Fort Myers Miracle
The Fort Myers Miracle of Fort Myers, Florida, played 28 seasons in the Florida State League. Beyond their first season operating as an independent team, the Miracle served as the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Minnesota Twins for that entire span of time.
The origin of the Fort Myers Miracle came as a result of a larger shift at the Major League level. The franchise had played continuously in Miami since 1962 as the Miami Marlins, Miami Orioles, and Miami Miracle. In the early nineties, the Miami Miracle competed in the Florida State League as an independent/non-affiliated team that was owned by the Goldklang Group–including Marv Goldklang, Mike Veeck, musician Jimmy Buffett, and minor league luminary Bill Murray. Once the Goldklang Group knew that Miami would be getting a National League team, they made plans to move the team into the Minnesota Twins’ sparkling new spring training stadium in Fort Myers. They kept the Miracle moniker and took to the field at Hammond Stadium in 1992.
The first season in Fort Myers was an odd transition. Along with the name, they kept the same uniforms and logos as they had used in Miami. Though a cap insignia initial usually references the city name, the block gold M in the center of their emerald green caps could reasonably stand in for Miracle as easily as Miami. The roster was cobbled together as well, and the first season was technically an independent/co-op year, where the team had no formal affiliation and the players were mostly unknowns or washouts. Some were sent by organizations like the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, and Chicago White Sox, but the vast majority were within the organization that controlled the stadium–the Minnesota Twins. Only a few players from that green uniform season ever had big league experience, and the biggest name was probably Mike Pagliarulo, who had a short stint in Fort Myers the year after winning a World Series with the Twins.
A few things changed in the 1993 season. The Miracle had an aesthetic overhaul at a time when minor league clubs were newly free to trademark their logos and take advantage of a national merchandising boom. They took on a Twins-esque navy blue and red color combo, complete with era-appropriate pinstriped uniforms. Their cap logo remained a letter M for Miracle, though italicized and with a palm tree superimposed on it. The tree was dramatically bent to the side–maybe from hurricane winds or maybe from the weight of a giant baseball growing like a coconut. The coco-ball motif was a simplified carryover from the Miami days, when a comic book-looking logo had a palm tree ripe with several baseballs.
Another change in ’93 was a formalized player development agreement with Minnesota. The Twins and Miracle were a match made to last, and many future MLB All-Stars cut their teeth in Fort Myers. In the team’s first handful of seasons, the rosters included the likes of Damian Miller, Brad Radke, Matt Lawton, LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunter, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Redman, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, A.J. Pierzynski, Joe Mays, and the great David Ortiz.
In 1998, the Miracle were sort of featured in the movie Major League: Back to the Minors, the shockingly weird sequel to Major League. In the film, Scott Bakula (he of Quantum Leap fame) played a washed-up pitcher trying to resuscitate his career playing for the Miracle. Bizarrely, the Miracle were squared off against actors dressed as players for the New York Penn-League’s Hudson Valley Renegades. It’s easy to see the reason for this odd pairing on the silver screen–the influence of the Goldklang Group (who also owned Hudson Valley) and the Group’s Hollywood connection.
As the nineties gave way to the new millennium, the Miracle updated their visual brand a bit. They lightened the shade of blue and added tropical green and sand-colored hues to their existing palate. In the logo, the palm tree’s bark and leaves were given definition.
This era saw the tree bear more coconuts for Minnesota’s system, including Michael Cuddyer, Kyle Lohse, Grant Balfour, Justin Morneau, Jason Bartlett, Joe Mauer, Jesse Crain, Eric Milton, Pat Neshek, Francisco Liriano, Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Matt Garza, and Wilson Ramos.
While still retaining their overall visual effect, the Miracle underwent another brand refresh as they moved into the Teens decade. A new primary logo depicted an idyllic Gulf Coast beach scene complete with sailboat. The wordmark was rendered in a new font that allowed the coco-ball to stand in for the lower case i’s dot in the word Miracle. The tree itself was simplified and angled in such a way as to complement the curves of the letters in the new font. Pinstripes were dropped from the uniforms and the darker hue of blue was returned.
In the final stretch of the Miracle, several players who wore the sleek new duds would go on to become big league standouts, including Brian Dozier, Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sanó, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, José Berríos, and Mitch Garver. It is also likely that there were some more Miracle players in the later teens who will go on to achieve significant major league recognition in the years to come.
In early 2019, the Goldklang Group sold the Miracle to new ownership, and as often happens in these cases, the new regime felt compelled to switch up the brand after one last season as the Miracle. Without any advance notice or faux name-the-team contest, it was announced that the team would henceforth be known as the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. The Mussels now claim the beach as their own, and the Miracle have walked out atop the water and into the blue abyss of minor league history.