Red Sox, Twins draw record number of fans during Spring Training 2016


Florida’s Spring Training Baseball reached a record high per game attendance this season, with the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins ranking No. 2 and No. 3 respectively, for largest crowds during the 2016 Major League Baseball Spring Training Games. Florida hosts 15 Florida Grapefruit League teams, and Lee County is the Spring Training home to the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park and the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex.

In 2016, the Boston Red Sox played 15 games at JetBlue Park with a total attendance of 149,397, with an average of 9,960 attendees per game. The largest crowd tallied 10,103 on March 10, when the Red Sox played the Minnesota Twins.

At Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, the Minnesota Twins also played 15 games in 2016, and the total attendance was 121,005, with an average per game of 8,067 attendees. Their largest crowd peaked at 9,109, when the Twins took on the New York Yankees on Sunday, March 20.

Attendance figures are compiled by the Florida Sports Foundation from daily box scores of games, between Major League teams played in the State of Florida, and verified by each of the 15 teams in the Florida Grapefruit League.

The estimated total economic impact for the Red Sox and Twins spring training seasons in Lee County is $48 million annually. That’s according to a 2009 study, the most recent for which such Lee County data is available.

Lee County Sports Development was created in 2003 to meet the growing demand for sports development in Lee County, and is recognized by the Florida Sports Foundation as one of the state’s 25 Regional Sports Commissions. The Lee County Sports Development office leads the recruitment and implementation of amateur and professional sports events and activities in Lee County, with the goal of providing economic impact to Lee County. Through local partnerships with Lee County Parks & Recreation and others, the Lee County Sports Development office provides services designed to address the needs of local, national and international sports entities including housing, access to venues, event management, transportation assistance, event promotion, marketing and local sponsorship opportunities. For more information, call 239-533-5273 or visit

Southwest Florida wins big with Norman Love and Mark Loren’s EGGStraordinary Giveaways

Norman and Jo Champion

Chocolatier Norman Love Confections and jeweler Mark Loren Designs recently partnered to hide 36 “EGGStraordinary” prizes throughout Lee and Collier counties between March 19-27. In addition to the special giveaway, prize winners who posted their discoveries on social media sites using the hashtag #LoveLorenEggHunt were entered into a grand prize drawing, and Norman Love Confections and Mark Loren Designs have announced Jo Champion as the grand prize winner.

Champion discovered one of Mark Loren Designs’ prize bags at the Mercato in Collier County on her birthday, and as the grand prize winner of the EGGStraordinary Giveaway, her birthday celebration continues. She will receive a Norman Love Confections All Our Love Gift Tower, valued at $385, and a $400 gift certificate to Mark Loren Designs.

“I found the Easter egg from Mark Loren Designs on my birthday, so that was a nice surprise,” said Champion. “Then to learn that I was the grand prize winner and will receive two very special prizes from both companies, well, it feels like a never-ending birthday celebration!”

Prize bags from Norman Love Confections and Mark Loren Designs were placed throughout Lee and Collier counties at businesses, events and other high-traffic areas. Norman Love Confections and Mark Loren Designs took to social media, revealing special daily clues to help followers determine the whereabouts of the day’s prize. Both Southwest Florida residents and visitors were winners throughout the giveaway, and while many prizes were discovered unexpectedly, many people challenged themselves to be the first to interpret the daily clues in order claim the special prize. Prizes were discovered in wide variety of locations throughout Lee and Collier counties, some of which included Hammond Stadium, Matanzas on the Bay and Health Park in Lee County, and Artis, Waterside Shops and aboard a Pure Florida cruise in Collier County.

Inside eggs in the Norman Love Confections gift bag, winners found a prize voucher for Love’s internationally recognized chocolates or other offerings from Norman Love Confections. Inside eggs in the Mark Loren Design gift bag, winners discovered a gemstone, along with a gift certificate to have the stone set into a custom-designed piece from the award-winning jeweler. Love and Loren added something “EGGStra” to some of their prize bags: golden eggs with a high-valued prize for the winners. Two golden egg prizes from both Love and Loren were hidden in both Lee and Collier Counties, and were discovered at Edison National Bank and Citygate Ministries in Lee County and FineMark Bank and North Naples United Methodist Church in Collier County.

