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Will spring training be a strikeout in SWFL?

There won’t be a mad dash this holiday season to get a popular Christmas present in Southwest Florida: spring training tickets.

That’s because Major League Baseball is still deciding whether to allow fans at the games.

It has been a long-standing tradition for fans to line up, sometimes for hours, to get their hands on tickets, but that hasn’t happened this year.

With so much uncertainty for the upcoming season, what does this mean for businesses?

Spring training is a cherished time of year for Bret Lutsky and his dad.

“For those couple months of the year down here, you know, Fort Myers is the Major League mecca,” Lutsky said.

It’s an opportunity for them to spend quality time around the game they love.

“Living with my mom and my sister, they’re not the biggest sports fans, so he utilizes the opportunity to sit next to me and really chat me up.”

Baseball fans like Lutsky hope the pandemic doesn’t ruin spring training come February, and so do the businesses that count on big bucks brought in by fans.

Lee County said that in 2018, visiting fans spent close to $70 million here, and they pump Charlotte County’s economy, too, spending $10 million in the shortened season a year ago.

“We’d be happy to have whatever percentage that MLB allowed, but yeah, we’d like to see a full house if it was safe to do so,” said Sean Doherty, Charlotte County tourism director.

Michael Denunzio owns Fine Folk Pizza, just minutes away from JetBlue Park in south Fort Myers. The games are great for his business.

“A normal spring training, we would see a lot of people coming through, walking through the strip to the baseball game. Afterwards, you know, come and dine at our restaurant,” he said.

“If we have the opportunity to get tickets to go to these games, we’re absolutely going to do it. Take the proper precautions, be safe about it, and try to have fun,” Lutsky said.

The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins are holding off on selling tickets until they get word from the MLB.

The Rays are letting fans put down deposits.

As for when the MLB might make a decision, it probably won’t happen until closer to spring training’s opening day in February.

Reporter:Zach Oliveri
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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