PROVIDENCE, R.I. - BIG EAST baseball fans will find familiar surroundings for the league's upcoming postseason tournaments as the conference has chosen Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., as the site of the 2012 and 2013 BIG EAST Baseball Championships.
Bright House Field, which is regarded as one of the finest minor league playing and practice facilities in the nation, will host its sixth and seventh BIG EAST Championships. The site first hosted the conference tournament in 2006 and has been the league's championship destination for five of the last six years.
"We're excited to be able to return to Bright House Field and the beautiful St. Petersburg/Clearwater area for two more years," said BIG EAST Associate Commissioner James Siedliski. "Our goal is always to provide the best possible championship experience for our student-athletes and coaches and the feedback we've received based on our five previous visits has been overwhelmingly positive. Everything from the playing and practice facilities to the support we receive from the local and state levels makes this decision the right one for the BIG EAST and its baseball programs."
Bright House Field serves as the spring training site for the Philadelphia Phillies, and it has housed the Phillies' Florida State League affiliate Clearwater Threshers since the facility opened in 2004.
"On behalf of the entire Philadelphia Phillies organization and the Clearwater Threshers, we are extremely pleased to continue our relationship with the BIG EAST Conference and host their baseball championships in 2012 and 2013," said John Timberlake, the Phillies' Director of Florida Operations. "We are firm believers in this partnership and we look forward to continuing our relationship with the schools that comprise the BIG EAST."
The stadium's seating capacity is 8,500. The outfield dimensions measure 329 feet down the leftfield line, 408 feet to center, and 330 down the rightfield line. The $25 million facility features a 360-degree main concourse, grass berm seating, group picnic areas, a children's play area and a state-of-the-art video scoreboard. In addition to a major-league quality playing field, the facility also houses the Carpenter Complex - an adjacent four-diamond practice complex, which allows teams to take full-field batting practice while a game is taking place in the stadium.
The facility also will host the tournament's annual opening ceremonies, a fan-friendly event featuring fireworks, live entertainment and autograph sessions, and the BIG EAST Home Run Derby.
"For years, baseball players and fans of all ages have flocked to Florida for first-class competition and enjoyable experiences," said Larry Pendleton, President/CEO of the Florida Sports Foundation. "With this new agreement, the State of Florida, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission and the City of Clearwater welcome the BIG EAST Championships seven times in an eight-year span. The players will continue to have an experience to remember competing on the same field as their major league heroes and fans will enjoy the amenities Bright House Field offers spring training baseball fans on an annual basis."
"The St. Pete/Clearwater Sports Commission is proud of the partnership established with the BIG EAST Conference," said Kevin Smith, Director of Sports for the commission. "Our entire community has a long list of signature events in the PGA Transitions Championship, Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete, Rock n Roll St. Pete Half Marathon and the USF Softball Series. In addition, we host the kickoff to Division I college baseball with the Big Ten/BIG EAST Baseball Challenge and this Championship exemplifies that the Road to Omaha starts in the St. Pete/Clearwater Area."
Fans can expect a high level of play in Clearwater as the BIG EAST has sent three teams to each of the last two NCAA Championships. Six of the BIG EAST's 12 baseball-playing schools have reached the NCAA Championship since 2006 (Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall), and the conference will be further strengthened by the addition of TCU for the 2013 season.
The 2012 BIG EAST Baseball Championship will be played May 23-27 (Wednesday through Sunday), with the top eight teams in the regular season standings qualifying. The 2013 conference tournament will take place May 22-26. The winner of the BIG EAST Championship receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.