Loren is nationally known for offering unique and rare gemstones, innovative diamond rings, exceptional engagement and wedding bands and expert jewelry design and repair; all services are done on-site at the Fort Myers and Naples gallery locations. From celebrities to clients who appreciate wearing exclusive jewelry designs, Mark Loren Designs assures the finest one-of-a-kind sentimental jewelry pieces for lasting enjoyment. For more information, visit

Founded in 2001 by Norman and Mary Love, Norman Love Confections creates and distributes handcrafted artisanal chocolates from its corporate headquarters at 11380 Lindbergh Blvd. in Fort Myers.  The award-winning Fort Myers-based chocolatier has been lauded more than a dozen times by a leading consumer ratings magazine, including recognition six times for producing the best ultra-premium chocolates in the nation. included Norman Love Confections BLACK line on its list of the nation’s top 10 truffles; The Huffington Post listed it among the six best U.S. destinations in its Chocolate Lover’s Travel Guide; and USA Today named Love as one of its top 10 entrepreneurs for 2014. Love has recently been named as the inaugural inductee of Dessert Professional Magazine’s Chocolatier Hall of Fame, partnered with local chefs to present a six-course meal at the James Beard House in New York and Norman Love Confections was ranked among the top 10 shops in the world for chocolate lovers by U.K. media outlet Daily Telegraph.

Norman Love Confections has Chocolate Salons in Fort Myers, Estero and Naples, and Artisan Gelato by Norman Love is next door to the Fort Myers salon, off Daniels Parkway east of I-75. Chocolates, gift baskets, sipping chocolate and Love’s book, “Artistry in Chocolate, A Story of Love,” also can be ordered online at In addition, Norman Love Confections chocolates and desserts are offered on 18 Princess Cruises’ ships through the “Chocolate Journeys” partnership and at independent retail locations throughout the U.S. For more information visit or call 239-561-7215.

12th Annual Ballpark Festival of Beers set for Jan. 30

Filling glasses with more than 75 beers from around the world, the Ballpark Festival of Beers presented by Good Deals Appliances, Jenn-Air, Whirlpool and Michael F. Hornung, P.A. Attorneys at Law is the quintessential celebration of brews in Southwest Florida.

Tickets are on sale Photo 4_2online now for the 12th Annual Ballpark Festival of Beers brought to you by the Fort Myers Miracle at Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex on Saturday, Jan. 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased in-person at the Miracle offices on the fourth floor at Hammond Stadium beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6.

This is the premier beer tasting event in the region,” said Miracle General Manager Andrew Seymour. “It’s the perfect blend of exquisite craft beers, delicious food and live entertainment brewed up into one special evening.”

The Ballpark Festival of Beers returns to the expanded Hammond Stadium concourse after a two phase renovation was completed prior to Minnesota Twins Spring Training in February of 2015.
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Fans can diversify their palettes with ales, pales, stouts and lagers from local breweries to international favorites. A few of the beers that will be featured include Florida Avenue Blueberry Ale, KCCO Gold and Black Lagers, Sea Dog Raspberry Wheat Ale, Blue Point Oatmeal Stout, Green Flash Soul Style IPA, Rivertowne Hala Kahiki, Point Ybel Snook Bite and Fort Myers Brewing Russian Imperial Stout.

Admission is just $25 in advance, $30 on the day of the vent, and includes the opportunity to sample all of the available beers for three hours. You must be 21 or older to attend. Children, strollers or anyone under the age of 21 will not be permitted to enter the event.

The first 1,000 patrons will receive a commemorative sampling glass compliments of Michael F. Hornung, P.A. and food will be available for purchase from Stevie Tomato’s Sports Page, The Lobster Lady Seafood Bistro and Rosati’s Authentic Chicago Pizza.

The CenturyLink SpPhoto 3_3orts Complex will be rocking to the live entertainment of Taylor Stokes.

Come hoist a glass, enjoy great music, find a new favorite brew, spend time with friends and family and most importantly, have fun… Cheers!

To order tickets or for more information, visit or call 239-768-4210.

Second annual NubAbility #DontNeed2 Florida Camp for kids with limb-loss in partnership with the Minnesota Twins

NubAbility Athletics The NubAbility Athletic Foundation will host the second annual #DontNeed2 Florida Camp in partnership with the Minnesota Twins Jan. 1 through Jan. 2 for children ages 4 to 16 with congenital or traumatic limb-loss involving one or more limbs. NubAbility will hold a STRONG Camp, Jan. 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Daily Grind CrossFit Gym in Fort Myers, focusing on adaptive strengthening, conditioning, speed, agility, sport specific workouts, yoga for athletes and P.E. skills, and hosted by Fit Nation Magazine, Daily Grind CrossFit and Ruby and Pearls Yoga. A camp focusing on baseball, softball and soccer will be held Jan. 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, hosted by the Minnesota Twins. The #DontNeed2 Florida Camp is for children who are very mobile and desire to compete in mainstreamed school or league baseball, softball, soccer, track and field. Camp fees are $50 for each day and registration is open online at

The #DontNeed2 Florida Camp is led by founder and head coach, Sam Kuhnert, a former one-handed college baseball pitcher and college pitching coach, and his coaching team of accomplished athletes, with limb-loss, who have played at top levels of sport. NubAbility has held various sport camps for adaptive youth athletes for five years. This is its second annual camp in Fort Myers with the Minnesota Twins organization. Hayden Filson-Thompson of Texas, who played college softball, and Ryan Hamner of Orlando, an amputee who played for Rhode Island, will lead the baseball and softball camp. Minnesota Twins head pitching coach coordinator, and former MLB player, Eric Rasmussen, will lend his coaching talent to the event for the second year in a row. One-handed glove transfers, batting grips, stances, fielding, pitching, throwing, catching and base running will be covered for all limb-differences. The more experienced players will benefit from one on one instruction from college and professional coaches.

“I get to work along side my mentor, Eric Rasmussen doing what I love, getting these kids in the game of my passion. That has me pumped!” Kuhnert said.

NubAbility soccer coach Breana McMahon, an amputee, former college player and college and high school coach, who is from Orlando, joined by Lizzie Ridder, former college player, and Mathew “Flowhawk” Hawkins, will lead the soccer camp at a field adjacent to Hammond Stadium. The focus of this camp will be on dribbling, passing and scoring on prosthetic legs and with those of upper limb-loss. How to achieve and maintain balance and agility, defend and goal tending will also be taught at the youth’s level of play.

“If you have NubAbility Soccerbeen coached properly and you work harder than the rest, you will succeed. I am proof.” McMahon said.

Former Paralympic volleyball player and coach, and now adaptive strength expert and trainer, Dave Newkirk of Kansas, will be conducting the STRONG Camp. He will be assisted by Paralympic gold medal hopeful, William Regas Woods and track star Nick Rogers, who will conduct the speed portion of the camp. Adaptive yoga instructor, Heather Holland, of Ruby and Pearl’s Yoga in Fort Myers will lead the group in adaptive yoga for athletes. Heather is the aunt of NubAbility founder, Sam Kuhnert, and has worked with him through the years in his personal training for collegiate baseball. Physical education classes are often more challenging for P.E. teachers than the actual limb-different student. In NubAbility’s P.E. Skills session, NubAbility will instruct the athletes not only how they can achieve success in standard P.E. class skills, such as jumping rope one handed or on prosthetics, but also how to communicate their adaptive abilities to their teachers.

“I have traveled the world competing and coaching mainstreamed and adaptive sport. I know what the opportunity to compete has meant to me and the life lessons I have learned from it. I intend to provide professional instruction in a safe environment for kids who have also experienced life as a limb-different athlete.” Newkirk said.

The #DontNeed2 Florida Camp is designed for growth over the years and to establish a service for kids with limb-loss that desire to compete in mainstreamed sport in the southeast region of the U.S. However, several families are flying in from across the U.S. for this life-changing event that not only prepares the youth athletes for mainstreamed competition, but also encourages courage and confidence in sport and in life. If you know of a child who has a limb-difference, ages 4-17, have them email for more information. No child is ever turned away due to financial hardship. Camp fees are $50. However, local sponsors have provided 10 scholarship opportunities. Simply use the coupon code TWINS in the payment portion of the online registration, available on and in the cover photo of NubAbility’s Facebook page.

About NubAbility

A 501(c)3 nonprofit, NubAbility Athletics holds a large four-day camp in Southern Illinois every July that serves over 135 limb-different youth from across the nation. NubAbility Athletics has over 45 volunteer limb-different athletes as coaches and mentors that coach over 18 different school sanctioned sports. NubAbility also holds one-sport, one-day mini camps across the nation. NubAbility will feature its first multiple day outdoorsman camp outside of Atlanta Georgia in late July with Hunter Cayll, aka Nubs the No Handed Shooter as the Head Coach. Shooting, archery and fishing are all team sports in many schools across the country and NubAbility believes all kids have a right to compete for team spots regardless of the number of limbs they have. The next event scheduled is a #DontNeed2 Bully Proof Camp on Jan. 17 in Madisonville, Kentucky. For more information visit NubAbility Athletics Foundation at,, @NubAbility on Twitter and Instagram and NubAbility Athletics on YouTube.