Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

On the Road: Hanks for the Memories in Mobile

To see all posts from my July 31, 2015 visit to the Mobile BayBears (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 Hank Aaron Stadium, the home of the Mobile BayBears, Hank Aaron himself was in attendance. The year was 2010, and the occasion was the opening of the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum. The name of this new attraction was nothing if not accurate, as the BayBears had relocated Hank’s childhood home (he grew up in Mobile) to the stadium grounds, renovated it, and stuffed it with memorabilia from throughout his long career.

A cavalcade of baseball A-listers were on hand for this gala opening occasion. This photo, which I took after emerging bruised and bloodied from within a harrowing media scrum, includes Bob Feller, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Reggie Jackson, Aaron and Rickey Henderson. Bud Selig was also in attendance, as was Willie Mays(!). I may never be in such close proximity to baseball royalty again, at least until I am named King of Baseball 2051, and I myself am baseball royalty.

hofersOn that evening, I secured one-one-one interviews with Feller (RIP), Selig and Henderson. I was rebuffed by Reggie Jackson, however, who put his hand over my Flip Cam (remember those?) and slowly pushed it down without ever once making eye contact or speaking directly to me. The guy who Jackson was standing next to at the time — a D-backs front-office exec, if I remember correctly — felt embarrassed and tried to make small talk with me so that I wouldn’t feel like a total chump. Which I was. Which I am.

All of those memories came flooding back this past July 31, when I made a return trip to Mobile. On this evening, no Hall of Famers were in attendance. It was just a Friday night at the ballpark.

002The Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum, open during all games, is to the right of the facility proper.

003Hank Aaron Stadium opened in 1997, and it is now, somewhat improbably, the oldest stadium in the Southern League. Attendance has dipped in recent seasons, at least partially due to the opening of new ballparks in nearby Pensacola and, now, Biloxi.

The most unique design feature of the stadium — and, in my opinion, not a very good one — is that the suites are on the ground level.


The suite entrances are lined up along the field-facing side of the concourse.

023This means that everyone who is not in a suite has to take the stairs to the upper level. There’s nothing wrong with walking up a flight of stairs — it’s good exercise! — but operationally speaking, it’s awkward for there to be a disconnect between where most fans are located and many of the places they are likely to want to be (concessions, restrooms, team store, etc).


Here’s the “Upwardly Mobile” view, from the last row of the stadium.

007And here’s the view in the other direction. Hank Aaron Stadium is located in an indistinct portion of the city, surrounded by chain stores and shopping centers and the like.

008Back down on the aisle, I ran into an anthropomorphic cup. (Too bad Reggie wasn’t back in town, as he could have been the straw that stirs the drink.)

010And then it was back to the concourse.

This photo, it’s no good. But file under “Good idea that other teams should steal.” Honor thy gameday staff, always!

014I stared at this ad for a while and could not determine weather or not it was grammatically correct.


This was the vantage point as I approached the berm from the left field side of the stadium. It looks to be a par four.


I do like this approach to berm seating — optional and endlessly rearrangeable.

018Meanwhile, on the field, the players were involved in an elaborate interpretive dance routine.

020It was Faith Night at the ballpark, and a decent-sized crowd had begun to get settled into their second-level seats. (And while I am a proponent of faith, I am definitely not a proponent of the insipid, lobotomized Christian pop songs that always seem to soundtrack Faith Night promotions. A deep, abiding, soul-fulfilling belief in a higher power should not be mutually exclusive with having decent taste in music).

But that’s enough of my sermonizing. The game had begun. Mascot Teddy had settled in, presumably so that he could read this series of Mobile BayBears posts. That’ll do it for this one, but more will soon follow. The season never ends.


About Last Night: Portland Sea Dogs, September 4, 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 presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

September 4, 2015:  Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox)

Opponent: New Britain Red Sox, 7:05 p.m. start time

Hadlock Field, from the outside: 

004Hadlock Field, from within: 

IMG_0431Culinary Creation: Maine Lobster Roll

041Ballpark Character: Slugger the Sea Dog. He was voguing.


At Random: Why, yes, that is his real name.

062Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

The 2016 season

About Last Night: New Hampshire Fisher Cats, September 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 presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

September 2, 2015:  Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays).

Opponent: Portland Sea Dogs, 6:35 p.m. start time

Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, from the outside: 

012Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, from within: The Hood Milk sign in left field used to be displayed at Fenway Park. The Hilton hotel offers rooms with a ballpark view, and also features an outdoor restaurant from which fans can watch the game.

