Love of Town, Fans Still Drives X-League Founder
(AUBURNDALE) He may call California home these days, but former Florida Marine Raiders owner and X-League Indoor Football creator Michael Mink still loves Lakeland.
“I love this area so much, I still have my season tickets to the Bucs,” he said Monday afternoon. “Even though I live in California, after being a season ticket holder for 21 years, still couldn’t let go of them.”
Mink, currently the general manager for the Marysville Gold Sox of the Great West League, may have returned to the area to tie up some loose ends in his personal life, but he had something else planned on this trip as well.
“This trophy belongs here,” Mink said of the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame. “The fans here who supported us, the longest tenured sports team in the history of the Lakeland Center, earned this. To win this championship trophy was a great moment in time for the fans, the team and the city.”
Now living outside of Sacramento with his 14-year-old daughter Sierra, Mink’s second passion – helping young athletes along their journey through the sports crucible – hasn’t changed.
“We’ve had quite a few young kids come through the Gold Sox on their way to the bigs,” he said. “Max and Brock Stassi both came through. One (Max) is with the Astros while his brother is playing for the Phillies. That’s what I love, helping the kids along their journey.”
Mink’s journey in Lakeland began in 2012 with the Ultimate Indoor Football League. He was instrumental in reorganizing that league into the X-League in 2014. Ultimately, though, the league folded the next year.
“We gave it the best run we could,” said Mink. “Even with everything against us, we still managed 8,000 fans for a playoff game (in St. Louis). I’m proud of what we did.”
What did come as a surprise to Mink was the fact that the Wing House on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland still has a corner devoted to the Florida Marine Raiders.
“They told me that they put it up two years ago,” said Mink. “And they plan to never take it down. Those are the kind of fans I’m talking about.”
Contact: Jack Cormier
Central Florida’s Polk County Sports Marketing