Brian Wilmer
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May 29 - At The Ballpark: Pringles Park, Jackson, TN

Jackson, Tennessee is a modest town of 60,000 people located 80 miles east of Memphis and 120
miles west of Nashville.  It is one of the smaller Southern League markets when placed up against
the Raleigh area, Jacksonville, Birmingham and other larger cities.  In fact, Jackson had to fight to
keep its team, almost losing the occupant of a stadium that is a mere six years old.  Were the efforts
Jackson made to keep minor league baseball worth the trouble?  Let’s find out.

Concessions: A+
Concessions are a huge part of the ballpark experience, and Pringles Park gets it right.  The portions
are huge, the selection is plentiful, and most importantly, everything is cheap.  A gigantic slice of pizza
(cheese or pepperoni) is $2.25, a jumbo hot dog is $3.25, and sodas are $2.25 and $2.75,
depending on size.  The only drawback I can find at all is that this is a Pepsi park, and the Pepsi
products served are quite limited.  Try a cheeseburger – they’re the best I’ve ever had in a minor
league park.

Between-innings entertainment: C-
I will quote my review on Nashville, TN’s Greer Stadium from 2005:  The
one thing that they did that will automatically earn a letter grade reduction
for any ballpark I visit in the future that does it was the playing of the
chicken dance song.  This was one of the things at Pringles Park that
lowered the grade.

How on earth can a Cubs’ affiliate not play "Take Me Out To The Ball
Game” during the 7th inning stretch?  They are, after all, one of the
organizations that made the song famous.  My expecting the obvious again failed me, as the strains
of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” blared over the speakers while I frantically scrambled to cover my
ears.  Come on, people…Harry Caray.  I’m sure you’ve heard of him.

Those things aside, between-innings fare was fairly pedestrian here, as I got to see two (likely drunk)
fans compete against each other on bouncing balls, a game of musical chairs for the “best seats in
the house”, a blindfolded fan trying to find a bag of cash, and the usual mascot race.

Speaking of the mascot, he was the one highlight.  Despite the lame name (Ribbee), the mascot was
highly entertaining, and interacted very well with the fans.  The Diamond Jaxx would do well to feature
more of him and less of the other items.   

Finally – and this is more of an in-game gripe than between innings – the musical selections (playing
Shaggy’s “Angel” for Mudcats outfielder Angel Molina and Elvis’ “Teddy Bear” for Carolina first
baseman Adam Bear) were pretty terrible, and the “junior” PA announcer that was selected from the
crowd to call a half-inning (hardly junior, he seemed to be in his twenties) was awful.

Sight lines:  B
The view when entering the ballpark is truly breathtaking, as the entrance to the park is on the upper
concourse.  95% of the seats in the park (and the playing surface) are accessible by taking the steps
down from this concourse.  The tremendous view upon entry leads to some rather impressive sight
lines from your seats (I was three rows up and right over the Diamond Jaxx’ dugout on the third base
side); however, the visitors’ bullpen is not very easily seen from the seating bowls, and the Diamond
Jaxx bullpen is completely invisible, either hidden behind the seats in left field or behind the left field
fence (I could not tell from where I was sitting).  Having the home team’s fans be able to see the
pitchers warming up for their team might be a good idea.

Promotions: B
The promotion on the night was a golf ball with the Diamond Jaxx logo.  This was not the most
original promotion ever, especially for those of us that do not get to swing the sticks all that much.  
The promotions were redeemed, however, by a free magazine that included the rosters of all visiting
teams in May and profiles of the Diamond Jaxx players and staff.  Also, if you are expecting to go to the
ballpark and buy souvenirs, you may want to rethink that plan, as the souvenir shop is very small and
has little more than a couple of shirts, some other Cubs and Diamond Jaxx odds and ends, and three
racks of hats.

In a slightly unrelated note, there were a number of giveaways (BC powders paraphernalia, t-shirts
and ice cream bars among other items) in which the fans on the visiting side were well-taken care of,
but the fans on the home side got little or nothing, as they had run out of items by the time they got to
that side of the stadium.