IMG_0382Culinary Creation: Designated eater Mark Basnett, 12, enjoys a cheeseburger.

026Ballpark Character: Chris Carpenter never pitched for the Fisher Cats, but he is a New Hampshire sports legend. Here, he gives a speech after having his #29 retired by the team.

IMG_0383At Random: 

041Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Next up: 

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

About Last Night: Pawtucket Red Sox, September 1, 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 presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

September 1, 2015:  McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).

Opponent: Lehigh Valley IronPigs, game time 7:05 p.m.

McCoy Stadium, from the outside: 

001McCoy Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0351Culinary Creation: Clam Cakes in a greasy white paper bag (best when dipped in bowl of Blount’s New England Clam Chowder)

040Ballpark Character: Paw Sox director of security Rick Medeiros, author of the “Rollin’ with Rick” blog.

065 At Random: The line score for the “Longest Game in Professional Baseball History” cannot be captured within a single photograph.

017Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: You know, because there was a long “Paws” before I said his name. Since I feel the need to explain this one, you know it didn’t work.

Next up: 

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

About Last Night: Lowell Spinners, August 31, 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 presumed return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and, perhaps, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

August 31, 2015:  LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners (Class A Short-Season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).

Opponent: Hudson Valley Renegades, game time 7:05

LeLacheur Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0416LeLacheur Park, from within: 

IMG_0328Culinary Creation: Rail good food: pizza, fries and a steak and cheese sub.

IMG_0450Ballpark Character: The one and only Dogman.

IMG_0464At Random: Happy birthday to Spinners general manager Tim Bawmann, who turned 50 on Monday. Here, as part of a pre-game ritual, he hugs his son Elijah. IMG_0420Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: One day, all of America will recognize my genius.

Next Up: 

9/1: Pawtucket Red Sox

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs

About Yesterday Afternoon: New Britain Rock Cats, August 30, 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

August 30, 2015:  New Britain Stadium, home of the New Britain Rock Cats (Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies)

Opponent: Portland Sea Dogs, game time 1:35

New Britain Stadium, from the outside:

001New Britain Stadium, from within: 

IMG_0309Culinary Creation: This was the last game in New Britain Stadium history, as the team is moving to Hartford in 2016. This special occasion, coupled with the advent of my designated eater having to cancel, led to the decision to not focus on food this afternoon. So, this is the best I got.

IMG_0312Ballpark Character: New Britain staple Al Nelson, 88, who rode his bike to the game.

033At Random: At the team store, pretty much everything was for sale. Want some signage?


Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

8/31: Lowell Spinners

9/1: Pawtucket Red Sox

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs


About Last Night: Connecticut Tigers, August 29, 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, love. Let’s get to it, lest it get to us!

2015 “On the Road” landing page — including complete itinerary — HERE! 

August 29, 2015:  Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers

Opponent: Lowell Spinners, 7:05 p.m. game time

Dodd Stadium, from the outside:

008Dodd Stadium, from within: 

022Culinary Creation: The $11 Broad Street Bully Cheesesteak, from Philly’s cheesesteak stand — “Extra ribeye steak, provolone, fried onions, mushrooms, sweet and hot peppers, pickles, Cheese Whiz.”

052Ballpark Character — A pregame visit with Jean Stott, proprietor of”Stott’s At-Bat” restaurant (and batting cages). Located just down the road from the ballpark, “Stott’s At-Bat” is a favorite spot for players, coaches and staff alike.

003 At Random: Before the game started, I got to throw T-shirts out of this submarine.

IMG_0292Your groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke of the day: Long night, long season

Next Up: 

8/30: New Britain Rock Cats

8/31: Lowell Spinners

9/1: Pawtucket Red Sox

9/2: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

9/4: Portland Sea Dogs


On the Road: Oysters and So Much More in Biloxi

To see all posts from my July 29-30, 2015 visit to the Biloxi Shuckers (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!

Before visiting the Biloxi Shuckers home of MGM Park, there was one thing I was certain of:

There will be oysters.

I mean, if this is your logo, then there better be oysters:

shcuksHowever, I was unprepared for just how much else there was, and I think that you will be as well.

