The Round Rock Express and Nashville Sounds both play in regions with rich country music legacies.
But which style is the best? Texas or Tennessee?
That's the question to be answered via the inaugural "Battle for the Boot" series, in which the Express suit up as the "Dance Halls" while the Sounds play as the "Honky Tonks." The two-game home-and-home series between the Pacific Coast League division rivals kicks off Friday in Round Rock and concludes June 29 in Nashville.
The Express, who play north of Austin, Texas, will wear what they describe as "western-style royal blue uniforms [featuring] red accents and blue-lettering." The Sounds, meanwhile, will sport navy blue jerseys with "Honky Tonks" across the chest in "neon red with electric yellow trim."
When asked to elaborate on the superiority of Texas-style country music and its venues, Express vice president of public relations Jill Cacic and director of ballpark entertainment Steve Richards offered up the written opinion that they were "the live music capital of the world" thanks to iconic venues such as the Broken Spoke in Austin, Coupland Dance Hall in Coupland and Gruene Hall in New Braunfels.
"Texas country music is true and authentic, especially when it comes to sound. You won't hear the jazzed-up, electronic, studio-produced pop-country that Nashville puts out," they elaborated. "With Texas music, you'll likely hear a fiddle and steel guitar. Also, the artists you see and hear at a Texas dance hall typically write all of their own songs. There's more of an emotional connection to many of the songs, as opposed to the Nashville mass-produced songs that you hear on mainstream country radio."
Not so fast, say the Sounds, who were named for the "sound" of Nashville's country music. The city is home to world-famous venues such as the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, Broadway and the Bluebird Café, not to mention the Country Music Hall of Fame. The team also boasts of the city's world-class recording venues, which through the years have developed the sound of legends such as Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.
"Nashville is the best country music city because of its tradition with these venues," they conclude, as part of a written statement provided by media relations director Chad Seely.
These partisan opinions are, at the end of the day, superfluous. The Battle for the Boot series will be decided on the field, with the trophy in question going to the team that wins both games. If the teams split the series, then the winner will be declared via that ultimate arbiter of supremacy: a social media vote via Twitter.
Not surprisingly, both teams are already making their case.
A manufactured country music rivalry is, of course, just one of many things happening in Minor League Baseball this week. If more is what you crave, then more is what this column's got:
May the 4th Be With You: May 4th brings with it an annual celebration of all things Star Wars, simply because "May the fourth" sounds like "may the force." Minor League teams across the country are, per standard operating procedure, getting in on the act with some combination of theme jerseys, character appearances and giveaways on Thursday. Among the teams getting involved are the Akron RubberDucks, Biloxi Shuckers, Charlotte Knights, Chattanooga Lookouts, Down East Wood Ducks, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Round Rock Express, South Bend Cubs and Visalia Rawhide. Many more will follow over the course of the weekend, including the Carolina Mudcats:
Cinco de Mayo: On Minor League promo schedules, as in real life, "May the Fourth Be With You" is followed by "Cinco de Mayo." The most impressive such celebration of this Mexican holiday is occurring in Frisco, Texas, as the RoughRiders are suiting up as their Spanish-language equivalent "Los Jinetes deFrisco."
Not to be overlooked are the Charleston RiverDogs, who continue to lead the Minors in absurdity. The RiverDogs, fresh off legalizing marinara and staging the world's largest Silly String fight, are celebrating Cinco de Mayo with an emphasis on the mayo. On this night of "everything mayonnaise," the team is staging "mayo-related eating contests and condiment hairstyling demos."
May 3: It's "National Chocolate Ice Cream Day," so the Buffalo Bisons are offering chocolate ice cream for the low, low price of $1. … The Bradenton Marauders are staging their annual tribute to Evan Chambers, a Pirates prospect and Marauders alumnus who died in his sleep in 2013 at age 24.
May 4: For the second year in a row, Fresno Grizzlies mascot Parker the Bear will be officiating weddings at the ballpark. Parker was ordained as a minister in 2016, courtesy of the Universal Life Church.
May 6: Matt Stairs becomes the latest inductee into the Harrisburg Senators' Life-Size Bobblehead Hall of Fame. Stairs excelled for the Senators in 1991 prior to embarking on a 19-season Major League career.
The Round Rock Express, fresh off of their "Dance Halls" cameo, will give away bobbleheads honoring the fourth of seven no-hitters thrown by team owner Nolan Ryan.
On "Halloween in May," the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are giving away "Grim Grieper bobbleheads." The "Grieper" in question is reliever Nate Griep , who set the team's single-season saves record in 2016 with 23.