Southwest Florida baseball fans, get ready to “Play Ball!” The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, the Minnesota Twins Low A affiliate in Florida State League (FSL), host their home opener at Hammond Stadium at the Lee County Sports Complex on Tuesday, April 12, against the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Miami Marlins system at 7 p.m.!
A Dream Come True
Majority Owner: John Martin
The Mussels hosted a preseason reception for Season Ticket Holders at Hammond Stadium on Wednesday, April 6. John Martin, who recently became the team’s new majority owner, told the crowd that “this is literally a dream come true for me! From the time I was a little kid from a little dot on the map in the cornfields of Illinois, I watched and played baseball, dreaming that one day I might be successful enough in life to own a baseball team, and now that I do, we will get this right and be a pillar in the Southwest Florida community! We have a simple motto – Affordable Family Fun – to ensure a great atmosphere at the ballpark.”
Mussels Manager Brian Meyer, entering his second season with the organization, calls his team “exciting! We have a nice blend of players from last season combined with a new wave principally from the Twins 2021 draft class. Our coaching staff loves to work with them every day, as it is not just about winning here but moving them up to High-A Cedar Rapids, to continue their journey to their major league dreams.”
Meyer emphasized to the audience that “while the team’s promotional schedule is exciting, we will be equally as exciting on the field! We enjoyed a normal Spring Training on the minor league side, unlike the past two years, and have many rising prospects on our roster, so expect the Mussels to give 100% every single game. As for our players, I assure you they will be better by the end of April than on Opening Night, and much better in September.”
Broadcaster John Vittas, who will call all 60 home games and half of the road ones, predicts that fans “will love this Mussels squad! Our infield is particularly strong and our pitching staff has serious talent.” As for on-field rule changes, “this season the FSL will have a pitch clock to speed up the game; with pitchers having to throw the ball in 14 seconds with the bases empty and 18 seconds with runners on. The FSL will once again experiment with a robo-ump calling balls and strikes in select games in a unique format: the home plate umpire calls the pitches two out of every six home games; the robo-ump in two others; and in the other two, it will be the home plate umpire, but the robo-ump will be on as well, so teams will have up to three challenges to the computer to reverse the call if they feel the umpire got it wrong.”
The Mussels 29-man roster features six of the Twin’s Top-30 prospects, with 16 pitchers and 13 position players. Of these, nearly half – 14 – were with the Mussels at some point during the 2021 season. Highlighting the list are shortstop Noah Miller and outfielder Emmanuel Rodrigues, with Major League Baseball Pipeline ranking Miller the Twins #10 prospect and Baseball America bestowing the same figure on Rodrigues. Miller, age 19, was the 36th overall Major League 2021 draft pick, directly from Ozaukee High School in Fredonia, Wisconsin. In 16 games with the Florida Complex League (FCL) Twins in late 2021, Miller hit .290. Rodriguez, 19 as well from Santiago, Dominican Republic, hit 10 home runs in just 37 games at the FCL while leading the team with 23 walks.
“I played in the Twins last two Spring Training games and that was fun,” said Emmanuel through an interpreter. “I hope to play a lot of centerfield this season, so I prepare for that, but that decision is out of my control, so I will contribute wherever they put me. I am happy to start my first full season of baseball here and look forward to improving. I know I will make mistakes in my first full season of baseball, but that is how you learn and get better.”
The pitching staff has quality prospects as well, led by left-hander Steve Hajjar and righty Marco Raya. Hajjar, 21, a 2021 2nd round draft pick from The University of Michigan who earned 1st Team All-Big Ten honors, makes his professional debut with the Mussels, as does Raya, who is 19 and a 2020 Twins selection who unfortunately missed 2021 with an injury. Among the returning Mussels is towering right-hander Matthew Swain. The 6’7” fireballer was dominant at the tail end of last season, including striking out the side in the final inning of 2021’s second-to-last game to secure the third-ever No Hitter in franchise history!
