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A Night Out with The Jacksonville Suns

I grew up going to minor league baseball games. Charlotte is the fortunate home of the Charlotte Knights and I have watched many games with a bag of peanuts or ice cream in a mini helmet.

Never have I been to a minor league game quite like this one.

As part of my Summer in Jacksonville, I decided to check out the Jacksonville Suns.  They play at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, a huge ballpark located downtown and which features the longest distance between home plate and center field (420 ft.) in the Southern League.

I happened to attend last Thursday’s game and it was “Thursday Night Throwdown and Shriners Night.”

This essentially meant “Buds were a buck” and drink specials were offered throughout the night. The Shriners parade occurred before the game and the Blood Alliance Blood Drive was going on.

I arrived early, or so I thought and found the shortest line for “General Admission, cash only.”

Making my way inside, I embraced the hordes at the concessions.  Before you could even enter, the crowd stood at a standstill as people lined up to receive wrist bands.  Being only twenty years of age, I continued onto a line for some food.

I got in line and waited as people made their beer selections and offered up payment, disrupting the pattern when I placed my order for a barbeque sandwich, fries and diet coke.

The man and woman behind the counter looked at me confused before the man put down the cup that my assumed beer would be going into.

After the concession duo got their heads wrapped around my order, I paid and tried to balance my food in my hands and find a seat.

I met up with six friends and we found a spot under the awning.  We had gotten comfortable and I began snacking on some fries before a man in a uniform asked if we had tickets to sit there.

Yes, we did have tickets, but I did not realize the tickets that we had were for the uncovered bleachers farther away than we wanted to walk.

We gathered our belongings and walked toward the bleachers. A feeling of defiance swept over the men in our group as we approached more stadium seating, sans the awning.

The men plunged ahead down a few rows and made themselves comfortable.  After a few minutes looking like women straight from the 50’s in our cute clothes and holding all the food, we too followed the men into seats we were not supposed to be in.

The guys claimed we had previously been asked to move because the other seats were in the shade.  Since these seats were not, no one would bother us... and they were right.

The game was underway by this point and the stadium had more people in it than I had ever seen before at a minor league game.

We watched the game for a few minutes before another never-have-I-ever-seen-before spectacle showed up. The Jacksonville Suns have cheerleaders!

They are called the Sunbeams. Their basic job is to dance on the field and on top of the dugout and assist in any typical fan-involved promotion.  I honestly didn't know what to make of the Sunbeams but found their presence entertaining if nothing else.

The fan-involved promotions included a kid having to catch a ball and win pizza for his row and the chicken dance, to which, out of my group, my sister was the only one who participated whole-heartedly.

It was not too hot of an evening for baseball and a gentle breeze slowly blew through the stands.   The Suns scored their first run in the seventh inning, just as we were heading out.

The final was a 3-2 loss to the Huntsville Stars, perhaps a disappointing result for some fans.  Nevertheless, Jacksonville has got a great set-up for fun with the Suns and Thursday nights are definitely the night to go if you are interested in having all sorts of a good time!

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Mary Elizabeth Robertson is a journalism student spending her summer on the First Coast. She'll be interning for the Jacksonville Observer and writing a twice-weekly column about her experiences called New Girl in Town. Look for it online every Tuesday and Friday.

Got a suggestion for something thing Mary Elizabeth should try?  Post a comment below!

2 Responses »

  1. Mary E, you should check out Alive After Five on July 1 between 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. The Jacksonville Dance Alliance is meeting up at that time to groove to tunes from Satisfaction, A Rolling Stones Tribute Band. Ballroom dancing?! To the Rolling Stones?! Yes. With swing, salsa and cha cha, it's a perfect opportunity to build upon your shag skillz!

    12 studios are planning to attend. Here's more info about the event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=122241651151010&index=1

    And here's more info about the Jacksonville Dance Alliance: http://jaxdance.org/

    Hope to see you there!

  2. Mary Elizabeth, Dave and I are enjoying all your articles so much! You are a wonderful writer -- I feel like I am visiting Jacksonville with you, instead of being stuck up here in Charlotte. Keep up the good work. I foresee a great future in journalism for you. We will be able to say: we knew her when...
    Keep on having fun. We'll see you maybe in the fall. Dinah and Dave Peterson