It’s finally here.
Arkansas Traveler fans have been waiting for this day since September. It’s Opening Night 2014 at Dickey – Stephens Park.
As with any offseason there are changes and this one was definitely no exception.
Travelers General Manager Paul Allen fills you in on what to expect when the gates open in North Little Rock.
With out a doubt, the most noticeable difference between this year and last is the rebranding of the organization.
“When fans come to Dickey-Stephens this season there will definitely be a different feel,” Allen said. “We took the rebranding of the team very seriously. The process was a long one and it was important to get it right. We knew that we would never change the name. We also knew that we wouldn’t stray too far from our colors and that a horse would always be a part of this team and our mascot.”
Ace and Otey were born.
“A lot of people have been talking, that’s for sure,” the second year GM said. ” It’s tough to stay relevant in the offseason. Continue to engage our fans. There were bookends to this story. Shelly was retired at the end of last season and then a couple of weeks ago – the unveiling of our new mascots.”
So Shelly was retired and Ace was created to replace her. What a difference in the two.
“Ace is the guy you want to get you an out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Allen said. “In many ways he is the complete opposite of Shelly in that he’s a super hero type yet still a lovable and a great representation of the Travelers like Shelly was for so many years.”
The talk of Arkansas and Minor League Baseball has been Ace’s right hand man and Dickey-Stephens good luck charm – Otey.
“RC Otey was a great Arkansan, a great Traveler and our groundskeeper for many years,” Allen commented. ” Greg Johnston (Travs current groundskeeper) grew up under RC and learned everything he knows from him. When we decided to create Otey, we wanted to honor someone who meant so much to the organization for so long. Greg has a great relationship with the Otey family and called to ask permission to name one of our mascots after him. They felt honored and were very excited.”
So the uniforms are new. The lids are new, the logos and mascots are new – and many things around the ballpark are new in 2014 as well.
Physically speaking there are some changes that fans need to know about at DSP,” Allen said. ” The gift shop area has changed. We moved it to the space where Bumps Home Plate restaurant used to be. It allowed us to double the square footage of the shop to allow fans a more convenient and less crowded shopping experience. It also now has an external door which means fans can come shop and enjoy the air conditioning 30-minutes prior to the game.”
New food choices are always a news maker and there’s nothing better than BACON!
We have a great partnership with Petit Jean Meats,” Allen said. “We have renamed The Hot Corner and tabbed it The Bacon Station. You can get burgers, philly’s and lots bacon. New this year to are roasted nuts. It’s one of the best smells ever and you can get a whiff throughout the stadium concourse.”
Another new addition is the Iron Horse Whiskey Stop along the third base concourse.
“You can get just about anything you want to drink there, Allen said Wednesday afternoon. ” From customized drinks and premium spirits to five different craft beers from Arkansas Craft Beer Distributors.”
Everyone loves giveaways and the first three nights of the home schedule has them.
On Thursday and Friday night, fans will receive those coveted magnet schedules thanks to Papa Johns,” Allen said. “Then on Saturday it’s one of my personal favorite things the wall calendar. We have a great partner in Church at Rock Creek and they are the presenting sponsor for a great calendar for the baseball fan. It starts in April and ends in March. It’s definitely a baseball fans calendar.”
One of the great new shirts you can get at the Arkansas Traveler.
Opening day is always special. No matter if it’s the actual first day of the season or the home opener a week later.
“There will be a buzz because it’s opening night,” Allen said. The gates will open at 6:10pm and we are ready to play some baseball.”
Dave Barr (@daveabarr)