On Thursday night, August 22, 2019, the Fort Myers Miracle, the local minor league baseball team from the Minnesota Twins organization, completed a three-game sweep of the Charlotte Stone Crabs with a 5 to 2 victory.
Little did any of us fans dream as we headed to our cars that it would be 628 days and almost 90 weeks before Fort Myers would host its next home game, or the monumental changes that would engulf our society, minor league baseball, and the Miracle!
On that late August evening, Fort Myers was the defending 2018 Florida State League (FSL) Champions. They were set to defend their title, as they won the 2019 1st Half FSL championship to already qualify for the playoffs that would begin in under two weeks. While on the season’s final roadtrip, however, monster Hurricane Dorian was ravaging the Caribbean, seemingly on her way to a major Florida landfall.
Out of caution, the FSL cancelled the remainder of the regular season as well as the playoffs, a fact made even sadder when Dorian stalled at the last moment, then veered north, sparing the Sunshine State all together.
Mighty Mussels & The Pandemic
After a 28-year run, the Miracle officially came to an end in December 2019! And....No, ....the Fort Myers franchise, the Single A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, did not fall victim to the major league owners’ ill-conceived plan to eliminate 42 minor league baseball teams. The end of the Miracle, rather, came at the birth to the NEW Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, the team’s freshly-minted moniker, along with its new mascot, “Mussel Man,” and logo portraying “Mussel Man” calling his homerun shot! ala Babe Ruth Style
These changes came through Andrew Kaufmann, CEO and Owner of Zawyer Sports, who became the principal owner of the Fort Myers franchise prior to the 2019 season.
“We are so excited by the Mighty Mussels,” Kaufmann said. “We made the decision to change our name because the name ‘Miracle’ came with the team when it relocated here from Miami in 1992 and we wanted something that more directly identified with our area. We studied the beach and found out there are over 60 different varieties of mussels in our waters, and when the sun hits them, they reflect purple, blue, and yellow, so those became our team colors. The ‘Miracle’ will always be an important part of our team history but we want our local community to think of us as their team.”
The Mighty Mussels were to debut on April 9, Opening Night of the 2020 FSL season, but the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak forced Major League Baseball to cancel all activities one month prior. The initial hope was that minor league baseball might salvage some part of 2020, but the “Summer Surge” made it obvious the pandemic would not easily let up and the FSL soon cancelled its season.
2021 Home Opener & Weekly Promotions
Traditionally, minor league baseball resumes on the 2nd Thursday of April, but in order to keep a social-distancing number of players at each team complex during Spring Training, minor leagues in 2021 had their openers slightly postponed, to Tuesday, May 4.
The Mighty Mussels began their season that night just up the coast, where the Mussels broke in their new name in style – rallying for four runs in the top of the ninth, in a come from behind win to stun the Bradenton Marauders 6-3 (a Pittsburgh Pirates organization) and then won a 13 to 4 romp the following day in Wednesday’s game.. This season they will play the same team 6 day in a row due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The team's home opener will be held on Tuesday, May 11, versus the Clearwater Threshers of the Philadelphia Phillies system at 7 p.m.
This first 6 game homestand is from May 11 through Sunday, May 16. With the Mussels actually guaranteeing a win on Opening Night, because if they do not, every fan in attendance receives a complimentary ticket to the following evening’s game on May 12!
In addition to this guarantee, fans will enjoy a special "Home Opener" fireworks show following the final out and they will also receive a Mussels 2021 season schedule "fridge magnet"
All Mussels 2021 homegames will be Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m., with Sundays at Noon, with each day of the week having its own special promotion.
“Two For Tuesdays” feature 2-for-1 hot dogs, draft beers, and sodas.
Wednesdays are “Senior Nights” with discount admission prices as well as “Dollar Hot Dog Nights” all game.
Thursdays are “College Night” with all college students with IDs purchasing tickets for just $5, along with “Thirsty Thursdays” with $1 beers and $2 drafts.
Fridays feature a “Happy Hour” from 6 to 7 p.m., with fireworks after the game.
Saturdays are “Bark in The Park” where fans can bring their dogs to the game, along with terrific giveaways, such as on Saturday, May 15, that is the “Mussel Man” bobblehead!
And Sundays will feature an all you can eat “Sunday Brunch” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for $10 on top of your ticket cost, with an opportunity for kids to run the bases after the game.
Another highlight of the 2021 season will be their Independence Day Weekend Celebration! They will be lighting up the skies with fireworks following the games on Friday, July 2nd, Saturday, July 3rd and the biggest fireworks show in Hammond Stadium history on Sunday, July 4th!
2021 Roster & Tickets
The 2021 Opening Night Mussels roster features 15 pitchers and 14 position players, highlighted by five of the Twins top-ranked prospects, including 2019 #1 selection, shortstop Keoni Cavaco, and 2020 #1 pick, first baseman Aaron Sabato, along with infielders Will Holland, Yunior Severino, and Charles Mack. Mussels players range from 19 to 24 years of age, guided by their new manager, Brian Meyer, assisted by a 7-man coaching and training staff.
Mussels tickets range from $9 to $12; purchase them online at www.milb.com, at the box office, which opens 60 minutes prior to each game, or over the telephone at 239-768-4210, with parking $5-per-car.
Due to ongoing pandemic precautions, the Mussels are currently limiting Hammond Stadium attendance to 28% capacity, with pod seating and social distancing, and due to MLB regulations, all fans must wear masks except for when drinking beverages or consuming food. The Mighty Mussels play at Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex at 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway.
If you can't make it to the ballpark you can hear them live! The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels are set to broadcast at least 81 games in 2021, with 2019 FSL Broadcaster of the Year John Vittas joining the organization as the play-by-play broadcaster. “I couldn’t be more excited to bring Fort Myers fans the inaugural season of Mighty Mussels baseball,” Vittas said. “After everything that Minor League Baseball and the broadcasting world has been through over the past two years, I feel so fortunate to be able to remain in Southwest Florida and join the Twins organization. Hammond Stadium is an amazing place to watch a game, and I know our team can’t wait to provide the energy and entertainment that Lee County has been waiting for since the pandemic began.”
Listen to each broadcast 'Live': Here
I hope you'll join me and the Sun Bay Paper's owner Bobby Mimmo at the season's home opener, we'll both be there!
Gary Mooney/Bobby Mimmo
Ed. Note: I had a chance to speak with Chris Peters personally, he's the team's President, and he told me.... "We're thrilled to be back, it's been a long 20 months and were excited to have the season here and can't wait to entertain all our fans and have some fun."
so... We’ll see you at the game!