Tagged: Jackson Generals 2015

Return to the Road: I Went to Jackson, and That’s a Natural Fact

On August 2 I visited the Mississippi Braves, who play outside of Jackson, Mississippi. I bypassed that particular Jackson entirely, however, in favor of its Tennessee counterpart. Jackson, Tennessee, is perhaps best known in pop culture via the country duet “Jackson“, an exemplar of marital dysfunction and misplaced masculine confidence. The tune wasn’t written with any particular Jackson in mind but has since become most associated with Tennessee. In 1967 it was recorded by both Johnny and June Carter Cash and Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra. Both versions are stellar (though make me choose one and it’ll be Nancy and Lee every time).

After witnessing August 3’s Jackson Generals game, I had a little time to poke around the next afternoon before moving on to Nashville. So, I poked. Said poking soon brought me to the Madison County Courthouse; the monument seen on the right is dedicated “To the CONFEDERATE DEAD of Madison Co.”

IMG_0145On the courthouse lawn stands my favorite historical plaque of all time. It made me laugh for a couple minutes straight, and over the last six months it has continued to make me laugh at semi-regular intervals.

IMG_0150The First United Methodist Church, which boasts an interesting history, is located nearby.

IMG_0153It was now (past) lunchtime. I needed to get a meal in Jackson before heading out of the city. The West Alley BBQ and Smokehouse was just a short walk away; how could I argue with that?

IMG_0158I stopped by West Alley on a Tuesday afternoon, and the place was nearly deserted. This certainly looks like more of a late-night, party-oriented live music kind of environment. I wish I could have experienced it as such.

IMG_0155Nonetheless, the atmosphere was very welcoming. The waitress, a young African-American woman whose name I unfortunately cannot recall, pulled up a seat next to me and made various menu recommendations while asking where I was from and what had brought me there.

I went with the rib platter.

IMG_0156West Alley only has 11 Yelp reviews and 13 on TripAdvisor, so from an internet-based perspective it’s a bit of an unknown. But the guest book was loaded with accolades from out-of-town guests, and I was happy to add my own.  IMG_0157After making my feelings known, I had to split.

IMG_0159Goodbye, Jackson.

IMG_0160And hello, open road. Soon enough, I found myself at one of our nation’s greatest rest areas.

IMG_0162I also ended up in traffic next to Ted Cruz’s tour bus. This marked the only time in my life in which I was to the right of Ted Cruz.

IMG_0163Somewhere on the way to Nashville, there was a massive AT&T outage. My destination had been (predictably) a local record store, but with maps and internet down on my phone I had no idea how to get there. It made me feel like a helpless baby, unable to function in a world without a smartphone, and served as a reminder to always have my destination written down as well as a supply of relevant maps.

While aimlessly driving around the city’s downtown, I stopped outside of the Tennessee Titans’ Nissan Stadium to recalibrate. I don’t find stadiums, they find me.

IMG_0164Finally, after much trial and error, I made it to my location: Grimey’s Records (and the adjacent Grimey’s Too).

IMG_0166At Grimey’s I met Tyler Glaser, who was to be my designated eater at the following evening’s Nashville Sounds game. But, prior to that, he had set up a visit to Jack White’s Third Man Records. That will be detailed in the next post in this series.

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On the Road: An Early Evening Late Night Snack in Jackson

To see all posts from my August 3, 2015 visit to the Jackson Generals (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The last time I visited the Jackson Generals, in June 2012, I ran a photo of myself holding a Yuengling beer. This photo, I remarked, had “a personal significance that I’ll explain at a later date.”

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The “personal significance” was that this was the last beer that I ever ordered at a ballpark. Earlier that month I had been diagnosed with celiac disease; my late June 2012 trip through the South represented the last time that I would ever eat and drink at a ballpark without concern for said food and drink being gluten-free. The following month I ran a post announcing that I had celiac disease, and the first “designated eater” (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet now prohibits) appeared on the blog at the tail end of that 2012 season.

I now have a designated eater at every ballpark that I visit. At August 3’s Generals game, that individual was a man named Bob Sanders.

030Bob, who works for a Memphis-based claims management company, is a life-long baseball fan who enjoys collecting autographs at Minor League games. His passion for this hobby began in the mid-’80s, when he would attend games at the Memphis Chicks’ home of Tim McCarver Stadium. (The Chicks moved to Jackson in 1998 and became the Generals.) Bob attended the ballgame along with Abigail, his 10-year-old daughter, and Barry, a friend, fellow autograph collector and former Memphis Chicks clubhouse manager.

Amid the usual array of ballpark staples, the Generals offer a few unique items. Most unique — and certainly the most outlandish — is “Sarge’s Late Night Snack.” This sandwich, named after the mascot’s alleged nocturnal food cravings, consists of a quarter pound burger topped with barbecue pork, bacon, Philly steak, and white queso.

