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Miracle win home opener in front of record crowd

By Staff | Apr 15, 2009

Never before had this many fans showed up for a Fort Myers Miracle home opener at Hammond Stadium. Not only was Miracle manager Jeff Smith aware of the jam-packed crowd, he even noticed a rare, impressive wave during the middle innings of last Friday’s 7-1 victory over the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

“I’ve seen some good waves, but never one like that at Hammond Stadium,” said Smith, a Naples native. “The crowd was excited throughout. When it’s like that, it helps keep the players excited and it’s helpful to their development.”

The Miracle certainly did their part to entertain the 8,310 fans, the largest for a home opener in the team’s 18-year history.

Right-hander Scott Baker, on rehab assignment from the Minnesota Twins, looked sharp in his seven innings of work. He allowed one run, scattered five hits and struck out three, walking only one.

Offense comes alive

The Miracle offense played a key role, too. Steve Singleton’s two-run homer highlighted a three-run bottom of the first inning, and the Miracle kept up a consistent attack.

All nine players in the starting lineup had at least one hit and the team finished with 13. Singleton added a triple and drove in three runs. Danny Berg went 2-for-4 with two RBI and Deibinson Romero and Joe Benson each added two hits.

The Miracle opened the season last Thursday with a 9-4 come-from-behind win at Charlotte. Though the season has just begun, Smith likes the combination of speed and power in the lineup.

“We’re taking good at-bats,” Smith said. “That’s what I’m looking at right now. We’re fighting with two strikes.”

While the Miracle had one recognizable Major League player on the field Friday in Baker, the Tampa Bay Rays’ B.J. Upton played his second of three rehab games for the Stone Crabs.

Baker recorded a strikeout of Upton to leadoff the game, blowing a fastball by him on a 2-2 pitch.

Upton reached base on a single in the third and walked in the sixth. He appeared to be deliberately overaggressive on the bases, getting caught stealing in the third and picked off in the sixth by Baker.

Impressive outing

Baker is expected to join the Twins soon. He originally was announced as their opening day starter, but had some shoulder stiffness toward the end of spring training, forcing the Twins to place him on the 15-day disabled list.

He pounded the strike zone Friday and when he got into slight trouble, the Miracle defense came up with pivotal double plays in the fourth and seventh innings.

“He just went after hitters,” Smith said of Baker. “He threw a lot of strikes. It helped keep the defense on their toes.”

Center fielder Ben Revere got the Miracle offense started in the bottom of the first with a sharp single to center. Two batters later, Singleton launched a drive to right field, making it 2-0. Berg capped the inning with an RBI double.

The score was 4-1 entering the bottom of the seventh when the Miracle struck for three more. Benson walked and scored on a triple by Singleton. Singleton came home on a wild pitch, and Berg added a sacrifice fly.

After Baker departed, Carlos Gutierrez pitched two strong innings in relief. He allowed no hits and struck out two.

Gutierrez, a first-round draft pick in 2008 out of the University of Miami, normally is a starter for the Miracle, but worked out of the bullpen Friday because of Baker’s rehab start.

The Miracle close out a three-game homestand with the Jupiter Hammerheads tonight at 7:05 p.m. before heading out for a weekend series at the St. Lucie Mets. Following an off day on Monday, Fort Myers returns to action at Hammond Stadium with three games against the Palm Beach Cardinals. For more information, visit www.miraclebaseball.com.

Islands Night is coming!

Also on the horizon is the 16th Annual Sanibel & Captiva Islands Night, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, May 13 when the Fort Myers Miracle take on the Sarasota Reds. Game time is 7:05 p.m.

“This game is special to all of us islanders,” said Sam Bailey, longtime sponsor of the annual island outing to the ballpark. “It is a night of camaraderie with old friends, and a chance to make new ones.”

Businesses looking to take part in Islands Night 2009 should call 472-1516 to reserve space immediately. Your $100 sponsorship of the event includes:

Unlimited tickets to the game to share with friends and patrons

A space on Hammond Stadium’s veranda (“Show-&-Tell” tables)

A spot for your banner to be displayed in the stands

Entrance in the “Grand Parade” prior to the ballgame

Non-stop promotion of your business during stadium in-game announcements

A novelty souvenir

Support for local charities

Checks should be made payable to “Islands Night” and mailed to Islands Night, 2477 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957.