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With fans, teams, and owners heading back to baseball fields, Lee County may be left on the bench financially

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Caleb Fuller of Eagan, Minnesota (wearing number 42) and his family are among fans watching Twins players take batting practice at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers Monday March 14, 2022.

For the third straight year, Lee County figures to miss out on a big chunk of an estimated $70 million brought in by fans who pay for tickets to spring training baseball games. After two COVID-shortened seasons, a ninety-nine day lockout of players by MLB owners cut at least a week off this season, with another week consisting of rescheduled games into April.

18-year old Caleb Fuller of Eagan, Minnesota was among the first fans to welcome his favorite Minnesota Twins players back to Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers. He says the whole thing could have been avoided.

“I feel like the owners and commissioner should have gave the players what they want because without the players there’s no game, and the owners make plenty of money,” said Fuller.

Fuller says he and his family will miss exhibition games because they have to head north before games begin later this week. Pittsburgh Pirates fan Mike Aubele of Fort Myers bought tickets to a Twins-Pirates game later this month, though he says money has helped turn him off to major league games.

“This year I believe I’m going to go to more Twins minor league games, and maybe Pirates too, cause I like minor league games better," said Aubele. "I like to see…I like to see the younger kids. I like the game a lot, that’s my thing.”

In 2018, Lee County studied the economic impact of fans attending spring training games and found Grapefruit League baseball brings in an estimated $57 million in shopping, travel and lodging funds beside what’s spent on tickets and concessions. Though exact figures aren’t available, those amounts are likely dramatically lower after the health and labor-related schedule cutbacks.