The last affiliated minor league team in Jackson, Miss., left after the 1999 season. While the city had some independent-league teams, residents did not get the opportunity to see affiliated ball until 2005 when the Greenville Braves relocated to the suburb of Pearl.
The renamed Mississippi Braves opened Trustmark Park on the eastern outskirts of Jackson. Friends have told me that there was almost nothing around the stadium when it opened, so the presence of the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World means that development has grown up around the stadium. Unfortunately, the stadium blends into the surrounding when you pass by it on I-20. In fact, I didn’t realize it had its own exit when I first went into Jackson for some sightseeing before the game. I only noticed the stadium exit the next morning.
The main entrance is in right field, which is quite unusual for modern minor league stadiums. I also hoped and expected to see a grander entrance, but it was just a gate with signage. Nothing stood out about it.
The view from behind home plate meets a trends I have noticed recently with newer minor league stadiums. The scoreboard in left center was nice, but the view beyond the outfield is just a cadre of trees. It can be somewhat disappointing to fans who expect and want a great view at every ballpark, but the reality is that not every stadium can have a fantastic view. It’s OK to be utilitarian and get the job done.
I hoped to get a photo with the M-Braves mascot, Trusty, but I never saw him in the crowd. I only saw him on the field with the motorcyclists because it was Bike Night, and bikers got $5 tickets. I have no clue how to describe him, but for those who haven’t seen him I wanted to include the best photo possible.
Per my routine, I camped out behind home plate after player introductions so I could capture the first pitch of the game.
I hoped to find something unique to eat at the park, but had a very difficult time settling upon something. As usual, I talked to employees and fans asking for suggestions. I was told to try a Philly cheese steak, but couldn’t force myself to eat that in the South. After reviewing all the concession stands and seeing that the food was simply generic – hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, etc. – and that nothing stood out as special I opted to eat at the Farm Bureau Grill. A ticket taker told me he really liked the gumbo and shrimp po’ boy, so I opted for the po’ boy.
I wanted to try the Knuckle Balls (naturally named for Braves legend Phil Niekro), but my request to get one each of the beef, chicken, and pork variety was rejected. I hoped to sample a variety, so instead I stuck with the words of wisdom of the ticket taker.
However, my experience with beer at the ballpark was better. As I searched the concessions stands for something interesting, I stumbled upon a craft beer stand tucked behind a corner. The stand had Shock Top, Blue Moon, and some other national varieties but the saving grace was the local choices. I sampled three different brews and settled upon Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale. I got a 32-oz. drink for $8, which is a great bargain for this quality of beverage at a ballpark. It was a tasty treat that complemented my shrimp po’ boy, and I’d definitely sample some of their other beers in the future.
After eating and having a drink, I wandered the ballpark to capture a variety of perspectives. Like many newer baseball stadiums, Trustmark Park has a wrap-around concourse, so I was able to capture a shot of the grandstand from the outfield.
Before too long I returned to my seat and focused on taking some pictures of the game and other features of the stadium like the scoreboard.
Overall, I enjoyed Trustmark Park. I wish the team store had their mascot on sale instead of generic hot dogs and peanuts with the M-Braves logo, but apparently the staffers don’t control what products get sent their way. It was interesting to see team caps in the colors of the state’s three major universities: University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and University of Mississippi. These weren’t caps for each of the schools, but instead the M-Braves logo on a cap in Golden Eagle or Bulldog or Rebel colors. I’ve never seen that before at a minor league stadium, but it was a unique touch.
Final: Birmingham 3, Mississippi 4 (13 innings)