Sunday morning in New Orleans dawned wet and humid, with steady rain falling through mid morning. The rain tapered to showers by about 1000 am, as we awaited the 100 pm game between the Oklahoma City Dodgers and the host New Orleans Baby Cakes. To our great surprise, the Baby Cakes tweeted that the game was postponed not long after 1000 am. Though it was wet and humid, it seemed as though the game could have been played.
Suddenly, we were faced with a hole in our schedule. Not wanting to wander the French Quarter in the drizzle and fog, we searched for something else to do. My brother noted that there was baseball in Biloxi, Mississippi, with a 200 pm start time. Since there was no baseball here, we headed out to southwest Mississippi.
Unfortunately, the rain seemed to follow us east toward the border. In fact, it fell so heavily that I considered pulling off and waiting it out. As we drove, I was prepared for the possibility of arriving in Biloxi just in time for the game to be postponed. As we got closer to our destination, the rain subsided, though the sky remained threatening.
In spite of the rain, we made good time getting to Biloxi, which left us an opportunity to explore the city. The skyline of Biloxi was dominated by the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, located along the Gulf of Mexico. It is the largest building in Biloxi by far, and we could see it from the highway into town.
Driving through Biloxi, it was clear that the effects of Hurricane Katrina were still haunting the city. Newer construction was built on pylons several feet tall, hopefully saving the homes in the event of another hurricane. It was also clear that parts of the city haven’t recovered from the storm, with many unoccupied buildings away from the coast.
Of course, we happened on churches in Biloxi. The one that struck me most was the Nativity BVM Parish Life Center. The church towered over its section of Biloxi, and is part of a larger complex on Washington Loop. Even with the clouds and rain, the building exuded character. After driving through much of the city, we headed back toward the ballpark to find parking.
1. MGM Park
Upon arriving at the ballpark, we found no parking in the general vicinity. We pulled into a parking lot adjacent to the park itself, where the attendant told us that the parking lot was for players, scouts and others involved in the game. When I asked where we could park nearby, the attendant looked in the car, pointed to my brother, and said “He looks like scout”. At first, I didn’t get it, but he was offering to let us parking in the players lot for the game. Talk about Southern hospitality!!!
We proceeded to walk completely around the park before going inside. MGM Park is the home of the Biloxi Shuckers, the Double A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Their opponent this afternoon was the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The game was slated to start at 200 pm, but one look at the field suggested that time might be optimistic.
The rain had ended, and the sun was peaking out from the clouds, but there were puddles on the field. We wandered through the concourse as the ground crew worked feverishly to ready the field for the game (that’s how it’s done New Orleans Baby Cakes!). While we were walking, we heard a voice yell out “Bowie BaySox!”. Since I was the only one there wearing a Bowie BaySox cap, I assumed he meant me.
As it turns out, the gentleman (whose name escapes me) worked in public relations with the Bowie BaySox years ago, but he remembered the BaySox caps. He gave us an oral history of MGM Park, and then offered us a tour of the press box. My brother took him up on his offer, and spent some time in the Shuckers press box before the game.
Just as we found our seats, the sun started to come out, with clearing coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. My brother applied sun screen, and asked me if I wanted to do the same. Saying “I think I’ll be ok” was me not respecting the sun in late April near the Gulf Coast. Eventually, bright sunshine splashed the field, and I was on my way to a nasty sunburn.
Due to the diligent work of the ground crew, the game only started about 30 minutes late. Starting for the Biloxi was Wade Miley. He had signed late in the off season, and was sent to Biloxi to tune up before joining the Brewers. Miley was rusty, and it showed, as he gave up four runs (including two HRs) in three plus innings of work before being taken out of the game.
The remainder of the pitchers entering the game for the Shuckers fared no better than Miley, giving up nine runs on 10 hits in mop up work. In contrast, the Shuckers offense was limited to three runs by the Biscuits’ pitchers. With the outcome of the game determined fairly early, some of the relatively sparse crowd exited early, leaving the ballpark nearly empty for the last half of the game.
For the rest of the game, I admired the view of the ballpark. Even though it was obviously a prefabricated stadium (based on the appearance of the seating area), the views made this place stand out. With the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino prominent in centerfield, and Gulf over right field, the ballpark looked much bigger than it actually was.
Following the final out, the Shuckers invited fans to play catch on the field. Of course, my brother and I were prepared, retrieving our gloves from the car. We spent the next 20 minutes playing catch on the field of MGM Park, before we were gently reminded that the ballpark would be closing soon. After our game of catch, we briefly visited the beach adjacent to the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. There were seemingly more seagulls than people as the sun began to set, and the white sandy beach reminded me of home.
The quick walk along the water was the perfect ending to a great day. This experience was my favorite of the trip, in part due to the fact that it was completely unplanned. The clear skies made for a much easier drive through the darkness back the hotel in New Orleans.