PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — This year, the road to the Tokyo Olympics in baseball is going through the Treasure Coast.
Several international matchups began on Memorial Day as part of the second-to-last qualifier for Tokyo.
"The first game, the atmosphere was pretty good," Port St. Lucie resident Jesse Lopez said. "It was Puerto Rico playing the Dominican Republic."
The games were being played at Clover Park, home of the St. Lucie Mets.
"I was shocked when it landed here right in my backyard," Lopez said. "I'm here just about every day. The Port St Lucie Mets play here."
Monday night's matchup was between Team USA and Nicaragua.
Thousands of fans and veterans attended, helping rejuvenate the economy in St. Lucie County.
"Coming out of COVID this past year, this is the biggest event that's been on our side on our coast in a long time," Rick Hatcher, president of the Treasure Coast Sports Commission, said.
A total of eight teams are competing, both at Clover Park and at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.
"You take the top two teams from each division group and then they'll move into a super round Friday and Saturday," Hatcher said. "The winner of that super round is the only spot to go to the Olympics."
At the game was a special tribute made to those who served.
"This is our day," Lopez said. "This is the day that we really pay tribute to those who sacrificed everything for the freedoms that we have."