June 15, 2009
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Following an inaugural event in which nearly 17,000 spectators attended games in a three-day period, the second Big Ten/BIG EAST Baseball Challenge, hosted by the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission, has been confirmed for the weekend of Feb. 26-28, 2010. The 2010 edition, to be held in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, FL, will feature 10 teams from each conference competing in 30 games and be managed by API Sports.
“We are extremely pleased to bring the Big Ten/BIG EAST Baseball Challenge back to our area after such a successful inaugural event,” said Kevin Smith, Director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Sports Commission. “Over the years we have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the BIG EAST Conference, and to be able to continue to grow our relationship with the Big Ten while providing a weekend of exciting baseball for the local community is a great opportunity for us. We feel privileged to be able to bring two of the nation’s premiere athletic conferences together to compete in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area.”
All 10 of the Big Ten’s baseball-playing institutions will once again compete in the 2010 Challenge, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. The BIG EAST will send 10 teams to the 2010 event, as Louisville, Rutgers and Villanova will make their first appearances and will be joined by seven squads making a return trip – Cincinnati, Connecticut, Notre Dame, St. John’s, Seton Hall, USF and West Virginia. Games will be played daily in St. Petersburg at the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex, the former spring training practice facility of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Al Lang Stadium, the Rays’ former spring training game site. Games in Clearwater will take place at Jack Russell Stadium, once the spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies.
There will be 10 games each day pitting Big Ten teams against BIG EAST representatives. Games are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday and run into the evening both days. Sunday’s games are also slated to start at 10 a.m., but will conclude in the afternoon so that traveling schools can return to their campuses that evening. All three venues will be utilized each day.
The 2009 Challenge was very well attended, including a final-day attendance of 5,000 for the six games played at the Naimoli complex. The Big Ten came out on top, compiling a record of 15-9. Michigan and Ohio State completed the Challenge with perfect 3-0 marks, with Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State each finishing 2-1 for the Big Ten. Notre Dame, St. John’s and Seton Hall led the BIG EAST with 2-1 records.
The St. Petersburg/Clearwater area is home to some of America’s award-winning Beaches. Caladesi Island Beach was voted the nation’s top-rated beach for 2008, and Fort De Soto Park received similar recognition in 2005. The area offers 35 miles of white-sand beaches on eight major barrier islands. It’s also within minutes of many popular Florida attractions.