The late Sam Bailey, who started our Annual Islands Night at the ballpark 26 years ago.
Don’t miss out on the fun at Sam Bailey’s 26th Annual Islands Night tonight at the CenturyLink Sports Complex.
This special night features a celebration of our island community, plus a chance to watch a fun baseball game and assist in raising funds for local charities. Islands Night was first started by Sam Bailey, a member of one of Sanibel’s founding families and avid baseball fan who passed away in 2010. It has since evolved into one of the most popular summer events on the island.
This year’s Islands Night features a game between the Fort Myers Miracle and the Bradenton Marauders. The gates open at 5:30 p.m., the pre-game parade and ceremony is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., and the game will follow at approximately 7:05 p.m., depending how long it takes to clear the field.
Many consider the parade to be the highlight of the evening, as event sponsors and members of the community walk or drive around the ballfield. The Sanibel Police Department has been known to circle in a patrol truck hauling a boat, island service stations employ tow trucks, and the Bailey family even makes an appearance in its Model AA or Model T.
The event has always been held at the ball park because Sam was an athlete, athletic director at the University of Tampa and lettered in four sports in high school and college.
“Athletics was always a big part of his life,” said Richard Johnson, Bailey’s General Store general manager. “He took that and applied that to other parts of his life.”
When Sam first started Islands Night, the focus was on the youth of the community. Every year after Islands Night, Sam would gather graduates of Sanibel and Captiva and talk to them about the importance of heading off to do whatever they were going to do next.
“He would encourage them to go to school, have fun, study hard and when you finish school don’t forget about your island community home. He encouraged them to come back after they finished school,” Johnson said.
Fundraising comes from event sponsorships, as well as the sale of t-shirts and other memorabilia. After expenses are paid, such as renting the ball field, the money raised goes toward two Islands Night Student Scholarships and an assortment of nonprofits on the island. Islands Nights benefits organizations like F.I.S.H. for Sanibel, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Community Housing and Resources, and more.
Tickets to Island Night are free and available all over the island, including of course, through Bailey’s General Store at 2477 Periwinkle Way. Note that the stadium (located at 14100 Six Mile Cypress in South Fort Myers) does charge a parking fee. For more information, visit baileys-sanibel.com or call 239-472-1516.