I have several Kansas City Royals t-shirts and baseball hats. Given that I am not a sports fan, this may come as a surprise to those who don’t know me well. Why would I, a person from Fort Myers, Florida, like a baseball team from Missouri? The answer is quite simple. From its inaugural season as a baseball team in 1969 until 1987, the Royals held their spring training in Fort Myers. My dad, the late Park T. Pigott, Sr., was the Lee County Parks and Recreation Director and, along with other civic minded people in Fort Myers, was influential in convincing the Royals to come to Fort Myers. During the years when the Royals were in town in the spring months, they were “our” team. I was fortunate to attend almost every home game from 1969 until 1976, after which I moved away from my hometown. (As an aside, the guidance counselor at my high school called my mother to ask why I was absent from school on many afternoons in the spring time. My mom explained that I was missing my classes because I was attending the Royals games, with her explicit permission to do so!) From 1977 until their final year in Fort Myers, I attended at least one spring training game at the stadium which, by then, was named Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium in recognition of everything my dad had done for baseball in Lee County. When the Royals play baseball, I always want them to win. When they won the World Series in 1985 and 2015, I celebrated. And, I proudly wear my Royals shirts and hats whenever I want to be particularly happy in my fond memories of my dad and his love of baseball. If you see me wearing my Royals attire, you will know it is one of the many ways I pay tribute to a great baseball team and a great person, baseball player, and dad. Go Royals!
I will say that it took me a while to comprehend Melissa’s love of the Royals, including certain of their players. I was able to attend a few games with her while they were in Ft. Myers at “her dad’s” stadium. It was fun, but the depth of the connection was something that took a long time to unfold. My understanding of the connection grew greatly when we undertook a project to digitize images from a scrapbook of the life of Park Pigott. Melissa’s mom faithfully compiled clippings and photos from the outset of the Royals’ arrival in Ft. Myers. In 2009, Melissa and I traveled to Kansas City for presentations she made at an insurance company and at a law firm there. It was a big trip business wise, but we planned it around seeing a game at Kauffman Stadium and taking a tour of the then newly renovated stadium and Hall of Fame. After that tour, we contacted Royals officials and offered to provide them with a portion of the Pigott archive for their archive and they happily accepted. Thus, the digitation project began with me photographing all of the relevant images and articles. Melissa and I were excited to contribute these items to the Royals Hall of Fame inventory. The stories and photos capture a time when baseball was less corporate and offered more of a connection with the team and players. Fort Myers has hosted spring training for multiple teams for many years. Baseball has a big place in that community. And, for many people, like Melissa, “play ball” brings back fond memories of those days, especially the days she missed class (with permission from an otherwise very strict mother) for a game in a seat provided gratis, as a courtesy of the team owner! And, now I have my own KC Royals hat.