Mark Ellis, lead vocalist for White Tie Rock Ensemble, sat back on the home team dugout bench, pointing out where he had season-ticket seats at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
A gleam enveloped his face. There was special reason.
He grew up in Pensacola as a kid with baseball and music as dual passions. He was an outfielder on two Bill Bond League state championship youth baseball teams in 1985 and 1987.
Saturday, he will be on stage at Blue Wahoos Stadium, part of a beloved 10-member band that will play in its hometown stadium for the first time in the group’s first-ever concert at a sports venue.
Wow. Just wow.
“It is a bucket list event for me,” said Ellis, 48, who was coaxed out of music performance retirement by best friend Jonathan Clark, the bass guitarist for the band. “I always had in the back of my head that I wanted to play here but I didn’t think it was possible.
“It is a huge honor.”
The White Tie Rock Ensemble concert, presented by WEAR-3 TV, will begin Saturday night (Oct. 3) at 7 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. Like any of the Blue Wahoos events since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in mid-March, all ticket holders will be required to wear masks until reaching seats.
The stadium has general admission seats remaining, but capacity will be greatly limited to ensure proper physical distance between the audience.
The event will be another first of sorts at Blue Wahoos Stadium. It will be the first rock-theme music concert in the ballpark’s history. And it begins a busy month of events at the stadium, which includes a first-ever comedy show night next week on Oct. 9, featuring two comedians from The Comedy Zone.
“We’ve done a few outdoor concerts before,” said Clark, who helped start the band along with his wife, Virginia, who plays cello for the band. “We did a show on Pensacola Beach for the ‘Taste of the Beach event they had and we have done the Pensacola Fair.
“Playing outside is great. It’s right up our wheelhouse. We call it our festival show and I feel like it is where we really get to shine.”
The band last played Feb. 2 at its most popular venue, Saenger Theater, before a sold-out audience of 1,600-plus. That was pre-COVID 19. Since then, it has been a long wait to perform again until the opportunity was presented to play at Blue Wahoos Stadium.
“The excitement level of the band is extreme,” said Ellis, whose wife, Laura, plays violin in the band. “We are chomping at-the-bit to play.
“The Blue Wahoos have done a tremendous job in setting this thing up, so that it is socially distanced well enough that people can feel safe enough to come enjoy a night of music with their family.
“And that is the important thing for us.”
The added excitement for Ellis is that he’s been a baseball guy all his life. He was a center fielder at 12 and 14-years-old when his Bill Bond League team brought home state championship trophies.
He laughs when recalling how the musical side of him would lead to singing The Beatles hit, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” during games. His coach, Freddie Biggs, wasn’t too thrilled.
“Mark, shut up!” were the dugout screams.
Biggs is planning to be at Blue Wahoos Stadium when Ellis sings on Saturday.
“I love all sports, but baseball is my thing,” Ellis said. “My life was baseball and music.”
Ellis has been a season ticket holder with seats on the third base side since the Blue Wahoos began with their inaugural season in 2012.
The idea of White Tie Rock Ensemble playing at Blue Wahoos Stadium was first broached by team owner Quint Studer. He met Ellis at a sponsorship luncheon and suggested the chance.
“He told me, ‘We’ve got to get you guys to perform here.’ When Quint approached me that day, I was so giddy,” said Ellis, who works for All-Pro Sound “But we really just couldn’t find the proper time. “But then when Covid hit, I reached out to Jonathan (Clark) and it became what it is.”
The show itself will feature the Blue Wahoos video board, provide a good gauge for the stadium sound system after Hurricane Sally. The stage will be set up near second base. There will be VIP boxes arranged in the infield for groups that quickly sold out those seats within days of the concert’s announcement.
The Hancock-Whitney Club is also sold out. There will be groups as well in the two dugout areas.
“We love the theaters, but with this year, being able to play at all is just fantastic,” Clark said. “And being able to play at a baseball stadium and do something for the community of Pensacola, especially through COVID-19, and after a storm now… it’s a dream come true.
“The show will be special. You will have fireworks going off at the end of a song. You can’t do that inside. We are going to have great weather. It should be cool.”
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: White Tie Rock Ensemble Concert presented by WEAR-3 TV.
WHEN: Saturday (Oct. 3), 7 p.m., gates open at 6 p.m.
ADMISSION: $25, general admission.
TICKET PURCHASE: Limited number of seats left. Tickets can be purchased online at www.bluewahoos.com. or by calling ticket office at 850-934-8444.
CONCESSIONS: In addition to food and soft drinks, alcoholic beverages will be sold at locations on the concourse as well.
RESTRICTIONS: No one will be allowed on the field without a proper arm band. All ticket holders must wear a mask upon entering the stadium and while walking around the concourse areas.