Something For Everyone
Mighty Mussels Mascott
The Mussels offer something special to their fans at each of their 60 Home contests, often with multiple incentives at the same game, with its initial home stand an excellent example. Each Tuesday features “Two-for-Tuesday” on hot dogs, beers and sodas. The first 2,000 fans on April 12 receive a 2022 Mighty Mussels magnet schedule and if the club does not bring home a win, everyone receives a complimentary ticket to the following evening’s game. Every Wednesday is “Dollar Dog Night”; “Bark in the Park” where fans bring their leashed dogs to the game; and “Guaranteed Win Night,” where if the Mussels come up on the short end of the score, all fans get a free ticket to the following night’s game. Wednesdays as well are “Ladies Night,” who get 2-for-1 seltzers and wine, along with “Silver Sluggers Night,” whose members age 65 and over receive a free ticket and parking.
Thursdays are “Thirsty Thursdays,” with 12-ounce cans of beer for $1 and drafts for $2. Each Thursday is “Miracle Throwback Night,” where the Mussels honor their predecessor namesake by wearing retro Miracle jerseys. Thursdays are “Snowbird Appreciation Night” and “College Night,” where out-of-state patrons and college students with IDs purchase $5 tickets, with April 14 being “90s Night,” with fans encouraged to dress in their finest 1990s attire! Fridays feature fireworks spectaculars immediately following the final pitch, along with the “Wicked Dolphin Happy Hour” two-for-one Wicked Dolphin drinks at the Salty Crab / Wicked Tuna Bar down the 3rd base line, behind the Mussels bullpen. Friday, April 15 is “Big Cat Rescue Night” with Carole Baskin making a celebrity appearance, including throwing out the first pitch, and Mussels players will wear commemorative tiger-print jerseys available for auction at the conclusion of the game.
Saturdays are another “Guarantee Win Night,” with a postgame fireworks display. The first 500 fans receive a Mussels Fanny Pack, while children participate in an Easter Egg Hunt on the field at 6 p.m. And next Sat, the 16th is “Animal Cruelty Awareness Night” with the Lee County Sheriffs Office to prevent animal mistreatment, as well as “Cancer Sucks Night” to assist non-profits in raising funds to help eliminate this dreaded disease. On Sundays, the Mussels host the “All You Can Eat” ballpark brunch that begins at Noon for $15-per-person. Kids can play catch on the field from Noon to 12:30 p.m., then run the bases at the end of the game, with “Kids Club Sunday” members age 14 & under receiving a free ticket and T-shirt.
Baumgartner, Booms & Beers!
Oother 2022 celebrities appearances are Brian Baumgartner from “The Office” on April 29; Jon Gries, who portrayed “Uncle Rico” in “Napoleon Dynamite,” on June 3; and wrestling star Jerry “The King” Lawler on June 18. The Mussels host 17 fireworks extravaganzas, on all Friday Nights, Saturdays through July 2. There are five Beer Festivals on April 30, June 18, July 2 & 30, and August 27, with four special-themed jersey nights: Tiger theme on April 15; Pink Out Cancer on June 4; Hulk Smash on June 17; and 1992 Olympic Basketball on July 3, with all jerseys up for auction purchases throughout the games.
Each of the ten Home series are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m., with Sundays at 1 p.m., with the exceptions of Saturday, May 14, at 5 p.m., as Joe Nichols and Parmelee perform a free concert following the game, and Sunday, July 3rd game is, at 7 p.m. for the largest postgame fireworks in Mussels history.
Tickets are $10 to $15; purchase them at www.mightymussels.com, the box office that opens 60 minutes before each game, or at 239-768-4210, with parking $10-per-car. The Mussels play at Hammond Stadium at the Lee County Sports Complex at 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway. Vittas broadcasts every Mussels home game and select road contests worldwide at www.mightymussels.com, through the MiLB First Pitch App, or at www.milb.com/fort-myers/fans/ audio-listen-live. Catch the Major League Baseball stars of tomorrow today with the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels!