Tagged: Mississippi Braves 2015

On the Road: Keeping It Simple in Mississippi

To see all posts from my August 2, 2015 visit to the Mississippi Braves (this is Part Three) 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!

This is Steven Ericson, a geography professor at the University of Alabama and a big fan of Minor League Baseball.

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I had known Steven for several years in the virtual realm, through Twitter (@geoSteven) as well as his baseball-centric “My Geography Lessons” blog. But it wasn’t until this August afternoon at TrustMark Park that I met him in physical form. He had made the trip from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Pearl, Mississippi to serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

When it comes to concessions, the Mississippi Braves take an “only the basics” approach. In previous seasons they’d experimented with regional items like catfish sandwiches, but they didn’t sell well enough to justify the effort. So what Steven and I were left with on this scorching Sunday afternoon was an array of the familiar — hot dogs, burgers, pizza (from Domino’s) and the like.

022After much gnashing of teeth regarding how to make a bland situation interesting, we simply decided to take a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Steven, therefore, ordered a hot dog ($3) and topped it with Heinz yellow mustard. He didn’t do a very good job in making it look appetizing, however. I was like “C’mon, dude. This hot dog is gonna appear on the internet!”

038Before sitting down to enjoy his hot dog, Steven and I had our photos taken at the iSnap machine installed on the concourse.

Steven has at it:

The quote that I have from Steven regarding his hot dog-eating experience doesn’t really make sense. Maybe I wrote it down wrong.

“It’s average,” he said. “A slice of Americana encased in Americana by enjoying a hot dog at a baseball game. But, yeah, it’s just a hot dog.”

As mentioned in the above Vine video, Steven had obtained an Oxford Brewing Company “Sorority Blonde Ale” along with his hot dog. I didn’t take a picture of it, but I did take a picture of Steven taking a picture of it. He was going to post his photo on Untappd, an app presumably named by a drunk person.

040“It’s very smooth and mellow, a very tasty beer,” said Steven, of the Sorority Blonde Ale. “But it’s not as good as Hipster Repellent IPA.”

Hipster Repellent IPA: a thing that exists.

A hot dog does not a blog post make — I have a crocheted saying to this effect hanging in my bedroom — so Steven and I headed back to the concession stands. The stand offering nachos in a full-size helmet was already closed, or “Na-closed,” as it were, so he opted for a gyro. That’s pretty unique, right? A gyro at a baseball game? We were trying our best.
043Steven, eating a gyro while standing alone on concrete.

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Uh, that’s boring. Steven, how about you sing about your gyro to the tune of “Wind Beneath My Wings”?

“It’s really warm. Good. Hot,” said Steven, hopefully referring to the gyro. “A mix of lamb and fresh provolone cheese. It kind of tastes like a Philly cheesesteak in a pita.”

I, meanwhile, took the opportunity to purchase an M-Braves collector’s cup. I did this to placate the #cupdate fiends out there, who harbor an unceasing desire to gaze upon images such as these.

IMG_0129While Steven and I didn’t have too much to talk about on the food side of things, we did engage in an interesting discussion about the field of geography and how it relates to Minor League Baseball. After a while, I had a realization: Why not turn this conversation into an MiLB.com story? So I took out my phone, hit record on the voice memo, and conducted a formal interview. THIS was the result.

CaptureSteven Ericson, Mississippi Braves designated eater turned MiLB.com superstar. It could happen to you, it could happen to anyone. Life is unpredictable.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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On the Road: Meandering through a Sunday afternoon in Mississippi

To see all posts from my August 2, 2015 visit to the Mississippi Braves (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!

Okay, so where was I? Oh, right. I was where I often am: wandering around at the start of a Minor League ballgame. This particular ballgame was taking place at TrustMark Park in Pearl, Mississippi, home of the Mississippi Braves. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the game-time temperature was a little over 100 degrees. Nothing new to me — I bring the heat everywhere I go.

The M-Braves, like a lot of teams in the South, don’t draw particularly well on Sundays. Church may be air-conditioned, but the ballpark definitely isn’t. TrustMark Park has 5400 fixed seats and a max capacity of 8000, but on this particular afternoon there was plenty of room in which to move.

021While wandering the concourse I discovered this iSnap photo booth. Fans can have their picture taken, for free, and then immediately have it emailed to them and/or posted on the social media platform of their choice.

023I decided to give it a try, though I clearly wasn’t ready when the picture was taken. That tomahawk in the background was driven straight through my skull.

Moving on to the picnic area, I was reminded that, despite the heat, it was a beautiful day.

025Now here’s something I’d never seen before. The M-Braves took what had been a secondary team store and converted it into the Season Ticket Holders Concierge.

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Season ticket holders can come here to get that day’s free gift, obtain a snack or a drink, or simply luxuriate in the air conditioning.

028The Farm Bureau Grill, located in right field, is open for lunch on game days as well as during the game itself.

