SPORTSTALK

Sunny Days Ahead

All-Stars, former Atlanta Braves, midget wrestling and more

Baseball and bat on home plate of a ballpark.
Stephen A Arce/ASP Inc
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When considering how successful the Jacksonville Suns have been over the decades, it's a good idea to allow for more than just the win/loss record. The Suns — owned by the Bragan family since Jacksonville was a much smaller, more provincial city — have adapted with the times. Still, some things remain the same. One thing is a robust schedule of crowd-pleasing promotions designed to keep people coming to the park all season long.

The team just wrapped up its first homestand against the Jackson (Miss.) Generals, and the promos were all centered on Peter Bragan Sr., the legendary owner who died last July. Bragan was honored with a talking bobblehead giveaway and a distribution of Bragan Field baseballs. These are the kinds of keepsakes that diehard Suns and Minor League Baseball fans will cherish for years and are great kickoffs for what will be a special season. There'll be many events, and while there's not enough space to cover them all, a few highlights should be noted.

All-Star Blitz: Why not showcase some of the best talent in the Minor Leagues — the Southern League All-Star game in July? Bragan Field is the crown jewel of the parks of the Southern League, as locals know, and the Suns are among the minor league's preeminent franchises. So it makes a perfect locale for the All-Star game on July 17, as well as the Homerun Derby, a favorite of kids of all ages. The day before the game, go by The Jacksonville Landing and check out the MLB All-Star Game “Watch Party” on the big screen.

Rocker Around the Clock: The team is bringing two former Atlanta Braves from back in the day. A hero to every 30something Southern male who ever played outfield and swung for the fences every time he stepped to the plate … Dale Murphy hits town May 6. On June 6, fireballer-turned-conservative-flamethrower HYPERLINK "http://www.johnrocker.net/"John Rocker visits. He made some controversial comments about New York City’s ethnic diversity during his career, but he's refined that shtick with age — to a point. His website offers some “Speak English” T-shirts that probably won’t be a hit with some locals here. Rocker is now a conservative pundit of sorts, writing HYPERLINK "http://www.wnd.com/author/jrocker/"World Net Daily columns with titles like “The State Religion: White Guilt,” “Amnesty: Turning U.S. into California” and “We Owe Illegals an Apology?”

It isn’t likely Rocker will share his political beliefs during his special night, but inviting him is an interesting promotional strategy indeed.

Lucky Charms: Minor league baseball and midget wrestling — the two great tastes that taste great forever. The weekend of July 12 features not one but two matches between Lil’ Kato and Beautiful Bobby Dean for the Pot O’ Gold in the Leprechaun World Wrestling Championship. There is nothing outside of derivatives trading and papal conclaves that's more carny than midget wrestling. Not to diminish the value of the Leprechaun World Wrestling Championship, but a word to the wise — I think these matches may be fixed!

Thursday Night Throwdown: It's back! Along with other weekly Suns events, like fireworks on Fridays and Businesspersons' Specials on Wednesday afternoons, the Suns have brought back the cheapest, easiest way to get a beer buzz in Northeast Florida on a weeknight — the epic Thursday Night Throwdown, at which you will see folks who might not otherwise go to a game all year. Two words: Dollar beers. Even if you're a beer snob, Buds for a Buck tend to be the great equalizer. Other cocktail specials are also available. After a few brews on June 6, even John Rocker might make sense. JK.

Not every Suns’ promotional event will be to everyone’s taste, but there really is something for almost everyone. As a fan who's gone to local minor league games for a few decades, I can tell you they’ve all had one thing in common — I have never, ever had a bad time. If you go and manage to have anything less than full-throttle fun, let me know. I’ll hook you up with a cardiologist who can check your pulse!

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