1. Four Years of Moneyball. On Tuesday, September 23, the Nashville Sounds signed a four-year Player Development Contract with the Oakland Athletics. The agreement makes Nashville the A’s Triple-A affiliate. Every minor league team reports to a parent big league club and previous Sounds affiliates have been the Reds (’78-79, ’87-92), Yankees (’80-84), Tigers (’85-86), White Sox (’93-97), Pirates (’98-04), and Brewers (’05-14).
2. New players and coaches. The Sounds of First Tennessee Park will have an entirely different roster from the season before, as Nashville welcomes those players assigned to Triple-A by the Athletics. For an idea of some of the players coming our way, we can look to Sacramento’s final roster from this season, which featured Postseason All-Star OF Shane Peterson and 2013 All-Star Nick Buss. In addition, this MLB.com Top 20 A’s Prospects List provides a good idea of the A’s and Sounds’ upcoming talent.
3. Triple-A Baseball in the Pacific Coast League. While names and faces may be changing, one thing remaining the same is league structure. The Sounds will still play in the Pacific Coast League’s American Conference Southern Division and see each of their seven conference opponents a total of 16 times, including the St. Louis Cardinals affiliate and cross-state rival Memphis Redbirds. As usual, Nashville will face out-of-conferences foes only four times each season. However, the Sounds were one of six PCL clubs to change affiliations this off-season (see item #5 below for details).
4. Rule 6.10. A product of switching from a National League affiliate to a American League affiliate, the Sounds will use a designated hitter for all 144 games. Love it or hate, Sounds pitchers will stay 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate next season, which is sure to lengthen Kyle Heckathorn’s reign as the last Sounds pitcher to go yard (June 12, 2014 at Greer).
5. Minor League Mix-Up. Including Nashville’s switch to Oakland, six of the PCL’s 16 teams have new major league affiliates for the 2015 season: The Giants move their Triple-A talent from Fresno to Sacramento; the Dodgers from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City; the Astros from Oklahoma City to Fresno; the Rockies from Colorado Springs to Albuquerque; and the Brewers from Nashville to Colorado Springs. Thus, per item #3, the Sounds will host the Dodgers Triple-A team more frequent than in 2014 and the Rockies only four times a season.
Nashville is a special city, and its charm isn’t lost on the many who have played for the Sounds over the years.
Keith Brown, who pitched for the Sounds in parts of five seasons between 1988 and 1992, fell in love with the Music City during his playing days and still lives here. He recently swung by for his #LastCheerAtGreer and threw out the first pitch before Game 2 of Nashville’s doubleheader against Round Rock on August 8.
“I’ve made so many memories here, both on and off the field,” Brown said. “This is home.”
It is hard to read the Sounds’ record book and not come across Brown. He currently ranks second in team history in starts (72), wins (39) and strikeouts (333) and fifth in total pitching appearances (153).
For someone with so many highs in his career to choose from, finding his favorite moment in a Sounds uniform may be tough, but Brown didn’t hesitate when mentioning the events of August 6, 1988 as the best. That day, future Major League star Randy Johnson and Pat Pacillo of the Indianapolis Indians combined to throw a no-hitter, but Brown got the win when walks and errors allowed the Sounds to steal a 1-0 victory.
“That one sticks out,” Brown said. “It’s neat to be a part of a historic game like that here.”
Brown and many of his Sounds teammates would eventually go on to contribute to the 1990 Cincinnati Reds’ squad that won the World Series. Brown appeared in eight games for the Redlegs during their championship season, and wound up appearing in 25 MLB games over the course of his career.
He feels that the chemistry that those players used to win the title was developed while playing together in Nashville, and many former players from those years still keep in touch.
Now with the Sounds’ final season at Greer Stadium in the books, Brown is excited for what the future has in store for Nashville baseball at First Tennessee Park.
“I really want Nashville to get into baseball like they do the other sports,” Brown said. “I feel Nashville needs that feel of a big-time facility, and it looks like the new park will do just that. I can’t wait.”
Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco recently made his #LastCheerAtGreer with a four-game series against the Sounds from July 25 to July 28.
DeFrancesco donned a Sounds uniform in 1988 and again in parts of the 1990 and 1991 seasons. When asked about his playing days at the Big Guitar, the thought brought a smile to his face.
While it doesn’t seem all that long ago, Nashville was a much different city back then, and the same was true for the Sounds.
“[Nashville] is a major city now,” DeFrancesco said. “When I was here as a player it was much smaller. It was still fun. [The team] had a real family feel to it.”
The “family” that he was a part of in Music City featured future World Series champions such as Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Jack Armstrong plus other players who would eventually make their mark in the coaching ranks such as Ron Roenicke and Randy St. Claire.
Other players he grew close to over the years include Sounds legend Skeeter Barnes, whom DeFrancesco roomed with on the road, and Dixon, Tenn. native Charlie Mitchell.
With Greer Stadium being the stage where all these players developed, DeFrancesco has fond memories of the building and the fans that would come here for games.
“The whole history of the Sounds is here,” he said. “Some of those local guys, Chuck [Ross] and “Black Cat” who used to sit right behind the dugout, and you could always hear their voices coming from the stands.”
The Sounds’ Greer Stadium chapter comes to an end on August 27 at the team’s last home game of the season. The Sounds will call First Tennessee Park their new home come the 2015 season.
“It’ll be like we’re playing in a whole different city,” DeFrancesco said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
For wedding anniversaries, some couples look for a relaxing getaway; others enjoy a quiet, romantic dinner.
But Mike and LeAnn Henson of Brentwood aren’t like most couples.
Every July 23rd since 1988, the pair has traveled to a major league ballpark to mark the day they vowed to spend the rest of their lives together.
But in 2014, they decided to change things up. They returned to Greer Stadium for their anniversary, which crazy as it sounds, is where their married life began.
On July 23, 1988, Mike and LeAnn tied the knot in a ceremony in Greer’s outfield before the Sounds’ game against Iowa that night.
“There was a long red carpet rolled out to shallow center field where the ceremony was held in front of about 4,000 fans that came for the game that night, which was cool,” LeAnn said. “The players were warming up on the side while the ceremony was going on, and a lot of them watched.”
Among the players that witnessed were then-Sounds pitchers Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton, who would go on to be part of the “Nasty Boys” in Cincinnati.
The location of the ceremony could not have been more fitting. Mike played center field for Tennesee Tech’s baseball team and LeAnn played the same position for the school’s softball squad, and both were leadoff hitters. They met each other at the field there after practice and the rest is history.
When it came time to decide on a wedding venue, LeAnn had a unique idea.
“[Getting married on a baseball field] was all her idea,” Mike said.
The couple originally planned to have the ceremony on Tennessee Tech’s field, but since Mike was Director of Promotions for the Sounds at the time, the idea grew into having the wedding before a game at Greer.
“We weren’t really sure how our parents were going to react, but they were all for it,” LeAnn said.
While their playing days are over now, Mike and LeAnn’s love for the game has not diminished. Their yearly pilgrimages to different ballparks on their anniversaries have offered plenty of unique experiences.
“We’ve met so many people and had so many good times,” LeAnn said.
The couple’s favorite stadiums are Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
Mike and LeAnn will resume seeing Major League parks next July 23, with Miller Park, the home of the Sounds’ parent club in Milwaukee, at the top of the list.
To honor couples like the Hensons and the LaGuardias, who hold a unique tie to Greer Stadium, the Sounds are inviting anyone who has met, dated our married their loved one at Greer to say farewell to the stadium that made the magic happen with a special Last Cheer At Greer celebration.
On Saturday, August 23, couples will take part in a renewing of vows on the field before post-game fireworks. Each participant will receive a free ticket to the night’s game, a Sounds renewal certificate, and your name (like LeAnn in the photo above) on the scoreboard.
Interested parties should contact Ryan Madar at 615-690-4487 ext. 161.
The 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game held in Durham on Wednesday was a successful one for the Sounds, as pitchers Mike Fiers and Donovan Hand made sure the Music City was represented well in the showcase.
Fiers retired all four batters he faced in relief, striking out three. Fiers will look to continue his success with the pennant race heating up, as he ranks second in the PCL with 111 strikeouts and third in the league with a 2.52 ERA.
Hand also pitched effectively, twirling 0.2 scoreless innings and helping the PCL escape a late jam. The night will be especially memorable in the Hand household, as the newest addition to the family got to watch her dad pitch for the first time.
— Donovan Hand (@DonovanHand) July 17, 2014
The players weren’t the only Sounds personnel to make the trek to Durham, as some of our front office staff attended the festivities as well. While at the park, they tried some of Durham Bulls Athletic Park’s concession offerings, which were, um, interesting to say the least.
— jason franke (@franke75) July 17, 2014
The Sounds will begin the stretch run to the playoffs Thursday in Oklahoma City for a four game series before returning home for an eight game homestand.