“Sarge’s Late Night Snack,” added to the menu in 2015 by new manager of catering and concessions Eric Kormanik, is available at the concourse grill. It’s got a hefty price tag ($14, if my nearly indecipherable notes are to be believed), and the menu posted by the grill offers no details as to what it contains. You have to be very curious or already in the know, criteria that applies to all of the best things in life.

Here’s grillmaster Eric Spencer, standing in front of the array of meat that will soon become Sarge’s Late Night Snack.

026Eric said that he enjoys a “Sarge’s Late Night Snack” on occasion, though he can’t eat it in one sitting. He also doubts Sarge’s ability to eat his namesake item, since he “doesn’t move his mouth.”

After Bob hit the fixins bar, Sarge’s Late Night Snack was ready for its close-up.

029Have at it, Bob.

“It’s actually a pretty good combo. I’m serious,” said Bob. “You actually get the different flavors. The burger’s at the bottom, that’s the first taste, and then the other meats. Definitely, the cheese holds everything together. It makes it a lot easier. Though, this is not something that a dainty person should eat. It’s a manly meal.”

“He’s almost never impressed,” said Abigail, clearly surprised that her Dad was giving Sarge’s Late Night Snack a positive review. She then gave it a try herself.

032“Yum,” said Abigail.

Barry, Memphis Chicks clubbie turned Memphis-area teacher, was then persuaded to give Sarge’s Late Night Snack a try. He did so after Bob said something along the lines of “Hey, you’re single again, might as well get yourself out there.”

Indeed, this would make for an excellent online dating profile picture.

035“That’s pretty good,” he said. “The peppers and onions, that’s my first taste.”

Next up: Barbecue Nachos.

028Like the Sarge’s Late Night Snack, these nachos are another Eric Kormanik creation (not to be confused with Eric Spencer, grillmaster). Eric K. reports that the barbecue pork is courtesy of Jackson-based Cajun Cookers, who deliver the meat, already seasoned, in Cryovac bags.

Here’s Bob as he prepares to enjoy a nacho, with Eric standing proudly beside him.

039“It’s definitely more of a Southern barbecue flavor,” said Bob. “It’s not the Rendezvous [Barbecue Nachos, made famous by the Memphis Redbirds], but it’s a lot better than what Memphis has now. But I would like the option of dry rub.”

As a reference point, here’s a circa-2012 photo of the Memphis Redbirds’ famous Rendezvous Barbecue Nachos. These are the ballpark barbecue nachos against which all other ballpark barbecue nachos are judged.

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Abigail sampled the nachos as well, offering a review even more succinct than her first.

040“When she ignores you and keeps eating, it’s generally a good sign,” said Bob.

Next, and last, was a bacon-wrapped pork chop on a stick served on a bed of beans, rice and sausage.

042I cannot confirm with complete certainty that the above item is gluten-free, as Eric was not sure about what was contained in the sauce. However, I could not resist giving this a try. Eat now, die later.

043The bacon-wrapped pork chop did not kill me, though perhaps it did bring me closer to death. My notes, barely decipherable as usual, report that the pork chop was a little dry, but that it “mixed well with the bacon, complementary flavors.” The beans and rice, meanwhile, were “well-spiced and flavorful.”

“Well-spiced and flavorful” — just like every post that I create for this, the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time. Thank you, as always, for supporting (or at least tolerating) the greatness.

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On the Road: 126 Minutes of Baseball in Jackson

To see all posts from my August 3, 2015 visit to the Jackson Generals (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

It is now time to resume this Monday night narrative, which involves a game between the Jackson Generals and visiting Chattanooga Lookouts that took place on August 3. It was a beautiful evening for Southern League baseball at the Ballpark in Jackson.

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Unfortunately, not many people were on hand to witness this beautiful evening of Southern League baseball at The Ballpark in Jackson. Not only was it a Monday night, but it was the first day of school for Jackson-area youngsters. August 3! The first day of school!

While I’m sure there are valid reasons for the increasingly around-the-clock nature of the educational year, it just seems wrong and un-American for kids to be back in class in early August. Therefore, I am of the belief that Minor League Baseball’s legal counsel in Washington should start lobbying for the restoration of the traditional three-month summer vacation. Young fans shouldn’t have to leave a game early because it’s bedtime, as this is a traumatic experience that can do severe damage to the psyche of a developing mind.

Perhaps the players had these new school year time constraints in mind, as the Generals cruised to a 2-1 victory over the Lookouts in a contest that took just two hours and six minutes. Due to such brevity, I was not able to wander The Ballpark at Jackson to the extent that I would have liked. By the time I finished meeting with my designated eater (this will be detailed in the next post), it was the sixth inning and the sun was setting beyond the third base side of the stadium.

031Though time was limited, I did witness some interesting between-inning elements. This picture depicts the aftermath of some sort of onfield Pac-Man race, which featured Pac-Man, ghosts and young fans chasing one another. The denizens of the visitors bullpen were mildly amused, at best.
038And while I was not able to document it properly, at one point I saw a “Simba Cam”, in which parents triumphantly held up their children ala The Lion King. Trevor Gooby would have approved.

