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Florida Southwestern State Home of Champions

FORT MYERS, FLA.- Florida SouthWestern State sophomore Sarah Lawton was flawless on Thursday, throwing the first perfect game in Buccaneer history, retiring all 15 batters she saw in an run rule victory over Polk State at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers. 

After a top half of the first from Lawton, the Bucs gave her a lead in the bottom half of the inning as Rebeca Laudino led off with a bunt single and came around to score on a double from Madison Johnson to put FSW up  

Lawton needed just 10 pitches in the second to blow through the middle of the Eagle lineup and then just nine in the third to get the final three in the order to keep the Bucs in front after 2 ½. 

FSW opened things up in the bottom half of the third as a pair of errors and a two run bomb from Owen Bowers pushed the lead to  

Lawton continued her mastery of the Eagles in the fourth as she induced a pair of groundouts to Laudino at second around her third strikeout of the game to keep Polk off the board and Bucs up  

Alison Yawn singled home a run for FSW in the bottom of the fourth and Johnson plated two on a two out single later in the inning to stretch the Bucs advantage to  

Lawton did the rest, getting another strikeout and two ground balls on the infield to finish off not only her shutout, but also a no-hitter and a perfect game in the victory. 

It was 15 up and 15 down against Lawton in the contest as she spun the first perfect game in FSW Softball history.  She struck out four and needed just 54 pitches to accomplish the historical feat.  The Bucs backed her with nine hits and eight runs, getting a perfect 3 for 3 day at the plate from Johnson who also drove home three, and Bowers who cranked her 15th home run of the season while driving in two more runs to give her 14 in the past four games for the Bucs. 

FSW improves to on the year with the victory while pushing their Suncoast Conference mark to where they now hold a game and a half lead over second place State College of Florida.  Polk State falls to overall and in league action. 

The Bucs will have the weekend off before returning to action next Tuesday on the road at St. Petersburg.  The Bucs and Titans are scheduled for a 5 PM first pitch in Clearwater. 



Perfect Game USA swings into City of Palms park

Special to The News-Press |  FNP

What’s happening: City of Palms Park is one of many sites to hold Perfect Game USA tournaments this summer. These tournaments are for high school travel baseball teams from all around the country. The tournaments begin Memorial Day weekend and run through August.

Where: City of Palms Park, Edison Ave., Fort Myers, FL

When: For complete game schedules and dates, visit Times are subject to change due to weather.

Cost: Admission to the games is $10 a day and covers all facilities. A tournament pass is available and varies in price depending on the tournament length. All facilities offer free parking.

What to expect: Come enjoy a day at the ballpark, watching some of the most talented high school baseball players in the country. Perfect Game USA produces the very highest national level individual player showcases and team tournaments all over the United States. Close to 85 percent of the players end up signing with the top conferences and top programs in the country. Games will be held at other Lee County Parks and Recreation facilities as well; these include JetBlue Park, City of Palms Park, Lee County Sports Complex and Players Development Complex.

Games are also held at Cape Coral Sports Complex, Charlotte County Sports Complex and various other Lee County sites.

History: City of Palms Park is a stadium in Fort Myers primarily used for baseball, although the City of Fort Myers uses the venue for the occasional concert. It served as the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox from its opening in to The stadium was built in for that purpose and holds 8, people. The stadium's name is taken from the city's official nickname. In February , the Boston Red Sox moved their spring training operations into the newly constructed JetBlue Park at Fenway South located on Daniels Parkway in Fort Myers.

Driving directions: From U.S. 41, head east on Edison Ave. Turn left on Grand Ave. and parking is immediately on the right in the big grass field. City of Palms Park is across the street.

Info: or

About us: Lee County Parks & Recreation has positions, a $26 million budget and more than 31, acres of parks, preserves, facilities and other sites. The department oversees four recreation centers, 10 community centers and two senior centers, community parks, Conservation 20/20 lands, greenways, the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail, four year-round pools, seven boat ramps, sports complexes including the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins spring training facilities, nine dog-friendly facilities and pristine Gulf-of-Mexico beach parks.

• Contact us at or [email protected]

Tips / Notes

• Concessions will be available on site; no coolers allowed.

• No pets allowed in the park.

• No tobacco products on park property.

• Some facilities provide stadium seating but most have bleacher seating available.


