The Nashville Sounds recently introduced a new ballpark tradition: The Country Legends Race.
This First Tennessee Park spectacle is the Music City equivalent of pepperoni rolls in West Virginia, mayors in Tri-Cities or spiedies in Binghamton. That is to say, a regionally specific triumvirate of costumed characters that engage in heated between-inning battles on a nightly basis. Some Sounds fans put their Cash on Johnny, others have a Jones for George and still others root for Reba the McEntire way. But regardless of one's specific preference, the Nashville sound is now well-represented by the Nashville Sounds.
Frank Ward, the Sounds' owner and acting general manager, said that the Country Legends Race was something he had always wanted to do.
"The challenge was getting the stars to agree, whether they were living or if we were dealing with their estate," said Ward. "Reba McEntire was the first to give us permission. She's a fan. She said she'd love it. And once we got that first star, we went to the estates of Johnny Cash and George Jones and they were in favor of it. … We're hoping that as it picks up momentum we can have a cadre of stars alternating in different races."
The Country Legends Race has been closely fought in the early going, as each participant has notched three wins apiece. And to the victor go the royalties, as a classic tune from the winning racer immediately follows the contest. (Reba's winning tune is "Why Haven't I Heard From You," Johnny's is "Get Rhythm" and George's is "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair.")
Ward said that fans have responded positively to the race so far, and that he expects this to be a long-lasting ballpark tradition.
"We didn't want a sausage race, a mascot race, a president's race," he said. "This is Nashville, and we wanted a unique experience."
Drama Never Ends
This past Saturday (April 23, for those keeping score at home), the Fort Myers Miracle were scheduled to host Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and his former "Dream Team" partner Greg "The Hammer" Valentine at the ballpark.
It was not to be. Four days before the big event, the Miracle issued a press release that stated "In a tale which appears to be straight from your favorite wrestling show, Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine will not appear ... due to unspecified differences [with] Brutus."
The Miracle quickly recruited Bushwhacker Luke to replace Valentine on the bill. Luke, of course, is a WWE Hall of Famer known for "comedic activity like licking, marching and wild arm motions." On Twitter before Saturday's ballgame, Brutus distanced himself from whatever his "unspecified differences" with Valentine may have been.
And so, the show went on. Miracle general manager Andrew Seymour wrote in an email Monday that Brutus and Bushwhacker "were very engaging" and "came ready to perform with wrestling garb and haircutting shears."
All's well that ends well.
The Syracuse Chiefs are a community-owned franchise, and Don Waful has been there since the beginning. The life-long Syracuse resident became one of the team's first shareholders in 1961, and 10 years later he assumed the role of Chiefs president. Waful served as team president through the 2006 season, but he's still involved with the team today as a season-ticket salesman and overall goodwill ambassador.
This is all the more remarkable because earlier this month, Don Waful turned 100 years old. The Chiefs' originally scheduled April 8 Don Waful birthday celebration was snowed out, so they tried again this past Saturday. Waful, who was presented with the Spirit of the International League Award by International League president Randy Mobley, threw out a first pitch, enjoyed big band tunes played over the stadium PA and sat for a thoroughly entertaining interview with Syracuse.com. (Spoiler alert: He doesn't like Umphrey's McGee.)
More like Hair-ieta
The Iowa Cubs gave away "Jake Arrieta Beard Beanies" on Monday, April 25. The always entertaining Munenori Kawasaki helped out with the team's advance promotional efforts; his efforts are well worth watching.
Promos move pretty fast. If you don't stop and read this column once in a while, you could miss them.
April 26: The Quad Cities River Bandits are letting all fans into the ballpark for free. And they won't have to pay to leave, either….Similarly, the Harrisburg Senators are staging "Pay What You Want Night."
April 28: On "Classic Vinyl Night," the Fresno Grizzlies will host a record trade show on the concourse. This is a fantastic idea.
April 29: The Salt Lake Bees used to be named the "Gulls." Tonight, they throw back to that avian identity.
May 1: Retired pitched Matt Mulder visits Stockton. Meanwhile, all the way on the other side of the country, retired pitcher Mike Timlin visits Syracuse.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.