WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Baseball is back in Palm Beach County this weekend!
Spring training games will start Sunday at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach and Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
Teams are looking forward to getting back to work after spring training was cut short last year because of the pandemic, delaying the start of the baseball season until July.
Major League Baseball is set to have a full 162-game schedule after last year's shortened season.
Major League Baseball revamped its spring training schedule this month because of the pandemic, cutting travel for Florida-based teams in an effort to minimize coronavirus risks.
Ballpark of The Palm Beaches General Manager Matt Slatus said the stadium capacity will be limited to just under 1,600. The normal capacity of the stadium is about 8,000 people.
Sunday's game between the Marlins and Astros in West Palm Beach is sold out. Since there are very limited tickets available this spring, fans are advised to visit the ballpark's website to search for availability and purchase ahead of game day.
Slatus said a variety of safety precautions have been implemented including the installation of more than 50 hand sanitizing stations throughout the park.
"We've converted all of our sinks and toilets to touchless. We moved to a cashless environment, so we ask that you use credit and debit cards in the facility only," Slatus said.
Staff at the ballpark will be wearing facial coverings over their nose and mouth for the duration of the game. Fans will be asked to do the same if they are not eating or drinking.
All of the seating will be set up in pods, ranging from one to six seats, that will be spaced 6 feet apart.
"We want everybody to be able to come out here and see these incredible athletes and feel like they're doing it in a safe and healthy environment," Slatus said.
The COVID-19 testing facility that has been located at the ballpark since last year has been moved to the southernmost area of the 160 acres that encompasses the complex.
Fans attending games will park and enter in a separate area from the COVID-19 testing area.
"I think the tourism industry is excited. ... We are starting to see the beginning of a recovery here. Major League Baseball is back," Slatus said. "It's special to hopefully be the first step in a return to some normalcy."
Jorge Pesquera, president of Discover the Palm Beaches, said hotel occupancy and reservations are now rising after a rough 2020. He believes spring training will be another boost.
"It's going to be an opportunity sort of to come back out in a bigger way," Pesquera said. "We're the mecca for spring training in Florida."
The Nationals will also start their spring training games Sunday, taking on the Cardinals in Jupiter at 1 p.m.