With all of the activities and events happening not just here on the islands, but throughout Southwest Florida on any given day, it's a miracle that anybody would be able to settle on doing only one thing.
Which is why going to watch the Fort Myers Miracle play is so much more than simply taking in a ballgame. With all of the additional giveaways, theme nights and special appearances, pre- and post-game activities, between-inning races and trivia questions, it might be considered multi-tasking for sports fanatics.
Thus far in 2011, Hammond Stadium has offered baseball-loving attendees Cinco de Miracle, Education Day, "Top Gun" Night, Irish Fest, Happy Birthday Baby Boomers, a whiffle ball contest featuring mascot Miss-A-Miracle and games during which fans were given free autograph books, posters and team baseball card sets.
But how does the team come up with ideas for all of the freebies, theme nights and promotional activities?
"We do numerous brainstorming sessions during the off-season, throwing out ideas and then trying to take the best and make something out of them," said Gary Sharp, Director of Media Relations & Promotions for the Fort Myers Miracle. "We also continue to do promo meetings during the season as well."
According to Sharp, some of the most popular promotional activities — including an appearance by the zany ZOOperstars, an afternoon game dubbed "Big Splash," which turns Hammond Stadium into Lee County's largest water park, and several fireworks nights — come back to the ballpark every year.
But that doesn't stop Sharp and his staff from coming up with a few new promotions every season.
"We are hosting our Second Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night on Saturday, July 30 and the first ever Craft Beer Festival on Saturday, Aug. 13," said Sharp, who also noted the three remaining fireworks shows on this year's schedule (July 30, Aug. 13 and Sept. 2).
On Monday, several members of the Silver Slugger Monday Club (which includes a ticket to each Monday home game for the season, parking and a special t-shirt for $30 per person) spoke about their love of the game.
"They get a good crowd to come out and support the team," said Jim Fait, a resident of Lehigh Acres. "It's the best deal in town."
"I'm all about coming here and having some fun," added 10-year-old Mario Caraccia. "I love watching baseball and this is one of my favorite ballparks."
In addition to the final "Dog Daze" game, which allows owners to bring their four-legged friends to the ballpark (Aug. 29), the Miracle will host Negro League Baseball Night (July 29), Breast Cancer Awareness Night (July 30), DAV Baseball Card Set Giveaway/Military Appreciation Night (Aug. 12), Team Autograph Party (Aug. 18), Salute To The Southeastern Conference Night (Aug. 24) and — wrapping up the regular season — Fan Appreciation Night (Sept. 2).
These promotions wouldn't be successful, however, without the continued support of Fort Myers' loyal legion of fans and followers.
"If we didn't have the community's support, we wouldn't have Minor League Baseball in Southwest Florida," added Sharp. "It is vital that we give back to the area an put on a great show every time we open the gates. Our fans are the most important part of what we do with the Miracle. The annual Islands Night is a prime example of that with our partnership with Sanibel and Captiva and how that has become such a fun event."
Even out-of-towners enjoy an evening out at the ballpark. On vacation from Islip, N.Y., 14-year-old Robert Perez said that he likes that players take the time to sign autographs for fans before the game.
"Not a lot of big leaguers sign anymore," he noted. "But here, they're happy to meet you and give you an autograph. That's why I like coming to ball games... getting to meet the players and have a great time."
For more information about the Fort Myers Miracle or to purchase game tickets, visit www.miraclebaseball.com or call 239-768-4210.
A foursome of Miracle players — Ricky Bowen, Matt Hauser, Brad Stillins and Matt Tone — chatted with fans before the start of the game.