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Miracle win in front of dry crowd on Islands Night

By Staff | Jun 2, 2010

Looking like a group of Mary Poppins holdouts were the crowd from Billy’s Rentals, holding up umbrellas for good luck.

More than 3,700 fans — most of them coming from Sanibel and Captiva — filled the seats at Hammond Stadium on Tuesday evening for the 17th Annual Islands Night, which may well be remembered not for anything that happened… but what didn’t happen.

It didn’t rain.

"We made those umbrellas because we knew that if we had them, it wouldn’t rain," said Richard Johnson, general manager of Bailey’s General Store. "A few years ago we made up rain ponchos for the game and it didn’t rain, but the following year we rose our luck… and it poured!"

Islands Night, sponsored by event founder Sam Bailey, included a pregame parade around the warning track inside the stadium, with Sanibel and Captiva businesses and organizations making the "victory lap" to the applause of onlookers and supporters.

Also during pregame festivities, a barbershop quartet — joined in song by members of the Sanibel Little League participants — led the singing of the National Anthem.

Islands Night founder Sam Bailey stands next to the famous Sanibel Store Ford Model T prior to Tuesday's game.

"I’ve been to every Islands Night," said Dick Muench, longtime commissioner of the Sanibel Little League. "I’ve always enjoyed coming here with all the boys and girls. Sam (Bailey) really does a wonderful thing with this. I have nothing but respect for that man."

Throughout the stands, islanders mingled with one another while enjoying a picture-perfect evening at the ballpark, watching the hometown Fort Myers Miracle take on the Dunedin Blue Jays. Ironically, the Blue Jays starting third baseman, John Tolisano, is a resident of Sanibel.

"I have to admit that this is only my second Islands Night," said Genny Gray, who attended the game as a volunteer member from Friends In Service Here (F.I.S.H.) of Sanibel. "I came out to support F.I.S.H., Bailey’s and the entire island community."

Fellow F.I.S.H. volunteer Lenora Hoffmann added, "It was great being a part of the parade. This has been a lot of fun for me."

Despite the lack of precipitation during the game, Johnson noted that proceeds from the sale of Island Night umbrellas will go towards local charities supported through the event. He also thanked umbrella partners Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille and Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank for their support.

Sanibel children with Eric Pfeifer and Sam Bailey give the pledge of allegiance to the flag to start the game.

"This is an event where everybody wins," he added.

Sanibel resident, businessman and Planning Commission member Chris Heidrick attended the game along with his wife, Lisa, and children, Sarah and Jack.

"This is our third Islands Night… but our first one that we didn’t see any rain," said Heidrick. "The kids had a great time being in the parade. It’s a great event where the entire community can get together at a different venue. Everybody loves a ballgame."

In the game, Miracle starting pitcher Liam Hendriks tossed eight impressive innings as Fort Myers dropped Dunedin, 6-3. Tolisano finished the game batting 1-for-4 at the plate, smashing a double to deep right centerfield in the second inning. He scored the Blue Jays first run of the night.

The boys from the Lions’ Club — Hugh Cameron, Bud Walker and Tom Hoover — with their World War II jeep were paid a visit from City Manager Judie Zimomra.