030Above the entrance to the Grill, one can find a collection of Southern League team caps. Note that the Pensacola Blue Wahoos cap was placed directly atop the team they replaced in the league, the Carolina Mudcats.

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Upstairs, in this double suite, some longtime season-ticket holders were enjoying their comfortable surroundings. I felt like I was peeking into somebody’s living room.

033My visit to the suite was followed by a brief visit to the press box.

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The view from above is similar to the view below. Why wouldn’t it be?

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I was told that the sun sets behind third base at all Atlanta-owned Minor League franchises (Danville, Rome, Mississippi, Gwinnett). This mirrors the conditions at Turner Field.

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The above photo was taken later in the ballgame, after I had spent a few innings with that afternoon’s designated eater (to be detailed in the next post). Tyler Jones was warming up for the M-Braves in the bullpen, as Louisiana native Bryton Bertrand Trepagnier looked on.

047Nothing gets fans excited for late-inning Minor League Baseball quite like a strong dose of Lil Jon over the PA system.

Neither Jones nor Trepagnier got into the game, which the M-Braves won by a score of 4-3 over the Tennessee Smokies.

049The game was played in a comparatively crisp two hours and 35 minutes, leaving me with barely enough time to compose, record and disseminate my groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day.

With the ballgame complete, kids ran the bases as water shot across the grass in programmed arcs. The sun had set on yet another day at the ballpark.

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On the Road: The Land of the Braves in Mississippi

To see all posts from my August 2, 2015 visit to the Mississippi Braves (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!

As I approached TrustMark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves, the sounds of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” could be heard wafting from within. The ballpark sure looked like paradise at that moment, or at least as close to paradise as a shopping center in suburban Mississippi is ever gonna get.

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003The Mississippi Braves play in the paradise that is Pearl. This central Mississippi metropolis has a population of approximately 25,000, but the M-Braves also draw on communities such as Jackson, the neighboring state capitol. Trustmark Park was built in 2005, in conjunction with a mammoth Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store. Only a vast expanse of asphalt separates the two.

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Bass Pro Shop, towering in the distance

Upon entering the stadium, this was the view to my left.

006And this, the view to my right. From the M-Braves’ inaugural 2005 season through 2014 they were the only Minor League team in Mississippi. That changed this season with the arrival of the Biloxi Shuckers. The Shuckers are abundant in oyster imagery, yet the M-Braves are the ones in Pearl.

007Since that debut season 2005, many M-Braves have gone on to play in the Majors. At the time I visited, this number stood at 99. Most of these M-Braves, of course, have gone on to the A-Braves.

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Many of these M-Braves also spent time with the D-Braves (Rookie-level Danville), R-Braves (Class A Rome and, also, now-defunct Triple-A Richmond) and the G-Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett). The Braves are, by far, the most boring organization in baseball. They own all (but one) of their Minor League affiliates, and when they own a team they name it the Braves while also injecting it with a strong dose of inherent conservatism. May their model never catch on.

Shortly after arriving at the stadium, I made my way to the vertically-inclined abode of M-Braves broadcaster Kyle Tait.

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In the above picture, you may be able to see that the grass on the field is not quite up to “Paradise City” standards. Kyle explained that the team had received no rain whatsoever in July, and hadn’t experienced a rainout since June. Persistent dryness is not good for grass. There’s research out there that backs this up.

After saying a tearful goodbye to Kyle I met M-Braves media relations manager Miranda Black, who showed me around the stadium. This cozy area, also known as the home clubhouse, is one such area that I was shown.

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It’s been a season of transition for the Atlanta Braves organization, and as a result of various wheelings and dealings the M-Braves experienced a tremendous amount of roster turnover. Roster turnover necessitates a great deal of logistical maneuvering on the part of the front office staff, such as scheduling photo sessions for the new arrivals.

014I spotted this sign hanging in the weight room, hoping against hope that I would be able to find any sort of spelling or grammatical error. You win this round, Braves.

017As the result of a partnership with the Mississippi lottery, that day’s winning numbers are posted in the clubhouse hallways. I can’t think of what else this would be.

018Meanwhile, out on the field, a ballgame had begun. The M-Braves were hosting the Montgomery Biscuits, whom I had seen play in Montgomery the night before. The game time temperature was a sultry 102 degrees, decidedly not paradise-like conditions.

021And thus concludes part one of this M-Braves blogging saga. Part two will be similar to part one, but the subtle differences between them will delight, confound and educate the discerning reader in equal measure.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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About Last Night: Mississippi Braves, August 2, 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 2, 2015: Trustmark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves 

Opponent: Montgomery Biscuits, 5:00 p.m. game time.

Trustmark Park, from the outside: 

003Trustmark Park, from within: 

021Culinary Creation: Uh, here’s a hot dog with mustard. What more do you want?

038Ballpark Character: Me. Why not? This was taken on the concourse, via an iSnap photo booth.
isnap1At Random: It’s been a while, so here’s a #Cupdate:

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Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Next Up: 

Jackson Generals: 8/3

Nashville Sounds: 8/5

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

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