Last week Karen and I took a trip to Sevierville, Tennessee to watch our grandson, Ty Rechtorovic, play in a baseball tournament with his Foundation A’s team. His squad is based out of Peachtree City, and they had a great tournament, going undefeated in three games before having the championship game rained out. Since the A’s were undefeated, they were declared champions of the event.
Their games were actually played in Gatlinburg at a very nice facility at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. The baseball field was a first-class diamond and the entire athletic area was very impressive.
While in Tennessee, my son-in-law Erik and I decided to attend a minor league baseball game. I knew that there was a stadium nearby so we figured out how to get there and off we went.
Smokies Stadium is located right on I-40 and is a very nice place. The game was a contest between the Tennessee Smokies and the Chattanooga Lookouts. The Smokies are a Chicago Cubs AA minor league affiliate while the Lookouts are a AA branch of the Minnesota Twins.
We got there in plenty of time to stroll around the place and found it to be a very clean and well-kept facility. Our seats were in the third row right behind home plate. $9.50 a seat with a $1 senior citizen reduction. Good prices!
I only recognized a few names in the team’s lineups. The Lookouts had Byron Buxton in center field. He is from Baxley, Georgia and is rated as the Twins No. 1 prospect and one of the Top Ten prospects in all of baseball. He didn’t have a great night but it was easy to see why he is rated so highly.
The Smokies had Chris Denorfia, who was on a rehab assignment for the Cubs, in left field. A couple of days later I was watching ESPN highlights and he was back with the Cubs, scoring a run.
This was a typical minor league game with activities going on between every inning. There is never a lull in the action at a good minor league game.
There was the Kiss Cam which showed couples on the scoreboard screen. There was a bubble gum blowing contest and there was a race between three people to see who could eat half a hot dog, drink a glass of water, and then spin ten times with their head on a small baseball bat.
There was also a race between people dressed as food. There was a hot dog named Otz Dawg, a slice of pizza named Pete’s A. Pizza, a chicken named Clucky Jacobson, and a bag of popcorn named Pappa Corn. Pappa Corn won on this particular night. Then there was the video of the “Rally Llama” when the Smokies had a big inning. He was shown prancing across some field seemingly enjoying himself immensely.
A couple of really funny marketing ideas caught my attention as the game progressed. When the umpires requested that the lights be turned on in the third inning, the PA announcer stated that the umpired call for the lights was sponsored by a local lighting company.
Also each time the “cleanup” hitter came to the plate the PA announcer stated that he was the ServPro cleanup hitter. The best came however when a Lookouts’ player was hit by a pitch and took some medical care before he could continue. The PA man then said, “If you get hurt in an accident call —-(a local injury attorney) meaning that an injury attorney was actually sponsoring the hit batsman. Great idea!
I love minor league baseball. I much rather have been at Smokies Stadium than at Turner Field. It was a great experience and a wonderful evening of good baseball.
Tennessee won 6-1, but that really wasn’t very important to Erik and me. We just had a fun evening of baseball and entertainment.
I just wish that there was a minor league facility close by so that I could go more often. Dream on!
Jim Fowler is a sports columnist and retired teacher and coach who worked in the local school system for many years. He is a founding board member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame and is also the statistician for the Upson Lee football team, and has written a book about the history of football at R. E. Lee High School.