Fireworks wow fans around July 4th and at special events — Photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson / Fort Myers Miracle
Baseball's spring training is one of the most popular seasonal events in Southwest Florida. However, in Fort Myers, baseball doesn’t end in spring, as games for the Miracle pick up just days later at the newly renovated Hammond Stadium. The Fort Myers Miracle is part of the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise, a Class A Minor League team that competes against 11 others in the Florida State League.
For more than 20 years, the team was owned by a partnership that included famous names in the world of entertainment such as Bill Murray and Jimmy Buffet. Even though the team was sold in the spring of 2014, the new owner promises to keep its creative spirit alive.
While diehard baseball fans come for the action on the mound, others are lured by the fun events and promotions both on the field and off. Especially enjoyable for kids, competitions include sling shooting fake lobsters into waders (oversized fishing pants), base running, dizzy bat spins and a buffalo mascot tackle.
Fans catch crustaceans from the Lobster Lady Seafood Market in their pants to win prizes and entertain the crowd — Photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson / Fort Myers Miracle
Adults enjoy drink specials like $.10 and half-price beer nights, as well as ladies' nights, where female fans get free admission and two free drinks.
Everyone gets a kick out of the giant racing teeth and eyeballs, sponsored by local businesses, and the fireworks show typically held on July 3 is a longstanding favorite. Theme nights often feature cameos by celebrities and big-name athletes, and the annual Beer, Baseball and Boom festival packs in the public each summer.
Fun aside, the players on the field are working hard to be called up to the big leagues, and, in fact, many have been. Athletes who’ve come through the ranks of the Miracle include David Ortiz, Brad Radke, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tori Hunter, Matt Garza, Todd Walker, Denard Span and Latroy Hawkins, to name a few.
Most recently, shortstop Jorge Polanco made history by becoming the first Class A Miracle player to be promoted to the Twins main roster with no Double-A or Triple-A stop.
When basketball great Michael Jordan retired briefly to try his hand at baseball, his first hit in the pros came during a spring training game at Hammond Stadium.
Miracle fans can't wait for the chance to tackle the mascot for Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant between innings — Photo courtesy of Linwood Ferguson / Fort Myers Miracle
Also called the “Twins Stadium” by locals, Hammond Stadium completed some major renovations in time for the 2014 season, which include a popular boardwalk around the outfield, seating in the outfield and on a grassy berm and additional concessions. Next up on the renovation list is expanded indoor/outdoor suites on the third floor, a new pro shop and a new front entry, among other things.
Action at the stadium doesn't come to a halt in the off season (September through January), as you can catch concerts from famous recording stars of every musical genre and sample dozens of cold beers in a popular craft beer festival. The Miracle organization also hosts baseball camps, including an award-winning one for kids with special needs.
Managers aim to keep games affordable with things like family fun nights, featuring $16 for admission, unlimited soft drinks and unlimited food like hotdogs, peanuts and popcorn. Otherwise, ticket prices range from $6.50 to $11 depending on time of purchase and seat location.
These prices make it easy for a family to enjoy one of America’s favorite pastimes without breaking the bank and while experiencing lots of laughs, courtesy of the unique entertainment.