Curt Bloom has seen hundreds of Birmingham Barons games at Regions Park in Hoover, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. As the longtime radio voice of the Barons, nothing stands out in his mind like the 1994 season in the Southern League.
“To me Matt, in many ways, it feels like it was yesterday,” said Bloom in mid-April 2012. “It's never called 1994, it's always called the Jordan Year.”
t the peak of his legendary basketball career with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan stepped away to take his cuts in the White Sox organization, playing in 127 games for the Barons. Jordan hit just 3 home runs, all of them at Regions Park, and finished the season with a .202 batting average. Bloom, as well as Barons fans, choose to focus on the positives of Jordan’s time in Birmingham. “Michael Jordan running the bases, he had extremely long legs and he could really move, wasn't a great hitter but I saw him get a double one night,” remembered Barons fan Clay Barnes. “Really a long single but he turned it into a double with his running.” “Michael Jordan, NBA MVP,” noted Barnes, “Probably won't see anything like that again here.”
Certainly not at Regions Park. Although it is just 24 years old, the Barons will leave the stadium, formerly known as Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, to move back to downtown Birmingham and a new stadium, Regions Field, in 2013.
The Barons have won three Southern League championships in their time at Regions Park. None of those seasons compare to the craziness of 1994.
“What was it like?” Bloom asks in response to the same question. “The words we use constantly were always the same thing you know, rock star, circus, all these words came out.
“Like anybody who's in sales and marketing, we don't want it to disappear, we'd be the biggest idiots in the world for not taking advantage of what was now almost 18 years ago.”
“Michael Jordan, maybe the greatest basketball player of all time, right here in this ballpark and on the bus with us all year long.”
Notes about Regions Park: The manager of the 1994 Barons was Terry Francona, the future skipper of the World Champion Boston Red Sox in both 2004 and 2007. While a banquet room is named for Jordan at Regions Park, a picnic area is named for Francona. According to the website Retrosheet.org, just one Michael Jordan has ever reached the major leagues. That was Mike Jordan in 1890 with the Pittsburgh Allegheneys. He hit .096 in 37 games on what is still the worst team in the history of Pittsburgh's National League franchise. Prior to moving to Hoover, the Barons played at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, which opened in 1910. Today Rickwood is used as a movie location, as well as the regular home of differing levels of amateur baseball. The Barons return once a season to Rickwood for the “Rickwood Classic,” making Rickwood the oldest ballpark currently used by a professional team at any level. Matt visited Rickwood in 2010.