Mike Greenwell’s Bat-A-Ball & Family Fun Park: Swinging for the fences, former big leaguer’s family business, a big league hit
Jun 26, 2017 05:05PM
Back when Mike Greenwell played left field for the Boston Red Sox, he often worked harder off-field finding something to do.
Eventually small amusement parks entered his radar. So as retirement became a closer reality, Greenwell settled on a business venture. “I couldn’t believe we didn’t have any kind of amusement park here [Fort Myers-Cape Coral], so I opened one,” he recalls of the decision in 1992.
As a former big-league ballplayer, Greenwell made sure to include his sport into the mix. Mike Greenwell’s Bat-A-Ball & Family Fun Park in Cape Coral, on Pine Island Road just east of Santa Barbara Boulevard, would feature batting cages that to this day draw the athletically inclined.
Baseball isn’t the only attraction here, of course, with an arcade, midway rides, a go-kart track and mini-golf rounding out the fun. An onsite sports bar has a following of its own, with a small stage regularly hosting local acts.
The park opened 25 years ago, when Greenwell, a North Fort Myers High School grad, was just 29 and still had an impressive career with Boston. At 53, he now runs the park with sons Garrett and Bo, a former minor leaguer with the Gulf Coast League Indians and the Salem Red Sox. So the family understands the needs of aspiring ball players, really anyone wishing to swing for the fences.
Bo Greenwell says pitching speeds and equipment at Greenwell’s batting cages create a great practice space for athletes, amateur or otherwise, with machines spitting out baseballs anywhere from 45 to 80 miles-per-hour, or “pretty average for a high school right-handed pitcher,” he says, adding that he will offer tips on holding the bat and when to swing. “I’ll always put my two cents in, if I feel they can use it,” he says.
The amusement complex holds a special place in the hearts of Red Sox fans, since Mike Greenwell had a successful and illustrious career in a red-and-white “Saux” jersey. Greenwell’s, in fact, sees higher attendance in February-March when Boston fans migrate to Florida for spring training at JetBlue, at parks around Florida’s Grapefruit League. It’s not unusual for visitors to see the Greenwells themselves overseeing the business most days, but certainly in the spring. “My dad being associated with the Red Sox, that fan base still knows who he is, so when they are looking for fun things to do in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area, they see the Greenwell name come up and they want to come enjoy the park,” Bo Greenwell says, adding that his dad is often at the head of a line of fans, signing autographs and talking up the highlights of his accomplished career.
But it’s just as likely that Mike Greenwell will carry a canister of glow paint, walking from hole to hole on the mini-golf layout doing touch-up work. There are other details of managing his enterprise, such as ensuring that arcade games are working, prize shelves are stocked and new facilities on the campus are in tip-top shape year-round, Bo Greenwell says.
The Greenwell family also runs a large farm, 31 Produce in Alva, that lets visitors pick fresh produce. There’s also a greenhouse, a petting zoo, a bakery and café, educational tours and a fossil “mining” operation on the working farm.
And even at this stage of life and with his many successes, Mike Greenwell still finds time to walk a few miles and swing at moderately fast pitches in the batting cages.
Written by Jacob Ogles, a professional journalist living in Southwest Florida.