- December 25, 2015
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels had been looking forward to the April 9, 2020, season opener. The minor league baseball team would have been taking to the field for the first time with its new name, look and Mussel Man mascot resulting from its recent rebranding efforts. But the Class-A Advanced Affiliate of the Minnesota Twins never got the chance to do so, courtesy of the pandemic.
'There is no book on how to get through this. So we’re just trying to keep everyone updated on what the latest is and how things are looking.’ Chris Peters, Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
“It’s definitely been a challenging year,” says Chris Peters, president of the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels, which is owned by Jacksonville-based Zawyer Sports. “Not having a Mussels season was not anything we anticipated. But with the seriousness of the pandemic and the virus, obviously public safety was first and foremost.”
The minor league team previously known as the Fort Myers Miracle has tried to make the best of a bad situation. Staying connected with fans and sponsors has been vital for the team, which underwent its renaming and rebranding process to better reflect its Lee County home base.
In May, for example, the team offered to-go ballpark food and beverages like hot dogs, bratwursts and peanuts that fans could pick up at Hammond Stadium, a clever way to use up inventory sitting on hand. Social media, newsletters, emails and even good old-fashioned phone calls have also kept the team in touch with fans, season ticket holders and sponsors.
“We have been in constant contact with all of our partners and fans,” says Peters. “There is no book on how to get through this. So we’re just trying to keep everyone updated on what the latest is and how things are looking. Everyone has been extremely supportive, and it’s just been great to see how everyone has come together to rally in support of us. We’re thankful to be a part of the Southwest Florida community.”
The team has also used this downtime to look at ways it could improve the organization and explore new promotional ideas. Promotions are a big part of minor league baseball and a popular method for getting people to games.
“We’ve been looking at new ways for fans to really have a good time at a game,” says Peters. “It’s given us a chance to appreciate how fun our job is. We get to do all these crazy promotions and have fun with the fans, and we really miss it. We really enjoy putting on a great show for the fans, so get ready for whenever this is over. We’re going to have some exciting, fun promotions, so be ready for a lot of excitement.”
But until the team can get back on the field, it also has to think about things like lost revenue and all the part-time staff who missed out on work due to the cancelled minor league season. Riding out the uncertainty that comes along with the pandemic has become part of the playbook.
“It seems like things change daily,” says Peters. “So we’re just doing the best we can to anticipate what the future is going to look like. We’ve just been staying flexible and staying on our toes in terms of every development that happens. But the Mussels organization is doing fine. We’ll be around for the long term; we’re not going anywhere.”
The vaccine news of late November and early December makes Peters and the organization hopeful that there will be a 2021 season. “We’re very much looking forward to playing baseball again in front of the great fans of Southwest Florida,” says Peters. “We’ve been planning for 2021, so we’ll be ready for whenever the bell does ring.”
Peters has spent his career in minor league baseball, also working for teams in Jacksonville and New Orleans. He knows what the sport can add to a region.
“I am a firm believer that every community in America should have a minor league baseball team where fans can come out and have a fun night,” he says. “A minor league team is as important to a community as a movie theater. There’s just some real, authentic, family fun that comes from going to a ballgame. And we’re excited that we can bring that to the Southwest Florida community 70 home games a year.”