Southern League All-Star Game 2015

By on 25 June, 2015 in Fun, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

It was the perfect showcase for our city to show off how far it has come.

The last time Montgomery played host to the Southern League All-Star Game was in 2006. That game drew over 7,400 folks and showed baseball fans from across the South that Montgomery (especially downtown Montgomery) had done a lot to improve our nightlife and restaurant options, not to mention our gem of a ballpark.

The game returned this week, and although attendance was reported to have been only around 5,000 or so folks, it was still a lot of fun. If you’re a fan of baseball, it’s hard to put a price on the fact that some of the game’s most talented players are in the Southern League (which plays at the Double-A level). These players are on the roster of our local team, the Biscuits, but are also on the visiting teams that come to town. To have the best of the best all on the field at the same time? We had to check it out.

Monday night was a free “autograph session” where all the players were herded into The Alley downtown and assigned to sit at some tables and sign the items awkwardly thrust across the table by fans. Baseball fans are not known for their charisma, but it seemed like for every wide-eyed child excited to meet a professional baseball player, there was also a somewhat surly guy with a binder full of shiny baseball cards grunting as he worked on his collection of signatures. The players were accustomed to this segment of the public, and seemed to handle everything in good spirits.

It was hot, but we were happy to see that the city had blocked off Commerce Street where it leads into the Riverwalk tunnel. A thin crowd wandered around in the heat, collecting autographs and posing for photos with the obvious natural mascots of a team called The Biscuits: a live pig and a giant anteater. People seemed happy to be meeting Big Mo and Miss Daisy, but the heat was pretty brutal. We didn’t get anything signed, but we bought a few beers for some of the All-Stars as our way of being hospitable and saying “Welcome to Montgomery.”

The game was the next night, and despite the lopsided score, it was a lot of fun. The Biscuits are interestingly in the “Northern” division of the Southern League, and the North put an absolute whipping on the guys from the South, a 9-0 shutout that held the South’s bats to only 4 hits. The North won the game back in 2006 too, in part due to a strong performance from Miguel Montero, who is currently the starting catcher for my beloved Chicago Cubs.

The crowd back in 2006 was a good bit larger, due perhaps to the novelty of hosting an All-Star game, but also due perhaps to the fact that it was brutally hot again Tuesday night. The heat index was nearly at 100 degrees, so we’re sympathetic to the fact that the crowd looked to be a good bit smaller than the reported 5,000. There were too many empty seats for a game featuring this much talent.

We were especially impressed with a couple of guys: the Biscuits’ own Johnny Field Jr., the home run derby winner Adam Brett Walker II of the Chattanooga Lookouts, and Birmingham Barons shortstop Tim Anderson, who was named the game’s MVP (on his birthday!)

All in all, the game really reminded us how much we love going to see baseball in our town and how lucky we are to have the Biscuits. When the All-Star game returns, it’s inexcusable for any real baseball fan to miss it, and we should really be sure to take advantage of the regular season too. Tickets are really affordable considering how many hours of entertainment you get from it, and there’s nothing quite like pulling for guys who are giving 100 percent effort outside of the national spotlight.

A few other items worth mentioning:

• We were really happy with the adjustments made to the in-game presentation. We much prefer baseball trivia on the video board over advertising. The between-inning contests (sumo wrestling, jousting, etc.) are stupid, but permanent fixtures of the game at this point. But the very best thing was the absence of the jangly “Bring on the Biscuits” country song that ushers in regular season games. That thing needs to be put out to pasture.

• Speaking of music, the tunes during the home run derby were just awful. Nobody wants to hit home runs to slow, dirge-like ballads or introspective emo tear-jerkers. A pre-game home run hitting exhibition should carry with it an up-tempo soundtrack, heavy on electronic music, hip-hop and metal. Nobody mashes baseballs to easy listening.

• The food at Biscuits Stadium remains excellent. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: The best vegetarian burger in town is at the baseball stadium. They know how to cook them, and there’s a “fixings table” where you can put onion and jalapeno and yellow mustard on your burger, and you’re all set. We make a meal out of it every time we go to the ballpark. Congrats to the concessions folks for getting it right. Would it be a reach to ask for veggie dogs as an option? Yeah, we’ll quit while we’re ahead.

• The Biscuits staff are all really good at customer relations. Everybody in the stadium greets you with a smile, asks if you need help finding your seat, etc. The city is on display when we host the All-Star game, but so are the Biscuits employees, who all seemed to pitch in and help the franchise put the best foot forward. We really appreciate those folks and their love of both baseball and the people who watch it.

• The weather may have kept a few folks away from the game, but it really did turn out to be pretty nice once the sun went down. Was it still hot? Yes. It’s Alabama in June. It’s going to be hot. But it wasn’t unbearable. Kudos to the sun for going away.

 

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