MGM Park’s concessions are overseen by Mike Brulatour, general manager of Ovations Food Services for the Shuckers. On this blog, which I aspire to write in a light-hearted and conversational tone, I usually refer to people by their first name. But I will refer to Mike Brulatour as “Brulatour,” because it’s a cool-sounding surname and allows us to imagine him as some sort of all-powerful Minor League food god. The Mighty Brulatour!

Brulatour had previously held a similar position with the Memphis Redbirds (whom I visited in 2012), where Barbecue Nachos are king.

“In Memphis, we claimed that we were the only ballpark where hot dogs weren’t number one,” he said.

It should come as no surprise that, under Brulatour’s watchful eye, the Shuckers offer their own take on this Memphis specialty: Shuckers Barbecue Nachos. The cheese sauce is actually made in Memphis, while the pulled pork is local (more on that in a moment).

045For comparison’s here are the “Rendezvous Barbecue Nachos” that were on offer when I visited the Redbirds’ home of AutoZone Park (Brulatour was my tour guide there as well).


The Shuckers’ iteration is the result of a partnership with The Shed, a barbecue joint in nearby Ocean Springs. Here, The Shed co-owner Brad Orrison poses alongside his ballpark kiosk with his three “Little Shedheads” (check the shirts).


Alongside me for this food-based juncture of the evening was Cale Merrill, my designated eater (you know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

Oh, Cale. He was so young then, so innocent, so entirely unaware of the culinary challenges that awaited.


Cale, an insurance agent who lives in Gulfport, recently returned to the Mississippi after a stint living in Houston. He’s a proud advocate of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, which he says does not conform to the rural backwoods stereotypes that are often associated with the state. Cale’s also proud of his alma mater, collegiate baseball powerhouse Mississippi State University.

“You’re not gonna find bigger baseball fans than MSU, and don’t let LSU tell you something different,” he said. “You can print that.”

Cale is also a fan of the Shuckers, of course, whom he embraced as soon as they arrived.

“In the South, being outside in the Summer is what it’s all about,” he said.

And as for the Shuckers barbecue nachos?

“The pork is delicious, not just run-of-the-mill,” said Cale. “I like the sweet sauce. I’m not a mustard or vinegar-y kind of person. I’ve always loved [The Shed’s] food.”

Next up: Po’Boys.

049Here’s the Shrimp Po’Boy, with remoulade sauce, which Cale immediately stripped of all vegetable matter. Cale is kind of a picky eater.


And here’s the team’s Oyster Po’Boy, in its natural state.

051Fortunately, Cale’s college buddy Turner was able to lend a helping hand with this (and many other) concession items. Turner lived in Washington D.C. for the past four years, but returned to the Biloxi area to help manage a casino construction project.


“What you’re eating was fished out of these waters yesterday,” said Brulatour, just before the above photo was taken. He also noted that the Po’ Boy sandwiches utilize “good to the last crumb” bread from New Orleans-based Ladenheimer Bread Company.

Cale said that he’s “Not a huge Po’Boy fan” and that he “doesn’t do lettuce.” Turner, perhaps more well-versed on the subject, said that “these are as good as you’ll find anywhere.”

Meanwhile, did you know that Barq’s Root Beer was founded in Biloxi?

“The people here drink it like it’s going out of style,” said Brulatour.

Therefore, it was imperative that Barq’s be served at the ballpark.


Cale, clearing the palate with a Barq’s Root Beer float.

055Next up was a Pimento and Cheese Burger with house-made chips, which Brulatour had procured from the Beacon Grill.

“It’s not frozen,” he said. “We use fresh meat, and you can tell.”


“With pimento cheese, you can’t go wrong,” said Turner, again ably assisting in concession consumption. “I don’t understand why it’s not used more. I’ve never seen it on a burger, and it’s great.”

Brulatour, meanwhile, was plotting his next move. This is the only photo I have of him.

057His next move, in this case, was the centerpiece of the Shuckers oeuvre. 

Aw, Shucks.

058At Aw Shucks, one can get fresh oysters, fresh off of the grill. The oysters, provided by local Crystal Seas Seafood, are shucked offsite, shrink-wrapped and delivered to the stadium. This makes sense from an operational standpoint — on-site shucking would require additional space and resources — but it was disappointing to find out that no actual shucking goes on during a Shuckers game. I was naive enough to believe that it might.

This Vine appears to have been shot in reverse, I have no idea how that came to be.

The Aw Shucks Grill also features, among other things, Bayou Jambalaya served in a helmet. Cale enjoyed some.

060But those oysters! Though pricey ($15 for 8), these garlic butter bivalves are one of the best things I’ve ever seen (and tasted) at a Minor League Baseball game. They are served “on the fly” (as in “atop a Frisbee”) and accompanied by a hunk of French bread. In deference to my gluten-free reality, we forwent the French bread.

IMG_0036Usually I do a “designated eater checks in” Vine at the beginning of a post. Better late than never.

The Aw Shucks grill also features boudin, a Cajun specialty which is, essentially, a rice-stuffed pork sausage.

063I couldn’t get immediate confirmation that the boudin was gluten-free. Yet, I tried it. Forgive me, gluten, for I have sinned. Boudin is delicious.

069Meanwhile, Cale and Turner had become inundated with Brulatourian offerings.

071Here, Cale chows down on a “Grilled Chicken Sink” sandwich from the “Shuck and Cluck” chicken stand.

068In this case, I believe that “kitchen sink” can be interpreted to mean “provolone, mushrooms, peppers and onions.”

067“You can tell, they’re very proud of their food here,” said Cale. “I’m not a good judge of the peppers, but there’s a lot of chicken in that sandwich.”

This, meanwhile, appears to be the grilled Italian Sausage.

064And this? This appears to be a different sandwich than the one seen above. I think that it’s the “Brewers Beer Brat,” which, like the sausage, is available at the Home Plate Hot Dogs stand.

066“I’m gonna have nightmares about you,” said Cale to Brulatour. He had reached his limit.

073And yet, the Brula-Tour continued. At this point in the evening, maybe 10 minutes after the above photo had been taken, the game was in a rain delay and the tarp was on the field.


After an impromptu upper-level ballpark tour, Brulatour led us into the Shuckers main kitchen area. This is the domain of head chef Bob Barlow, an old crony of Brulatour from his Memphis days.


Here, Cale, have a cookie. Brulatour said that it’s called “The Royale” and that “its got everything in it.”

089While in the kitchen, we were also presented with deep-fried cheese curds. These, a suite-only delicacy, do not scream “Mississippi Gulf Coast.” But keep in mind that the Shuckers are a Milwaukee affiliate and general manager Buck Rogers is a Wisconsin guy. So, why not?

090But this isn’t Biloxi’s only instance of commercial cheese curd availability. I know this because Buck’s been on the lookout.

With the weather having cleared up and the game ready to resume, Brulatour led us back to the concourse and promptly handed Cale a BBQ Shrimp Pizza.


“Two hours ago, I was sad not to be eating the shrimp pizza,” said Cale. “But now…”

He didn’t even finish his sentence. He looked like he might pass out.

094Brulatour then emerged with a corn dog. Cale had now had all that he could stand. Therefore, he couldn’t stand no more.

“I’m not eating anymore! I’m a small man!” Cale yelled into the unforgiving abyss of night.

He did, however, consent to pose with the corn dog.

093Cale and Turner, both shell-shocked, stood dazedly on the concourse as Brulatour bid them adieu. When I came upon them again, nearly an hour later, they were being regaled by Shuckers GM Buck Rogers with the sort of story that only Buck Rogers can tell. From my notes:

“Buck is talking about drinking beer in Central America to stay hydrated for rabies shots after getting bit by a vampire bat.”

096Despite his fully-stuffed status, Cale was now in good spirits.

“I made a mistake. I ate a bunch of nachos right at the beginning,” he said. “But no regrets. I’d been looking forward to this, and it was first class.”

Cale had survived his brush with the mighty Brulatour, and has the souvenirs to prove it.


On the Road: The Raining Champ in Biloxi

To see all posts from my July 29-30, 2015 visit to the Biloxi Shuckers (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, clickHERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE! 

Part one of this Biloxi blog saga gently deposited us at the door step of game time. In this, part two, we’ll quietly open the door and step inside. The date was July 29th, and the Shuckers were taking on the visiting Jackson Generals in an evening contest at MGM Park.

048Shortly after the game begin, I rendezvoused with designated eater Cale Merrill and director of food and beverage Mike Brulatour. My time with these individuals was extensive, and will be documented in the following blog post. It encompassed the first four innings of the game as well as, inevitably, a rain delay.

082Fans took shelter under a concourse overhang, as they are wont to do.

083Ballpark VIPs, such as daredevil clown Bello Nock, waited out the rain delay from the comfort of a private suite.

