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Braves want to win hearts as 15th anniversary season begins

M-Braves GM Pete Laven

By TED CARTER

A Wikipedia report has it that at least a dozen Jackson Mets players wed young ladies they met while in Jackson.

That’s a lot of love. That the game was played on a diamond probably didn’t hurt.

And with both love and baseball blooming in the spring, the Mississippi Braves are throwing in a diamond ring of their own.

“It is our goal for every fan to leave Trustmark Park with a smile on their face,” new vice president and general manager Pete Laven said in a press release detailing the many promotions the M-Braves will offer fans in 2019.

“This season, fans could also leave the stadium with items including a diamond ring, a Disney cruise, a Ronald Acuña Jr. replica jersey… or even a used car,” added the Chicago native and long-time baseball executive with the Arkansas Travelers in Little Rock who is in his inaugural season in Jackson.

The Braves are in their 15th year in Jackson, or more specifically, Pearl. They aren’t looking for anniversary well wishes. Fans in the seats is what they want.

“My philosophy has always been that the fan experience comes first,” says Laven, who previously served as director of corporate partnerships for the Chicago Dogs of the American Association and before that oversaw independent league franchises in the Chicago region.

Now that he’s here, Laven’s Job No. 1 is getting  Central Mississippi to love his Braves.  He’s got plenty to work with, starting with on-field excitement and drama for which the Double A Southern League is known. The longtime affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves is providing the atmosphere and fun that comes with the professional baseball fan experience, Laven, a former Texas League Executive of the Year, said in an interview.

“It is our goal for every fan to leave Trustmark Park with a smile on their face,” Laven said in a press release detailing the promotions the M-Braves will offer fans in 2019.

And to keep the fans smiling as they enter Trustmark Park, Laven and company will fist bump them as they some through the turnstiles on Friday nights.

The fist-bump night is an offshoot of a promo Laven did with the Arkansas Travelers at the suggestion of a team intern. He didn’t bite on the idea the first year but gave it shot the following year as a 5/5 Cinco de Mayo promo. “Our staff, along with a few players and a mariachi band, stood at the gates and slapped hands with every fan that entered the stadium.”

The whole thing brought a lot of smiles, and also a post-season award from ESPN the Magazine for Best Promotion on a Budget, according to Laven.

Of course, he right away heard from the intern whose idea he initially rejected, Laven says.

And to keep adults smiling once inside, the concourse thus year will feature a “Hall-of-Fame-Grab-and-Go” beer stand. There, says Laven, fans will find “legendary beers like Schlitz, Hams and Olde Style” and a range of domestics. “We want a lot of variety on the concourse,” he says.

Nostalgia will be center stage at the M-Braves’ June 28 game, with the team becoming the Jackson Generals for the evening. The Houston Astros-Affiliated Generals, which had a 15-year life at Smith-Willis Stadium on Lakeland Drive just east of Interstate 55 in northeast Jackson, are the immediate predecessors of the M-Braves.

“We’ll wear Jackson Generals uniforms, give away Jackson Generals t-shirts. We’ll sell caps,” Laven says

“The Generals are still fresh in a lot of peoples’ minds. They might come out and bring their own kids,” he adds. “It’s going to have a really good nostalgic feel with it.”

And not-coincidentally, the M-Braves homestand opponents that night will be the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals, the current incarnation of the former Jackson, Miss., Generals.

Each day of the week will feature a special promotional highlight:

» Military Mondays: All members and veterans of all branches of the U.S. military receive free field level or general admission tickets with a valid ID.

» Tupelo Tuesday: Fans get two for one hotdgos and 16-ounce sodas.  Fans can exchange their Polk’s Meat products label at the Trustmark Park Box Office for 2-for-1 tickets for all Tuesday home games (excludes Suite and Club Level tickets).

» “Bark in the Park” Nights every Tuesday. Fans can bring their dogs for free.

» 4 for a Jackson.  On Tuesdays, fans get four field level tickets and four 16 oz soft drinks for $20, or one “Andrew Jackson.” Additional tickets are $5.

» America First Responders Wednesday: All first responders/emergency response personnel receive free field level and general admission tickets with ID.

» Thirsty Thursday: 16 oz domestic beer and 16 oz fountain drinks will be $2 each. Also, each Thursday will include competitive cornhole tournaments with prizes.

» Fan Fridays: Premium giveaway to first 1,000 fans. Post-game “Dash for Cash” presented by Trustmark.

» Post Game Fireworks: Every Saturday will include a specific theme night and live music. Plus, post-fame fireworks.

» Sunday Family Fun Days: For $18, fans get a dugout level seat, hot dog, 16-ounce fountain soda, small popcorn, M-Braves cap, and free Fun Zone wristband.

Laven, meanwhile, says the M-Braves are working to assist businesses in the region with outings, branding “or just a baseball fix.”

“The thing I love most about this industry is that every customer is looking for something different from the next,” he says. “Even if just a little bit… and, in most cases, we can provide what they are seeking.”

Asked for the main thing the M-Braves and team staff would like to boast about as the season begins, Laven noted, “We can brag about how great our facility looks as we enter our 15th season at Trustmark Park.”

Added Laven, “It is my hope that our fans and the people in our community are the one’s bragging about the M-Braves and what we have to offer area residents.”

Meanwhile, he says, there’s a chance of “us welcoming our three millionth fan later this season.”

And maybe a wedding at home plate.

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About Ted Carter