Jim Bradshaw is a big Mississippi Braves fan. “I was so excited about it being built that I came out here and hired myself on and worked as an usher the first year they were here just so I could see every game,” says Bradshaw.
Trustmark Park, built in 2005 in Pearl, Mississippi, a suburb of the capital city Jackson, is home to the Class AA Mississippi Braves of the Southern League. The Braves, owned and operated by the parent club in Atlanta, don’t have a lot of competition for fans’ minor league baseball dollars. “The beauty of it, being in central Mississippi, we're the state's only professional sports team, says David Burke, Director of Sales for the Mississippi Braves. “When we say we're Mississippi's team, we truly are.”
Baseball is not the biggest sport in the Magnolia State, something Bradshaw, an auto racing fan as well, can attest to.
“I'm going to say NASCAR,” Bradshaw notes, “Followed by college football, followed by baseball.”
On a pleasant night in April Bradshaw is one of hundreds of Braves fans checking out two NASCAR vehicles on display as part of the Braves’ “NASCAR Night” promotion. “NASCAR in the South, as you can imagine, it's a huge draw,” says Burke, “If I had to rank 'em, college sports and NASCAR, it might be neck and neck.”
If there’s one thing that The South is known for in addition to NASCAR, it’s friendliness, something evidenced during a visit to Trustmark Park. “It is the Hospitality State, officially we're the Magnolia State, but we're known as the Hospitality State,” says the former usher Bradshaw. “That's what it is, you won't meet friendlier people anywhere in the country, than Mississippi.”
Notes about Trustmark Park: The Braves were formerly the Greenville (South Carolina) Braves before moving to the Jackson area after the 2004 season. The stadium is typical of many 2000’s-era ballparks in terms of its open concourse design. It includes a 360 degree concourse and the Farm Bureau Grill in the right field corner. The stadium is located near the intersection of Interstates 20 and 55, referred to by some as the “Crossroads of the South.” Because of the traffic in the area, a Bass Pro Shops store is located in the same development as the ballpark. The Mississippi Braves are owned by the Atlanta Braves, who own all but one of their minor league affiliates, a unique business strategy these days. Yes, the Tomahawk chop is heard over the public address system after the home team scores, but no, the scene does not look like a 1990’s World Series game in Atlanta with 50,000 foam Tomahawks chopping in unison.