Mike Green­well's Bat-A-Ball & Fam­ily Fun Park

Swing­ing for the fences, for­mer big lea­guer's fam­ily busi­ness, a home­town hit

Cape Coral Living - - Publisher's Letter - BY JA­COB OGLES

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 in 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 on-site 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

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.

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 ballplay­ers, 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, and at other 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 Co­ralFort

Base­ball isn’t the only at­trac­tion here, of course.

My­ers area, they see the Green­well name come up and they want to come en­joy the park,” Bo Green­well says. He adds 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.

Ja­cob Ogles is a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ist liv­ing in South­west Florida.

Cape Co­ral's Olivia Lallo and her mother, Court­ney Lallo (in driver's seat), and fel­low racer Justin Reaves are big go-kart fans.

The Lal­los ride the the Scram­bler, while vis­it­ing Bos­to­ni­ans Greg and Stacy Roth­well (be­low) play a round of mini-golf.

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