And then there was the “Oblivious Cam,” in which the camera is trained on a fan in the stands until he or she actually realizes it.

041Late in the game I paid a visit to the broadcast booth, currently the domain of Brandon Leibhaber (left) and Chris Kleinhans-Schulz (other left).

044I spent an inning on the air with Brandon, who appears to have merged his head into another man’s shoulder.

050Brandon and Chris just may be “The Most Interesting Broadcasters in the Southern League.”

051I also made a brief cameo in the press box, which reminded me of my 2012 visit to Jackson. In this press box, more than three years ago, I interviewed bus driver Thomas “Double T” Tansil for a story on the team’s unorthodox celebration of the first-half title.

048As the game was winding down, I devised and disseminated my requisite “Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day.”

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Finally, I interviewed Generals security guard Jimmy Barnes. (Barnes appeared in the previous post as well, driving myself and mascot Sarge on to the field in a vintage military Jeep.)

054Barnes, a Jackson native and lifelong fan of the hometown team, has become an iconic figure at the ballpark. As detailed in my MiLB.com story, there is a Jimmy Barnes Fan Club (which has yet to officially meet), and between-inning contestants sometimes receive an autographed photo of Jimmy as a consolation prize.

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The Jimmy Barnes

As I finished up my interview with “The Jimmy Barnes”, “The Jackson Generals” wrapped up their lightning quick victory over “The Chattanooga Lookouts.”

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So that will be it for me, “The Ben’s Biz.” Thanks for reading this post, and thanks for reading every post. There’s more where this came from, because there always is.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: A Return Trip to the Ballpark in Jackson

To see all posts from my August 3, 2015 visit to the Jackson Generals (this is Part One) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The last time I visited the Jackson Generals, in 2012, the team called Pringles Park home. These days, the Generals play at a facility with a less corporate, yet somehow more awkward, name: The Ballpark at Jackson.

It’s the same ballpark, though. Only the name has changed.
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The Ballpark at Jackson is located east of downtown, with convenient access from interstate 40. There are a couple of hotels in the general vicinity, as well as a movie theater, high school and adjacent “Sportsplex.” But, on the whole, this is a ballpark that exists in comparative isolation from other attractions. Such is the price of convenience.

001Upon entering the stadium, my first impression (or my second first impression, since I had been before) was that it is high and steep. There are no seats  that are higher than the concourse (outside of the suites and a group picnic area), and the slope downward to the playing field is rather severe. At this ballpark, the general feeling is of being above it all. 

008“General” admission.

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On the concourse, I ran into my good friend Sarge. He was wearing camo, as he is wont to do, a get-up befitting a mascot who represents the Generals. He’s a three-star general, apparently. I wonder if not washing his uniform increases his rank (odor).

014When Minor League Baseball returned to Jackson in 1998, the team was known as the “Diamond Jaxx.” I’d like to think that this name was in honor of a West Tennessee-based pro wrestling tag team, but, then again, I like to think a lot of things. The “Generals” moniker was adopted in 2011, in homage to the Kitty (short for Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee) League franchise of the same name that existed from 1935 through 1954. But I do not know why that team, the original Generals, was named “The Generals” in the first place. Perhaps someone can enlighten me and, by extension, us.

Anyhow, after getting the thumbs-up from Sarge, he and I went outside and rendezvoused with security guard Jimmy Barnes. It was time for Sarge’s nightly Jeep ride onto the playing field; Barnes, a retired veteran well-versed in the operation of vintage military vehicles, serves as his chauffeur.

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I’m glad it wasn’t me driving this thing. I probably would have crashed it immediately upon hitting the gas pedal.

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I did have the honor of riding shotgun, however.

A view from the Jeep:

017Soon after our ride was completed, line-up cards were exchanged. During this time, I noticed (and made note of) a slogan that was displayed on the videoboard: “See them now to say you saw them then.” I like that.

020The line-up exchange was followed by the singing of our National Anthem. Everything was proceeding according to plan.

021And then — bam! — game time.

024By now, you probably now how this works. There’ll be much more to come from Jackson.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Jackson Generals, August 3, 2015

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll be writing an on-the-spot blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, upon my return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, even love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

August 3, 2015:  The Ballpark at Jackson, home of the Jackson Generals

Opponent: Chattanooga Lookouts, 7:05 p.m. game time.

The Ballpark at Jackson, from the outside: 

003The Ballpark at Jackson, from within: 

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Culinary Creation: Sarge’s Late Night Snack (1/4 pound burger topped with barbecue pork, bacon, Philly steak, white queso, onion, lettuce, tomato and pickle).

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Ballpark Characters: Sarge and security guard Jimmy Barnes, preparing to drive out onto the field before the game.

015 At Random: Pac-Man, four children and a blue ghost walk past the visitor’s bullpen.

038Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Next Up: 

Desultory Wandering: 8/4

Nashville Sounds: 8/5

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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