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Island tradition features baseball, camaraderie

By Staff | May 14, 2019

Tickets to the 26th annual Sam Bailey’s Islands Night are available throughout the community.

The Fort Myers Miracle will play the Bradenton Marauders on May 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., with the parade kicking off at about 5:45 p.m.

Calli Johnson, whose family owns Bailey’s General Store, The Island Store and Sanibel Catering Company by Bailey’s, explained that the tradition was started by her great-uncle, Sam Bailey.

“He wanted to get the whole island together, but didn’t have a place that could fit everyone,” she said. “So, he thought of the ballpark.”

According to the family, Bailey approached the Fort Myers Miracle organization about sponsoring a baseball game. He was able to negotiate the deal, but then he had to figure out how to pay for it.

Bailey worked with his brother, Francis, and the chamber of commerce. Island businesses were encouraged to help sponsor the game for just $100 and to invite everyone to attend. With a successful response, he was able to collect enough to rent out the stadium, plus give back to the community.

In 2004, the event was renamed Sam Bailey’s Islands Night in honor of him.

Johnson said the idea is to bring the community together for an evening of family fun.

“Tickets are free because the ballpark rental is covered by the generous event sponsors in order to ensure anyone who would like to attend is able to do so,” she said.

Tickets are available at the service desk at Bailey’s and from any of the event sponsors.

“The sponsors underwrite the cost of the event and help us support the scholarships and non-profit donations we make at the end of each year,” Johnson said.

It is reported that Islands Night is one of the top attended games for the Miracle. However, an ongoing joke is bad weather on game day is almost certain – which surprisingly did not take place in 2018.

“It didn’t rain last year, so definitely bring your rain gear,” she said.

The theme for this year’s event is “community.”

Before the first pitch, all of the sponsors have the opportunity to take part in the parade.

“They can dress up their vehicle as much as they like and wave to the crowds at the game,” Johnson said, adding that approximately several hundred sponsors participated last year.

The Kiwanis Club of Sanibel and Captiva Islands and the Young Professionals Association of Sanibel and Captiva will be selling beer, with the proceeds to benefit the Islands Night fund. The proceeds from the fund are distributed every year to several local organizations and also help to support scholarships.

“This benefits our scholarships through Kiwanis and our non-profit donations,” she said.

The community-supported game has no main sponsor, but a group of volunteers help out each year.

“Coach’s Team is Sam’s group of islanders that helps organize the events,” Johnson said.

Those interested in becoming a sponsor can do so up until game day.

“Anniversary sponsors will receive custom, insulated beverage containers instead of seat covers this year,” she said.

For more information on sponsorships, contact the Bailey’s office at 239-472-1516.

For more about the event, call Marie or Charlene at Bailey’s at 239-472-1516.

The community is invited to pick up tickets for a night of baseball and island camaraderie.

“It’s a fun-filled family evening that supports a great cause,” Johnson said.

Hammond Stadium is at 14100 6 Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers.