If the walls of the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville could talk, they would tell baseball fans many stories about the city and its love of baseball. For the past 113 years, minor league baseball has been part of the culture of this community. Tonight, that tradition continues.
For the first time, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp will play their first game at home when they open their first homestand against the Chattanooga Lookouts. The five-game series comes after the Jumbo Shrimp (yes, it takes some getting used to) played their first series of the season against the Mississippi Braves.
The Jumbo Shrimp are 2-3 on the season, loses of their past two contests.
According to the team’s website, the city’s love of baseball began when the Jacksonville Jays participated in the South Atlantic League. In those days, baseball was played at Dixieland Park in the Southside of town. Back then, most fans would have to ride ferries to attend the games because there were still no bridges connecting one side of the St. Johns River to the other.
But even before then, Jacksonville was the site for the first Major League Baseball spring training in 1888 as the Washington Statesmen hosted the Philadelphia Athletics, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Nationals. It has been said that the Brooklyn Dodgers actually owned ships which would dock at the Hogan Street pier.
Now, nestled with the St. Johns River in its background, new manager Randy Ready brings back a team comprised of “veterans” and new faces – all with the same goal of winning the Southern League Title. The team has had a losing record for the past two years.
The Jumbo Shrimp are the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Led by the arms of Dillon Peters and Matt Tomshaw, Jacksonville also boasts Chris Mazza, Hunter Adkins and Jarlin Garcia – all pitchers who played here last season. Tomshaw, who attended Jacksonville University last year, told the media last week playing at home has its advantages. He also said the new season and the new mascot is exciting, one where he hopes he can improve on last season.
The same holds true for Brian Anderson, the Jumbo Shrimp’s third baseman, who impressed not only in the Arizona Fall League, but as the organization’s No. 3 prospect, gave the parent club a look at the future.
Austin Dean also returns to add some pop in the lineup. Dean will play in left field this season with Alex Glenn also making his return to the team. Glenn looked impressive in the second half of the season while in Jacksonville, and will play in centerfield.
Peters will get the ball tonight on the bump. He is 1-0 on the year with a 1.80 ERA. The Jumbo Shrimp will face Kohl Stewart who is 0-1 this year so far.
The Lookouts are the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.