This serves as the sixth post in my third season of a series called “Down on the Farm” that chronicles visits to various minor league parks throughout the 2013 campaign. (Prior editions can be accessed here.)
Whereas recent reviews focused on the Texas League’s ballparks in large, prosperous Heartland cities with big attendance numbers, we also journeyed to Jackson, Miss., for Southern League action on a cloudy evening. Though most Double-A yards in the Southern and especially Eastern League — as you move toward the northeast — are older facilities, the Magnolia State capital boasts a quality new stadium.
Trustmark Park, home of the Mississippi Braves, opened its doors in 2005, the same year as the franchise’s inaugural season following relocation from Greenville, S.C. The facility is located six miles east of Jackson in the suburb of Pearl, part of a metro area of more than a half-million people.
The fourth-largest ballpark in the Southern League, and roughly the same size as Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park, Trustmark houses 5,500 chair-back seats and room for nearly 8,000 fans when including outfield berms and other sections.
Just off Interstate 20, the stadium sits in an enormous parking lot adjacent to Bass Pro Shops, a Holiday Inn Express and numerous restaurants, meaning easy access and free parking are available. A drawback to this location is that it removes character and scenery so, once inside the gates, you could be watching baseball in any American city.
Though $12 front-row seats were a nice surprise, the Braves are somehow near the bottom of the league in attendance, and it’s been that way the past few years. A sparse, though passionate and energetic group of 1,650 fans joined us on a Wednesday night for a triumph over the Huntsville Stars. Many of the park’s 22 luxury suites also remained empty.
Walking areas around the field are spacious, especially once you pass the baselines, though admittedly some of the space is underutilized. This 360-degree concourse allows spectators to circle the diamond without missing game action.
The Farm Bureau Grill, beyond the right-field wall, is a restaurant/bar with room for more than 200 people, and is probably a good place to cool off during sweltering afternoons in Dixie.
Central Mississippi is clearly Braves Country, with Atlanta’s logos emblazoned everywhere — on walls, gates, fans’ clothing and more. The “M-Braves,” as the team is known, captured the 2008 Southern League title. So far in 2013, they are having another solid season atop the standings.
Let’s hope the franchise has finally found a permanent home. Attendance generally improves during the summer and they have a quality park, a passionate staff and seemingly good community support.