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Baseball: Perfect Game may have complex in Babcock Ranch


Gabriel Holt of Winthrop leaps into the air after a wild throw as Casey Schmitt of San Diego State slides safely into third base during the Perfect Game National Showcase at JetBlue Park on Thursday, June 16, , in Fort Myers, Fla. (Jack Hardman/The News-Press) (Photo: Jack Hardman/The News-Press)


Andres Santana of Miami hits a pop fly while competing in the Perfect Game National Showcase at JetBlue Park on Thursday, June 16, in Fort Myers, Fla. (Jack Hardman/The News-Press) (Photo: Jack Hardman/The News-Press)


Freddy Zamora of Miami tags Casey Schmitt of San Diego State at second base during the Perfect Game National Showcase at JetBlue Park on Thursday, June 16, , in Fort Myers, Fla. (Jack Hardman/The News-Press) (Photo: Jack Hardman/The News-Press)


Roman Phansalkar of Arizona delivers a pitch during the Perfect Game National Showcase at JetBlue Park on Thursday, June 16, , in Fort Myers, Fla. (Jack Hardman/The News-Press) (Photo: Jack Hardman/The News-Press)

FORT MYERS — When one of the nation's top high school baseball prospects launched a double off the Green Monster wall at JetBlue Park this week, he did so playing right into the hands of Lee County's initiative to expand the economy through sports tourism.

The county found a partner in Perfect Game, a youth baseball for-profit organization that has ballooned to become the most valuable cog in the region's sports tourism engine.

This year, Perfect Game has 46 events scheduled in the county. That's 15 more than were held last year, when it generated a record $26 million of the county's $61 million in visitor spending from sports tourism other than spring training. Perfect Game filled an estimated 62, hotel room nights, many of them during the slow summer months.

For now, Perfect Game events are played rent-free, other than $ a month for a utility bill, at four Lee County-owned stadiums, 39 county-managed baseball fields and sometimes other area fields on loan to the county.

Soon, Perfect Game may have a much larger, single-site venue to generate, and make, even more money.

Babcock Ranch, a for-profit, planned development straddling northeast Lee and southeast Charlotte counties off State Road 31, has offered to donate acres to Lee County. The county then would pay for the land's transformation into a sports complex that could grow large enough to fit 40 baseball fields. Those fields would be maintained by the county and used by Perfect Game, which would be off the hook for any property taxes, but would be expected to sign a long-term lease.

Other communities are clamoring to claim Perfect Game events with sweetheart deals because those events have become such an economic catalyst, said Jeff Mielke, executive director of Lee County Sports Development. His mission is to attract more sports tourism events to the county in what has become a competitive business.

Visitor spending from Perfect Game spectators and participants last year eclipsed the county's estimated $25 million each for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins from mid-February through early April. The estimated $,plus in hotel bed tax revenue generated from Perfect Game events goes toward paying for the two, year loans taken to build JetBlue Park at Fenway South for the Boston Red Sox and to renovate CenturyLink Sports Complex for the Minnesota Twins.

'When I first got here, there were four Perfect Game events,' said Mielke, who arrived in 'It's really about Perfect Game, and its business just expanding and exploding. What we like about Perfect Game is it has the attention of all the scouts and the college coaches. That means they will spend more time in Lee County.'

In their backyards

The county must secure political approval to build a Babcock Ranch baseball complex. Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann already voiced his opinion against it because of the impact it could have on the rural way of life there.

Josh Dorcey, a Fort Myers attorney who lives less than 5 miles from where the baseball complex might be built, had no such misgivings.

'For me, development is coming anyways just because we have the Babcock Ranch that's going to be developed,' Dorcey said. 'The thought that we're not going to be developed is naive. So far, the majority of the growth has been to the south. That size of a sports complex is going to drive the market in that area. You'll see property values go up.

'I think people just need to get on board. I think it's going to be good for the county and good for the north side of the river.'

As for his rural way of life, Dorcey said it wouldn't be threatened.

'I like being in the country, and I also like being on the water,' he said. 'I thought that was the perfect mix to raise my family. Most people are on a half-acre or up to 10 acres. If you already live there and already have property there, no one is going to take your property.'

Retired Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, a North Fort Myers High School graduate, invested much of the $21 million he earned as a baseball player in buying land due south of Babcock Ranch. He sold almost 45 acres of that as-yet undeveloped land, located across the street from the Lee County Civic Center, to Babcock Ranch about 10 years ago.

Two of Greenwell's sons played in Perfect Game events as youth players before becoming minor league players.

'We moved out here because we liked being out in a rural area,' Greenwell said. 'But the reality is nothing is going to stay the same. Things change. I'm for whatever's coming. That could bring more people to my state. They're building a family city. The reality is, how much land can our tax dollars afford to take care of?'

Unanswered questions

Assistant Lee County Manager Dave Harner hopes to find the answer to Greenwell's question.

The prospect of acquiring donated land to build a complex for Perfect Game intrigued Harner enough to seek approval for a feasibility study. The potential land gift, he said, played right into the County Commission's initiative of furthering sports tourism, which it has mandated as a priority since

'The only reason this is even a topic is someone is talking about donating the land,' said Harner, who would like a feasibility study done within a year. 'Can we afford something like this? And if we can, how?'

The county estimated buying land and developing it into one baseball field costs $, to $,, depending on the land's conditions. The county did not have an estimate on building a field on donated land. At $, per field, for example, building 40 fields would cost $6 million, plus annual maintenance costs and millions more for the surrounding infrastructure.

