On Monday evening, Biloxi’s new Southern League franchise announced that it will go by the name of “Shuckers.” This is nothing to do with an action that is often performed in tandem with jivin’; rather it is an homage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast city’s thriving seafood industry. Oysters, which must be shucked by, yes, shuckers, are a big part of this industry.
My MiLB.com story on the new name was published on Monday evening, in conjunction with the team’s official announcement. The story includes a cornucopia of quotes from Shuckers general manager Buck Rogers, who held the same position in the team’s previous home of Huntsville, Alabama.
If you’ve ever spoken with Buck, you know that he’s never at a loss for words. In fact, I would go so far as to dub him “the most loquacious dude in the industry.” This was certainly the case when I spoke with him for my MiLB.com story. In fact, I ended up with a veritable novella’s worth of surplus verbiage. Being a conservationist at heart, I figured that I’d now share some of this surplus with you, the presumably interested and undeniably attractive reader.
On capitalizing on the Shuckers’ name:
Milwaukee, our parent club, has the sausage race. In Huntsville we did a superhero race. Here in Biloxi, we can do a seafood race. The sky’s the limit! (Note: Buck said “the sky’s the limit” a half-dozen times during our conversation.)
Maybe we can call up Smuckers — get a mascot that’s a jar of strawberry jam. The sky’s the limit….I guarantee you, if we take our staff to a beachside bar, get a pizza and some barley sodas and start brainstorming, we’ll come up with a big list of ideas.
I’d love to get Blue Oyster Cult out here to play a post-game concert. They’re my favorite rock band of all time.
On the potential negative of naming the team “Shuckers”:
You can take any name and turn it into something perverse. This is a local name with a local logo, and it’s reflective of the Gulf Coast. We didn’t have Willie-Off-the-Pickleboat design this. It’s professionally done, and we’re really proud of it. This whole thing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. New team, new name, new stadium. Everything’s brand new. This is Christmas, New Year’s, Mardi Gras and your birthday all rolled into one.
On the Shuckers’ ownership group, which is headed by Ovations Food Services president Ken Young (whose portfolio also includes the Albuquerque Isotopes and Norfolk Tides):
This isn’t their first rodeo. We’ve had members of the Albuquerque staff out here, and they’ve helped tremendously. It’s been a great team effort. Ken owns Ovations, so you know the food here is going to be first class. We had Ovations when I was working in Brevard County [Buck was GM of the Manatees] and I’m happy to be back in that family. We have to think that the sky’s the limit. I’m not gonna tell them “Serve this, serve that.” They know what they’re doing. I expect shrimp po’ boys, oysters, all that kind of stuff. The concession stands will reflect the flavor of the Gulf Coast.
On keeping the Shuckers name a secret:
The Albuquerque staff took the lead on ordering the merchandise. Thank God, because we’ve had so much to do. So a lot of the merchandise was shipped there first, because we didn’t want a box showing up here that said “Shuckers” on it. But we worked really hard to keep the name off of any boxes or labels; we needed the whole thing kept under wraps. All you want to do is reward the locals. If you reveal the name, then you took the prize away, you took the present away. It’s like showing a kid his Christmas presents two days early. You took the joy away. We’ve had people from all over trying to find out the name. I just told everyone “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Lie, deny and counter-accuse. It’s the military way. [Buck is a former airborne infantryman, who took part in the 1989 mission to apprehend Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.]
On the perks of operating in Biloxi:
We’re right across from the beach, and the team hotel is 100 steps away. We’ve got night life, gambling, clubs, concerts, shows and everything else. This is a good destination. Teams are going to like coming here. We’re going to have the best home record in the league, because the guys on the visiting team, they’ll all have sunburn and will be tired from having spent the night at the casinos.
So what do you think of the “Shuckers” name? Your feedback is always welcome, via whichever medium you might choose to deliver it.
Greetings from the Huntsville Holiday Inn. It is late at night, so late that I just threw caution to the wind and got a package of Hickory Smoked Beef Sticks and a Mello Yello from the vending machines. The slogan on this beef stick package says “Taste the Magic” but as of yet I have not been able to discern what’s so magical about Lactic Acid Starter Culture and Hydrolyzed Soy Protein.
And did you know that Elvis once stayed in this hotel? I bet you didn’t. It was on May 30, 1975, according to a plaque in the lobby. The Huntsville police stopped by his room and presented him with an honorary badge, which surely must have ranked among the top billion moments of Elvis’ life.
This is what happens at 2:09 in the morning — I start to ramble. But my main purpose in crafting yet another blog post is to post some pictures of my evening at the Huntsville Stars game. The Stars went down in defeat to the Mobile BayBears, with former facial hair cult celebrity Josh Collmenter earning the win.
But I am not concerned with game results, I am concerned with game experience. And while Huntsville’s Joe W. Davis Stadium is one of the less-inspiring facilities in the Southern League, I enjoy visiting here. One of the reasons is the chance to talk to GM Buck Rogers and his wife (and assistant GM) Babs, who are adept at creating memorable promotions and surreal moments (some of you may remember my last visit here, which was highlighted by an on-field sword swallowing).
I wrote an MiLB.com article on Buck, which can be found HERE. Here he is in his cluttered office, which he claims will be cleaned very shortly:
The evening’s quite ridiculous promotion was that anyone flashing the “pitching sign” of five fingers and then four fingers would receive admission for 54 cents. This deal was in conjunction with local TV station Fox 54, and resulted in a nice walk-up crowd:
I am now the proud owner of an XXL “Thirst Aid Thursday” t-shirt, which features a picture of a keg and the words “I’d Tap That”. I’d include a picture, except the shirt is currently residing on the passenger seat of my rented Mercedes-Benz with Texas plates (I’m not going to get tired of writing that).
What I can include is this picture of the stadium rules, written in NASA-inspired outer-space font (in deference to Huntsville’s prominence in the aerospace industry). Although cut off slightly, note that rule #6 prohibits fans from bringing “nukes” into the stadium.
Here’s another NASA-inspired sign, this one advising fans to keep an eye on the field of play. Also, there appears to be a ghostly skull hovering in the lower right hand corner:
I wandered around the spacious stadium throughout the first half of the ballgame, taking pictures. Some of these pictures shall now appear below, for your perusing enjoyment:
And, of course, the obligatory concession menu:
Being the discerning gourmand that I am (see opening paragraph), I opted to visit two specialty stands. At one I procured a lemonade, and at the other boiled peanuts. I am of the firm belief that boiled peanuts should be purchased wherever they are an option.
Finally, I am very pleased to report that for the second time in as many days I was recognized at a ballpark by a baseball civilian. In this instance it was Stars’ season ticket holder Darrell Carmichael, who sent an email after the game that concluded “you keep posting and I’ll keep reading.”
Sounds like a deal to me! Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, as I really do appreciate it. And now, having tasted the magic, I am off to bed.
See you tomorrow, Chattanooga.