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

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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