A Home for International Baseball?

At Miami’s LoanDepot Park, record crowds for Caribbean players

Reggaeton blasts throughout the stadium. The smell of hotdogs and arepas followed by not-so-cheap stadium beer floats through the air as thousands of fans sit on the edge of their seats. All goes quiet when Ricardo Pinto, Venezuela’s starting pitcher, lines up at the mound to throw the first pitch of the game.

This past February, 36,677 fans crowded into the LoanDepot Park stadium to watch the Caribbean Series Championship game: Venezuela vs. the Dominican Republic. The championship game was a sellout, marking the highest turnout for a single Caribbean Series game ever recorded. The previous record occurred earlier that week when 35,972 fans attended the Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico game (stadium capacity: 37,000).

After nine days and 25 games featuring seven countries (the four full members of the Caribbean Professional Baseball Confederation: Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, plus three guest countries: Curaçao, Nicaragua and Panama), the series drew just over 340,000 fans. About forty percent of them were visitors, according to Miami Marlins President of Business Operations Caroline O’Connor. 

Miami Marlins President of Business Operations Caroline O’Connor with Emilio Estefan

Aside from generating revenue for the stadium and greater Miami, hosting the Caribbean Series was more than just a promotional opportunity for the Miami Marlins at their home field; it was a strategic move. “It’s something we’ve had in the works for a while, but it’s part of the Marlins’ strategy really to be the home of international baseball. We want to invite people of all cultures and backgrounds in to enjoy baseball at LoanDepot park,” says O’Connor, who is one of only two women in Major League Baseball currently named as president of business operations.

The Caribbean Series is just one of the international baseball series the Marlins have hosted at LoanDepot park. Last year, they hosted the Baseball World Classic, which generated some $267 million in total economic impact, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Final attendance for the classic was 1,306,414, also the highest in the history of the tournament.

 

MIAMI, THE HOME OF INTERNATIONAL BASEBALL?

But why should Miami best other cities to become the home of international baseball? According to O’Connor, it’s more than just the city’s baseball culture. Miami is a global destination with premium entertainment, hospitality, food, and sports, juxtaposed between some of the largest baseball leagues in the world: the MLB and various Latin American leagues.

Establishing Miami as the home of international baseball bodes well for the Marlins. Since last year’s World Classic, which preceded the Marlins MLB season, the team saw an annual attendance growth of 28 percent to 1,162,729 fans at LoanDepot Park. While the World Classic was probably not the only reason attendance rose – the team saw a similar trend the year before – the press and coverage these international tournaments bring create buzz before the MLB season starts, bolstering the Marlins’ visibility. 

This year, the Marlins started their season on March 28, and even though O’Connor won’t put a number on how much attendance may increase, she believes the 2024 season will be promising. While the 2025 Caribbean Series will be hosted in Mexico City, she hopes to secure future Caribbean Series – while again hosting the World Baseball Classic in 2026.

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