084Some fans tired of waiting, and headed out into the Mississippi night via the long, winding, gently sloping exit.

085Finally, the tarp was removed and the game picked off just where it had left off. With normalcy restored, I engaged in conversation with Shuckers ticket executive Kevin Trembley.


Kevin, a 2013 college graduate, is the son of former Baltimore Orioles manager and current Atlanta Braves director of player development Dave Trembley. Kevin has known Shuckers general manager Buck Rogers since he was a kid, when he was a batboy for the turn-of-the-21st century Daytona Cubs.

In those days, Kevin’s dad was the Daytona manager and Buck was the GM. These days, Kevin works in the ticket department by day and serves as on-field emcee by night. There are, most likely, many chapters in his baseball career yet to be written.

Further wanderings brought me to the berm area, where the view was as pleasing as the grass was wet.


My wandering also brought me into contact with a fan by the name of Charlie O’Brien, who was wearing this irreverent and self-deprecating Huntsville Stars shirt. (The Stars, of course, are the team that moved to Biloxi and became the Shuckers.)


This shirt gives an accurate peek into the mindset of Stars fans and front office members during their final years of existence, when they were overseen by an absentee owner and left to languish in a decrepit city-owned facility. Buck Rogers was the general manager there (he moved with the team to Biloxi), and this shirt has “Buck” written all over it.

“This is Huntsville Stars baseball,” the shirt reads. “This ain’t Montgomery and we ain’t perfect. Our ballpark is a train wreck. We have a skunk for a mascot. Out videoboard is shot. But ya’ know what? We don’t care! The drinks are cold and & the ‘dogs are great! Stars fans are my family. And this is my team! 

But wait — there’s more. I’m not gonna transcribe this side, for I am only one man.


When I met Charlie, I assumed that he was a die-hard Stars fan who, like a jilted lover stalking an ex, had come to check out the team’s new digs. But, once again, my assumptions proved unverified. He’s a committed ballpark traveler who chronicles his journeys over at

“I just roll along,” Charlie told me.

And so do I. More accurately, I roll in slow circles around the perimeter of the ballparks I visit.

IMG_0038This picture was aided and abetted by Instagram.

IMG_0041I spent the waning moments of the ballgame speaking with Shuckers co-owner Tim Bennett, who has an interesting story to tell regarding how he got involved with professional baseball and his future goals in the industry. An article based on this conversation is “in the works,” but most likely won’t appear until sometime in September.

106That did it for my evening at the ballpark, with the Shuckers losing to the visiting Jackson Generals by a score of 3-2.

But wait! There’s more!

As an anti-rainout insurance policy, my itinerary included two nights in Biloxi. Shortly after waking up the following morning, I belatedly issued forth a “groundbreaking and subversive” Vine joke.

Unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time exploring Biloxi on this Thursday afternoon, which was largely dedicated to writing this piece on the MGM Park experience. When I returned to the ballpark that evening, this was the scene: Another day, another tarp on the field. It’s just been that kind of season.


I hope that this maintenance vehicle made it through the storm unscathed.

My rain-soaked meanderings eventually brought me to the “Shuckers Shop,” which is overseen by retail manager Babs Rogers. 007Babs is the wife of GM Buck Rogers. The couple’s two daughters — Bree and Holly — work retail for the Shuckers and Babs’ father serves as an usher. For the Rogers family, baseball really is a family affair.

“It’s always been that way,” said Babs. “Back to the days of our daughter doing her homework at the fan assistance desk in Daytona.”

Shuckers merchandise has been a hot commodity in Biloxi, ever since the team name was announced this past offseason. Babs said that this shirt — simple, eye-catching, elegant — has been the number one seller.

005With the tarp still on the field and more bad weather still expected, I had to find ways to pass the time.

For a while I engaged in conversation with usher Mike Steer, a resident of nearby Ocean Springs. He said that his town had plenty to recommend on the culinary front, and then went about recommending it: –

Murky Waters Barbecue: “Get there by 12 if you want the burnt ends,” said Mike. “Get there at 12:05, there ain’t no burnt ends.”

— The Tatonut Donut Shop: “Go there for breakfast. It’s donuts, but they use potato flour.”

Aunt Jenny’s Catfish Restaurant: “All you can eat catfish and shrimp.”

McIlroy’s on the Bayou: “Go there for oysters.”

For the record, I went to Murky Waters for the next day in search of burnt ends. This mission was a success. IMG_0059


I hope to do a series of “Return to the Road” posts in the offseason, chronicling my divers and sundry off-the-field photos and observations. But, for now, let’s get back to this riveting Biloxi Shuckers rain delay.


The Buena Vista Beer Garden is named after the Buena Vista hotel, which once existed where MGM Park now stands.


The hotel opened in 1924 and was destroyed by fire in 1991.

Public domain photo taken from Wikipedia.

Public domain photo taken from Wikipedia.

My wanderings eventually brought me to the press box, where I joined Chris Harris for a radio interview. The game was officially postponed just before our interview began, but this did not postpone our chat.

Chris interviewed me, but I also interviewed him as well. The former Jackson Generals broadcaster has had an eventful year, to say the least. After accepting a job with the Shuckers, he set up the team’s broadcast agreements and then, once the season started, embarked on a 54-game road trip. This epic jaunt was necessitated by MGM Park’s construction schedule, as the facility didn’t open until early June.

011Soon after parting ways with Chris, I parted ways with MGM Park. All that was left to do was make one last stab at my nightly groundbreaking and subversive ballpark joke.

I spent two nights in Biloxi, enduring a rain delay on the first and a rainout on the second. Furthermore, two of the three times I visited Huntsville had resulted in a rainout as well. None of this was lost on Buck, who, the next morning, held a brief ceremony naming the MGM Park tarp after me.

What an honor.

On the Road: The Shucking Begins in Biloxi

To see all posts from my July 29-30, 2015 visit to the Biloxi Shuckers (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! 

Remember last year when I visited Joe Davis Stadium, so that I could see a Huntsville Stars game during what would be their final season? The game got rained out and the whole visit turned out to be a whole lot of not much, but, still, it was a worthwhile endeavor. I’m glad I got the chance to say goodbye.

After the 2014 season, the Stars relocated to Biloxi, Mississippi and rechristened themselves with the bivalve curious moniker of Shuckers. The Shuckers play at MGM Park, a new ballpark located on land owned by MGM and overshadowed by the gambling conglomerate’s Beau Rivage hotel and casino. This would be where I spent my time on the evenings of July 29 and 30.

The above paragraph oversimplified the circumstances of the Shuckers’ 2015 season, as their relocation from Huntsville was anything but smooth. I’ve written about these circumstances ad nauseum, most recently for a piece that ran late last month on

During the first half of the 2015 Southern League season, no team posted a better home record than the Biloxi Shuckers‘ mark of 22-13. This was more than a little improbable, given that the Shuckers didn’t play a game in Biloxi until June 6.

Up until that point, the Shuckers, Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, had played 55 games in locales other than Biloxi. Their “home” games, such as they were, took place in the visiting teams’ ballparks as well as the franchise’s former abode of Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville, Alabama.

But on June 6, that all changed, and it changed in a big way. After myriad budgetary negotiations and corresponding construction delays, MGM Park opened its doors to a crowd of just over 5,000 fans. This marked the first time in some 107 years that Biloxi had hosted a Minor League Baseball team, a void that had persisted since the Biloxi-Gulfport Sand Crabs played their one and only season in 1908.

MGM Park, while open for business, is not a finished product. For proof of this assertion, please view this curated collection of short video images.

Only one entrance to the stadium is currently functional, and much of the exterior perimeter is surrounded by dirt, barricades and divers and sundry construction vehicles. (Sorry, I’ve been reading Don Quixote lately and have been looking for an excuse to incorporate “divers and sundry” into a blog post. It’s just an archaic, and therefore pretentious, way to say “various.”)


This soon-to-be entrance is located directly behind and below the batter’s eye.


Finally, (the royal) we arrive at the main entrance. The stairs lead up and onto the left field side of the concourse.

007While I was admiring this impressive elevation into a new baseball reality, I ran into former Mobile BayBears assistant general manager Mike Callahan. He was accompanied by his daughter, Brittany, who writes the “Talk Baseball to Me” blog (click HERE to read her interview with Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner). Photos were taken, social media was utilized.

I would have loved to join the Callahans for a pre-game daiquiri, as this seemed like a fitting prelude to a ballgame in Biloxi (daiquiri bars are numerous in the city).  But I’m a professional (I kept telling myself), and must forgo tropical drinks until after (or maybe during) the ballgame. Therefore, I entered MGM Park in a state of pristine sobriety and it was in this state that I met the one and only Buck Rogers.