Initial reports have put the cost of a complex at $70 million, but Harner had no idea from where that estimate came. Perfect Game holds many tournaments in Emerson, Georgia, at a $58 million, multi-purpose sports complex.

'Anytime you're talking about that many fields, there's going to be a cost,' said Harner, who would want any new complex to be able to also have sports other than baseball. 'There would have to be a lot of negotiations. We can't base it on hypotheticals. We'd have to base it on reality.'

Jerry Ford, founder of Perfect Game, said he envisioned half of the fields being big-league-sized and the other half smaller.

'So we would be able to bring in more tournaments with plus teams,' Ford said.

These events would be staggered so they would not conflict with Perfect Game tournaments in other areas of the country, Ford said.

'You're in Atlanta for one week,' Ford said. 'The next week, all of those teams are no longer in Atlanta. They're playing somewhere else. Our goal would be for them to be playing both places. Even though Fort Myers has all these facilities now, it's nowhere near enough fields to do a team tournament.'

Founding father

Ford, 69, said he founded Perfect Game in the mids in his native Iowa because he wanted to find a better way for youth players there to get more exposure. Two of his three sons work for Perfect Game. Ben Ford, 40, pitched for the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. Andy Ford, 45, played one season in the minor leagues for the Reds.

'Our vision was to give the kids who played baseball more opportunities,' said Jerry Ford, a former part-time scout with the Minnesota Twins. 'We gave all the Iowa kids who were more talented more exposure.

'We probably should have gone bankrupt many times. So we had to expand what we were doing to other parts of the country to really take off. The reason we didn't quit or give up is because the idea worked.'

About 15 years ago, Perfect Game showcases and tournaments became mandatory stops for professional scouts, said Mike Radcliff, Minnesota Twins vice president of player personnel. The first five high school players the Twins drafted this year all played at JetBlue Park last year in the Perfect Game National Showcase, said Radcliff while watching this year's showcase.

'Here, we see as many players as we can, all in one spot,' Radcliff said.

There were 37 players in last year's Major League All-Star game who had played in Perfect Game events, and the organization estimated that 80 percent of College World Series players are also alumni of Perfect Game.

Paying to play

This week, the six-day, showcase at JetBlue Park features of the country's top-ranked rising senior high school players divided into 12 teams. They had to be invited to play, but had to pay $ each to participate, with more than professional scouts and college coaches in attendance.

In most Perfect Game tournaments, youth baseball teams pay anywhere from $ to $3, Admission costs $25 per spectator per event or $10 per day. Families then must come up with money for hotels, food and travel expenses.

'No, it's not cheap,' said Larry Coffey, father of year-old shortstop Adisyn Coffey of Indiana. 'But you play travel ball, and it's a minor investment. It makes it harder if you don't go to one of those tournaments. That's where the coaches get a good chance to evaluate you.'

The potential payoff for the Perfect Game players and their parents comes later, but only if their children land college scholarships or, better yet, professional baseball contracts.

First-round signing bonuses from big-league teams range from $ million to $ million.


Perfect Game Fort Myers Fl

Perfect Game tourney comes to North Fort Myers


Every Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of baseball teams from across the nation come to Southwest Florida for a tournament to determine the best high-school level travel teams.

Perfect Game, the largest scouting organization for not only baseball, but any sport, held a huge tournament this past weekend, and among the venues was the North Fort Myers Community Park.

Games were played at the big field all weekend with teams between 14U and 18U. All the games had the same purpose, to show off the abilities of the athletes to professional and college scouts.

Anthony Lopez, who ran the tournament at the field, said Perfect Game is a scouting tournament where teams come from different states to play. The quality is higher than typical high school ball.

&#;It&#;s very competitive and it&#;s going on in Lee and Collier counties. We&#;ll have at least teams in five age groups, with four games played here today,&#; Lopez said. &#;Everything is tracked by stats. If a college scout comes, they can see what a player did and keep track of them.&#;

&#;These tournaments are a way for the kids to show what they&#;ve got. Getting them to the next level and building them up to succeed later in high school,&#; said Justin Neo, coach of the 15U Aces of Broward County, a program that had five teams in the weekend&#;s tournament consisting of the best high school kids in the area.

Neo said his team came out a little slow, mostly because it had to play with an 8 a.m. start time. The slower start didn&#;t last long, however, as the Aces exploded offensively and won

For the team that lost, the Texas Rangers out of Miami, it was back to the drawing board, even though it played well.

That team&#;s coach Alexeis Bell, a former pro, said these tournaments are great for the kids.

&#;These games help them stay focused and do the job every game,&#; Bell said. &#;When you go out to play, you go out with the attitude of winning, and sometimes that doesn&#;t happen. When you play early, you don&#;t usually perform as well early on.&#;


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