FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s one of the few hobbies that is synonymous with summer and it’s making a come back.
After more than six hundred days, Minor League Baseball is back in Fort Myers. The league had to cancel last season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But staff at Hammond Stadium are getting back in the groove with preparations being set for a fresh start.
“It definitely takes a village," says Corinthia LoSauro, Catering Manager with the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. "There’s a lot more people behind the scenes than you see out front, of course. Everything was kind of starting from scratch and then, especially, being out of work for over a year we were all a bit rusty, for sure."
A majority of Minor League teams went through a staff restructuring due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The cancellation of games meant little to no income, so teams had to cut employees.
“To not be able to be here and entertain the fans of Southwest Florida, that was hard," says Chris Peters, Team President of the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. "We went through a whole year- like everybody else- of uncertainty, of not knowing when things are going to get back to normal or what normal is going to look like. That’s why it was all the more worthwhile.”
But the restructuring has meant bringing in some fresh faces and... voices. John Vittas was one of those let go last year. He was working for the now defunct Charlotte Stone Crabs. He’s since found his voice again, providing play-by-play for the Mighty Mussels.
“Everybody seems really excited to come back out again and see live baseball," said Vittas. "I think when you go over a year without being able to do normal things like that, people have a thirst for it.”
Not everyone who is on staff have worked in Minor League Baseball before. Some have come from hockey or other live sports and others are fresh out of college.
“Some of them had inklings that they might get a chance to work for us so they kind of held out and didn’t take any other jobs in the meantime until they were brought on in 2021," says Vittas. "For them, it’s their first job out of college and they’ve had to wait almost a full year to finally start it so there’s a lot of excitement around for everybody."
Also new this year- a fresh name and logo. Fort Myers have done away with being the ‘Miracle’ and are adopting the bold ‘Mighty Mussel’ moniker. As if the recent pandemic has been a transition for fans to embrace the new identity.
“Now people are coming back for the first time in a long time, so much has changed and so has the team. It’s almost like we have a rebirth of life in America and a new team here for people to root for in Fort Myers. I think that’s a cool angle to the whole new season as well," Vittas said.
And the Mighty Mussels are at 28% seating capacity right now. Pod seating is available, with two or four seating pairs. The organization is hopeful to return to full capacity soon, but said they will take that on a month-to-month basis.
If going out to the ballpark wasn’t already an incentive, this weekend will be the team’s ‘First Responders’ Appreciation Weekend.’
First responders and their families will receive a discounted $5 game ticket. All you have to do is show your ID at the ticket box office.