, and I feel there is a drop, the traffic," said Garcia. “It isn’t as crazy as it usually is this year.”

Unlike NCAA college basketball, Major League Baseball has not banned fans from coming to spring training games. But MLB has told players to avoid getting close to fans and signing autographs just before and after games.