Parking: A+
Parking is free, plentiful and on a paved lot.  The walk from the lot to the park is very short, and the trip
into and out of the ballpark by car is a quick one.  There were only 1288 fans in attendance on this
night, which may make the parking situation a bit more tricky if the park were at its capacity of 6000.

Player accessibility: A
The Mudcats and Diamond Jaxx players were very nice and
accommodating to fans, and access to players is rather easy.  Fans are
able to get next to the dugout to get the autographs they wish.  The only
problem I had was that the Diamond Jaxx players do not seem too willing
to flip third outs or foul balls into the stands to the numerous kids
screaming and waving.

Quality of baseball: B
Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry was in the booth during the Cubs-Braves telecast on FOX earlier
in the day, and said that he still felt good about his farm system and how well-stocked it was.  After
seeing this game, I cannot say that I agree with his sentiments.

The Jaxx starting pitcher, Bobby Brownlie, is one of the stories typical of the Cubs’ recent past, as he
went from one of the top prospects in the minors to being a starter in Double-A in his mid-20s.  
Brownlie pitched for this same club in 2004 before going to Iowa in 2005, and is now repeating this
level.  Brownlie was hit pretty hard and took the loss.

This aside, there were quite a few players on both teams’ 40-man rosters, and some quality on-field
action.  Adam Bostick pitched seven solid innings for the Mudcats, overpowering hitters at times, and
Jaxx third baseman Scott Moore and catcher Jose Reyes turned in solid defensive efforts.  Carolina
third baseman Lee Mitchell is also a good defender and has a strong bat.  

The Mudcats won the game 5-1, behind a solid offensive attack and quality pitching from Bostick,
Scott Tyler and University of Alabama product Taylor Tankersley.

Overall grade: B
Pringles Park has a number of nice features, but also a number of drawbacks.  I would love for
Nashville’s new park to be this nice in terms of comfort (another tip – try to get on the third base side
and stay in the shade), but would be rather annoyed by the “manufactured” atmosphere as
mentioned above.  If you want a nice small-town ballpark and are not easily troubled by the so-called
trappings of minor league baseball, this is your place.  I would definitely rate it worth the trip, and
considerably better than many other Southern League facilities.

Another thing to see at the ballpark that does not really fit in any of the
above categories is the Rally Pig, sponsored by Honeybaked Ham.  Yes,
you read that right…a rally pig.  There is even a blurb on the video board
in right-center that says “FEAR THE PIG”.  The pig did not provide much
help to the homestanding Jaxx on this night, but it is an amusing sight to
see the pig walking around on the concourse after the game.  Fans can
even pet the pig on their way out of the park.  This was a nice touch, and
unique is not a descriptive enough word for the experience of seeing a
baby pig at a baseball game.

How to get there:
The stadium is located directly off interstate 40 in west Tennessee, and is visible from the highway.  
From Memphis, take exit 85 and turn right, then turn left at the first light.  The ballpark will be ahead on
the left.  From Nashville, take the same exit (85) and turn left, then turn left at the first light.  The
ballpark will be ahead on the left.  Ample signage is placed to guide you to the ballpark.

You may also want to see:
--Memphis:  The largest city in Tennessee (counting urban population, not metropolitan) is just over
an hour west of Jackson, and is the home of the Cardinals’ AAA affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds,
world-renowned barbecue and the Peabody Hotel, among many attractions.  If you are a gambler,
Tunica is just across the Mississippi border from Memphis, and offers world-class gaming.
--Casey Jones Village:  This complex features the Casey Jones home and railroad museum, as well
as a country store, among other shops and attractions.  The food is great, and the landmarks give
tourists an insight into the life of Casey Jones, an engineer who lost his life while saving those of his
passengers in a train accident in 1900.  This village is located off exit 80 on interstate 40 in Jackson,
and there is signage to direct you to the complex.
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