Major League Baseball spring training is in jeopardy, which could be a big blow for Southwest Florida. Players and owners are still far apart in negotiations, and with the players locked out, spring training will most likely be delayed.
Lee County hosts spring training for the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox. Both teams bring fans to the area every year.
Lee County Tourism Development Committee Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass said, “it’s unfortunate they do this.”
So when Major League Baseball locks out its players, Southwest Florida strikes out.
Pendergrass said, “it could be millions of dollars of loss and hotel bed, and also hospitality in the area for jobs.”
It isn’t all about the money. Without the peanuts and the crackerjack, Dr. Victor Claar said the taste of Southwest Florida might get bland. “It is part of the flavor and the nature of our region.”
Claar said, “we enjoy seeing the Red Sox fans and the Twins fans come into town. We enjoy a little additional boost in terms of occupancy, and hotels and other rentals and people leaving out. So we are going to miss that.”
Even without baseball this year, Southwest Florida is booming. Some fans will still visit, as will some players, like FGCU alumni, Red Sox pitcher, and World Series Champion Chris Sale.
Sale is already here, working out at his old stomping grounds.
FGCU Athletic Director Ken Kavanagh said, “Chris and a few of his teammates have been here. We work things out where they’ve used our Sublett Strength and Conditioning Center in addition to being on the field, and it’s an opportunity for them to have catchers throw to with our, our team players already out here.”
Commissioner Pendergrass said Lee County would be good either way, no matter what spring training will or will not look like. “We have higher numbers right now in the hotels. We see people here, visitors already here.”
Lee County still wants spring training to happen. If something is going to give, it is going to happen Saturday when the owners are expected to make one last pitch to the players.