036Buck’s the general manager of the Shuckers, which is the same position he held with the Huntsville Stars. In the above photo he’s wearing his tarp clothes (including a Stars shirt), as it had rained earlier in the afternoon and the forecast was less-than-ideal going forward. Of course, the inclement weather was my fault because it always is. Even the radio guys are piling on now.

Buck expressed optimism that the show would go on.

“There are eight inches of sand underneath, this is the best-draining field I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s a real-life lifesaver.”

But at the moment in which I met Buck, the skies were clear and drainage an abstract concern. We immediately proceeded on what he dubbed the “nickel tour” of the ballpark, presumably named as such because it appeals to the “five cents-es.” We began in the murky depths of the facility, where the rubberized flooring hasn’t yet been permanently installed.


It’s all a work in progress.


A service road wraps around the ballpark, which, of course, is highly beneficial from an operational standpoint. Buck pointed out that the three trailers located at the end of the road are currently used as fireworks transportation devices.


“We load ’em up, hook ’em together, put ’em on a tractor, bring ’em out to the field and start shooting fireworks right from the field. It just has to work,” said Buck.

And work, it (usually) does.

An unfortunate necessity of ballpark construction was the removal of 19 live oak trees from the property (though many were rotting and diseased). But survivors remain.

016 For a while there, the tour was a blur of corridors and doors. Behind one door I discovered this trio of game ball mud rubbers.

020I was gonna tell you dumbbells the name of this room immediately, but then decided to make you weight for it.

021Sorry about that. I’ll present this picture sands joke.


The area seen above is the domain of groundskeeper Jamie Hill, a one-time Stars groundskeeper who Buck persuaded to make the move to Biloxi. Buck called Hill the “Sodfather” as well as “the Duke of Dirt.”

“I’ve got an All-Star staff,” said Buck. “I just stay out of the way.”

Rushed construction sometimes results in interesting bloopers, such as this: A foul pole installed in front of the wall.

026“I don’t think they understood that we wanted the pole behind the wall,” said Buck. “We said, ‘Just leave it, we’ll pad it, and we’ll make the other one the same way.”

But, hey, there are no bloopers to be seen in this direction. Only a beautiful baseball field, enveloped in a grandstand’s warm embrace.


We then moved on to the upper level, where netting had to be installed in some places as a means to protect cars driving by on interstate 110. (Or was that 90? The ballpark is flanked by these two major roads.)

“The net wasn’t originally in the plans, but the interstate is right by and so that cost an additional $25,000,” said Buck, before resorting to tautology. “It is what it is.”


This building, located across from the stadium, is the horticultural office of the Beau Rivage. Once construction is complete, the denizens of this office will also be responsible for beautifying the perimeter of the stadium.

031There are plans for a lot more development in the area surrounding the stadium, much of which will be overseen by Shuckers co-owner Tim Bennett.

“This is the way back from Katrina, 10 years later,” said Buck. “There are so many kinds of people here — Yugoslavian, Slovenian, Vietnamese — and they’re as hard-working and honest as the day is long. I’m proud to be a part of this community.”

Moving indoors, this is the Mercedes Benz Club. It fits over 100 people and is available to rent on a year-round basis.


Benz Biz Blog

Bon Voyage, Benz. Bonjour, Beau Rivage.

033The concourse is wide, clean and monochromatic.

034Game time was approaching, which meant that it was time for me to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. I threw out the first first pitch, more accurately. The headliner was Bello Nock, the world’s greatest daredevil clown and a regular performer at the Beau Rivage.

037My first pitch was kinda forgettable, in that I genuinely can’t remember how it turned out. I probably bounced it, and am now blocking out the memory.

039Of course, Bello’s first pitch was far more theatrical. His appearance on the mound was preceded by a videoboard presentation of one of his most memorable stunts, in which he hangs from a helicopter with only one foot. Bello then hammed it up on the mound for a bit, before throwing a perfect strike.

041It was fitting that a daredevil was in attendance on this evening, as Bello’s presence served as a fortuitous throwback to the first time I visited the Huntsville Stars. The year was 2009, the stadium was Joe Davis, the general manager was Buck Rogers. Following a rainout, sword swallower Dan Meyer still went ahead and performed for a crowd of about a dozen people. This performance was capped by Buck and bullwhip.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Stay tuned for much more from my evening(s) with the Shuckers.


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