RussMatt file photo

Every spring, hundreds of college baseball teams come to Central Florida to compete RussMatt event.

WINTER HAVEN – The RussMatt Central Florida Baseball Invitational returns to town this weekend and two NCAA Division I programs will kickstart the action at historic Chain of Lakes Park.

The Boston College Eagles will face off against The Northern Illinois University Huskies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Friday’s game start at 3 p.m., while a double-header will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and the teams will wrap their series with a game at noon on Sunday.

The two D1 foes will represent the first two of what will be hundreds of teams that will compete in Polk and surrounding areas through the beginning of April.

The baseball invitational has called Polk County home since 2009, and is the largest collegiate spring training event in the country.

Comprised of NCAA Division I, II and III schools, as well as NAIA programs and junior colleges, Polk Sports Marketing staff say Polk County hotels will enjoy approximately 30,000 room nights during the event’s 39-day duration.

“As the business community in the area knows, RussMatt means full tables at local restaurants and full rooms for local hoteliers,” said Mark Jackson, Polk County Tourism and Sports Marketing director. “This year, with the increase in teams, we project a $30 million shot-in-the-arm for the area.”

And while Auburndale’s Lake Myrtle Sports Park and Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes Park host the majority of the games, other facilities – such as Warner University in Lake Wales, Henley Field in Lakeland and Polk State College in Winter Haven – will have a few games as well.

The tournament ends April 1, barring rescheduling due to inclement weather.

To learn more, or to see a complete schedule and ticket information, visit