Wednesday, July 13, 2005
When the Mississippi Braves moved into Trustmark Park in Pearl, most critics predicted that the Senators, who play in the independent Central Baseball League, would lose the battle for local fan support to the Braves and fold within a season. Senators Vice President and General Manager Craig Brasfield isn't quite sure how to answer these critics, saying, "We were here first, but only time will tell which team has staying power."
Brasfield admits that the Senators can't compete with the Mississippi Braves on an economic level, so they simply don't try to. The Mississippi Braves play their home games in a brand-new stadium featuring a $1 million scoreboard and an affiliation with a major league franchise. The facilities, amenities and player development at Smith-Wills Stadium pale in comparison to those at Trustmark.
Despite these inequalities, attendance at Jackson Senators' games has risen from last season. Brasfield attributes the spike in attendance to an overall heightened sense of awareness of minor league baseball here. "I love what the Mississippi Braves are doing. I think its great—for the area and for baseball. I really believe they are stirring up business for us by getting people in the area interested in minor league baseball," Brasfield said.
The calendar in Brasfield's office is almost completely covered with reminders about upcoming promotional nights and special Corporate Buyout nights. "The Senators offer local baseball fans family fun at a very affordable price," Brasfield said.
Tickets at Smith-Wills have always been inexpensive and now they are free, thanks to local businesses. Fans can pick up free general admission tickets for weekend games at several area businesses or print them off the Senators' Web site (http://www.jacksonsenators.com) by clicking on the Corporate Buyout logo. The Senators host a children's night on Fridays where kids run the bases after the game, $1 beverages during the week and free parking.
"We have become creative with our playing surface," Brasfield said. During this summer and into the fall, Smith-Wills stadium will host youth baseball tournaments, cheerleading camps, high school football and concerts.
John Garbo, a representative of Jackson Metro Youth Baseball, is grateful for the chance Brasfield has given his players. "Playing at Smith-Wills gives our young players the sports thrill of a lifetime. Not only are they playing on the same field as the Senators, but during their turn at-bat they can hear announcer call out their name and see their very own name, number and position light up on the scoreboard," Garbo said.
Brasfield feels confident that the young baseball players will make return trips to the stadium to watch the Senators with their families. "Families have a choice in local entertainment. I realize that they can just as easily go to a movie or to a different ballpark. On game nights I stand by the turnstile, and I tell as many people as I can 'Thank you.'"
For tickets, contact the Smith-Wills box office at (601)–362–2294.
Go Senators! I wish I could go more; and the field looks great! It is going to be an asset to the schools that get to use it for various events in addition to the baseball there already.
I'm routing for the Senators also. I went to a game for the first time during that Fourth of July promo. My nephew and nieces got autographs from Ernie the Eagle! :-P Despite my nieces getting freaked out by the fireworks, I think everyone had a good time.