So, pack your glove. Trust me, it will fit under the 50-pound weight limit for checked bags at the airport, although the days of carrying your own Louisville Slugger on board are long over.
But remember, baseball is undoubtedly why you have elected to vacation in Fort Myers in the first place. You and the thousands of other pale-skinned refugees from New England who flock here in winter to monitor the first stirrings of a new season for the Boston Red Sox, who have conducted spring training here since 1993.
(The Minnesota Twins also train here, but unless you are from the Iron Range, going to watch the Twins play instead of the Sox is like going to a poster shop instead of the Louvre when you're in Paris. In truth, the Twins, who play in Hammond Stadium on the south side of town, and the Sox, who play in City of Palms Park near downtown, annually vie for the fabled Mayor's Cup , which goes to the team that beats the other most often in exhibition play.)
The sun will be shining, at least most days. That is why you can't just come down here and watch the Sox have all the fun. You say you are too out of shape to play catch? That hasn't stopped some of the wide-bodies who have inhabited Sox uniforms over the years, like David Wells or El Guapo, Rich Garces, who had the physique of a sundial.
If you're leery of playing hardball, there's always Wiffle ball , which can be played in any park, beach, or parking lot in Fort Myers, or any other part of Lee County. First rule of any Wiffle ball game played here: If you hit a ball into a canal or any other body of fresh water, don't wade in to retrieve it. You might find yourself nose to jaw with a gator. A few years ago, a young woman who fancied herself a poet decided to go for a post-midnight skinny dip in the pond at the complex where her grandparents lived. There are less gruesome ways to achieve immortality.
Hit a ball into the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico, however, and you are probably OK. Still, my first night back here this season, the lead story on the evening news was about a shrimp boat off the coast of Fort Myers Beach sinking after being rammed by a 14-foot bull shark . (The crew was saved.)
But, I digress. Baseball is what has drawn you to the Fort, as we sportswriter types like to call it, although there is no fort here. Look hard enough at the corner of First and Jackson streets downtown and you might find the historical marker acknowledging that there used to be one, built in the early part of the 19th century during the Seminole Indian Wars.
Want to know more? "Alex, I'll take obscure sons-in-law for $500." General David Emanuel Twiggs, who commanded a US force in Tampa, named the fort after his son-in-law, Abraham C. Myers, who later served as a quartermaster in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He was fired by Jefferson Davis midway through the conflict and moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, after the war. You now know more about Myers than 99.9 percent of the natives, though the Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami Beach plans to include him in an exhibit next year, "Florida Jews in the Military."
The Yanks took over the fort and used it as a base to round up wild cattle to supply beef to the federal gunboats patrolling the Gulf of Sanibel. In the spirit of those brave soldiers, tourists now line up as early as 4 p.m. to grab a seat at the local
All you need to know about dining here: My friend Frankie called a local eatery for reservations, and was told that there were slots available only early and late. How early? "Five o'clock," he was told. How late? "Seven-thirty."
After the war, the fort was torn down, and wood from the structure was used in the construction of the original downtown. There were only 349 residents in 1886, when Thomas Edison discovered the place and decided to build his winter home here. His good friend Henry Ford decided to buy the place next door. Little did they know that years after their deaths, baseball fans and other tourists would make their estates -- the Seminole Lodge for Edison, the Mangoes for Ford -- one of the most popular destinations in town. Edison's widow, Mina, donated the property to the city for a dollar.
Edison's more famous inventions, which included the phonograph and movie camera, you learned about in school. Visit the estate, and you'll discover some of the other things he gave us: wax paper, tin foil, the talking doll, and mucilage -- the sticky stuff on the back of postage stamps, envelopes, and other labels.
Baseball? There's a connection there, too. In 1908, Edison produced the first baseball movie, "The Ball Game," which featured two amateur teams from Newark.
Two other visitors to this area, Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh, both enjoyed sojourns to nearby Sanibel Island and its wilder neighbor, Captiva Island. Lucky Lindy, who used to land his plane on the beach in front of the 'Tween Waters Inn on Captiva, raised the World Series flag for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1927, the year after they won the crown , while Roosevelt was awarded the first lifetime pass issued by Major League Baseball.
It would be a stretch, however, to argue that Roosevelt loved the game. Wrote his daughter, Alice: "Father and all of us regarded baseball as a mollycoddle game. Tennis, football, lacrosse, boxing, polo -- yes, they are violent, which appealed to us. But baseball? Father wouldn't watch it, not even at Harvard."
There are other forms of recreation to entertain you, but you will spend far more time negotiating the traffic on Cleveland Avenue (US 41), the main north-south artery through town, than you will like. (Try McGregor Boulevard when you're not in a hurry; Edison was the first to import the majestic palm trees that line the boulevard.)
There is no shortage of golf courses -- and mini-golf, played on courses that rival Pebble Beach for the genre. The fishing comes in all varieties -- try bass fishing in the canals, tarpon fishing at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, which dumps into the gulf, or grab a spot on one of the deep-sea fishing boats.
Beaches? For my tastes, Fort Myers Beach is convenient, but a bit honky-tonk. Seashell collectors will find the mother lode on Sanibel, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The island faces east-west instead of northwest, which evidently makes for better preserved shells. Don't get carried away, though -- overdo it, and you could wind up with the "Sanibel stoop." The prettiest beaches may be farther south, in neighboring Naples, where you can also stroll Fifth Avenue for some upscale shopping and al fresco dining after the sun goes down.
A sweet time can be had on Sanibel at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,400-acre preserve and bird-watcher's paradise, where you can spot pelicans, herons, eagles, and double-crested cormorants, as well as gators and, if you're lucky, a rare American crocodile.
Drive out a little farther to Captiva and drop in at the Mucky Duck for a cold one and a beautiful sunset. The pub's original proprietor was a Brit who named it the Black Swan, but for the locals, that morphed into the Mucky Duck. On a good night, the dolphins swimming past add to the splendor.
But remember, it's all about the baseball. Which is why, before you go home, you may want to drop by the Bat-a-Ball Family Fun Park in neighboring Cape Coral, run by former Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell. Three strikes and you're never out. Keep swinging to your heart's content -- or until you run out of cash.
Contact Gordon Edes at email@example.com.