On Sunday, Major League Baseball announced selections for the 2014 All-Star Game to be played in Minneapolis on July 15. Sounds fans may be full of nostalgia after looking at the rosters, as four Nashville alums will be playing in the game. Let’s take a closer look at what these players did during their playing days at Greer Stadium.
Aramis Ramirez (1998-2000) – Aramis is experiencing a revival in 2014, and fans rewarded him by voting Ramirez to be the starting third baseman for the National League after posting a .287 average with 11 HR and 47 RBI in his first 63 games in 2014. Ramirez, who will be the first ever Brewers third baseman to start in the Midsummer Classic, played in Nashville for parts of three seasons from 1998-2000. His best season was in 1999, where Rami was named a PCL All-Star, hitting 21 homers and knocking in 71 runs. The most impressive thing about that campaign? He was just 21 years old.
Nelson Cruz (2005-2006) – The only non-Brewer on this list, Cruz became a fan favorite in his two seasons in Music City, where he hit 31 homers in 164 career games with the Sounds and appeared in the 2006 Triple-A All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. The slugger carried the Sounds to the PCL title in 2005 and was named the post-season MVP. Cruz has seen a resurgence in his first year in Baltimore, as he is tied for the MLB lead with 27 homers and 71 RBIs in 2014 and was elected as the starting DH for the American League.
Jonathan Lucroy (2010) – Lucroy may be a new star to most baseball fans across the country, but not to Sounds fans that saw him play at the Big Guitar in 2010. Lucroy played in just 21 games for Nashville that year, but made his presence felt defensively, where he threw out 8 of 15 baserunners. Through the 454 major league games he’s played since his time in Nashville, Lucroy has posted a .279 average including a .329 mark through 82 games in 2014.
Francisco Rodriguez (2013) – It may be easy to overlook K-Rod’s two career games with the Sounds in 2013, but it may be a sign of when his impressive comeback began. After two scoreless appearances in Nashville, he was called up to the Brewers where he has never looked back. After posting a 1.09 ERA in 25 games during the 2013 season, K-Rod has followed up in 2014 by posting a league-leading 27 saves at the time of his selection to the All-Star Game.
In addition to these four players, all-stars Carlos Gomez (2010) and Zach Greinke (2011) were members of the Sounds during rehab assignments.
There have been thousands of baseball games played at Greer Stadium over the years, but none quite like the one on Sunday, June 29.
The players on the field donned pillbox hats, and score was kept on a chalkboard instead of the guitar scoreboard.
Fans were doing a double take. Did these players somehow discover time travel?
The answer was no. Instead, Sounds fans were being treated to the first ever Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball All-Star Game in Nashville’s first ‘Past & Present Doubleheader’. The league, which is now in its second year of play, features eight teams from around the state that play under the rules and dress found in 1864.
While playing in a style from 150 years ago, there are still many similarities to modern baseball. There are nine players, four bases that are 90 feet apart and an umpire (or “judge”) that controls play.
But there are some big differences as well, with the biggest being that the players don’t wear gloves since they were not invented yet. Another interesting rule from the time as a result is that fielders can catch fly balls on one hop to record an out.
The all-star game, which was the opener of Sunday’s doubleheader, featured plenty of pageantry, including a first pitch from Abraham Lincoln.
The league’s players were also thrilled to get to play on a professional field.
“We have players at all levels from novice to those who played in college,” TAoVBB commissioner Michael Thurmon said. “It’s a dream of any baseball player at any level to play on a professional baseball field. It was a special feeling.”
While the North defeated the South 7-0 in the game, all the particiapants had a fun time, which is what one of the main goals of the association.
“There’s a camaraderie we have,” Thurmon said. “Back then, everyone was out there for fun and playing as a pastime in 1864, and that’s what we try to capture when we play today.”
Everybody loves a good fireworks show, and the ones at Greer Stadium every Friday and Saturday deliver.
While the displays look amazing from the seats, check out the view from the air. The video below was shot from a drone being flown by Sounds pitchers and part-time drone pilots Alfredo Figaro and Jeremy Jeffress.
More drone adventures to come….
Fans who make their way to Greer Stadium during this homestand may notice a new addition to the outfield fence near center field.
For the last 40 home games, the #LastCheerAtGreer Countdown Banner will let everyone in the stadium know how many games remain in the history of Nashville’s beloved ballpark.
The sign will also be the center of attention at the end of the fifth inning of every game, as special fans and guests get to change the sign and bring the countdown closer to zero. The stories of each of these honored guests will be featured on our #LastCheerAtGreer Countdown webpage on NashvilleSounds.com, which will be updated as the season progresses.
As the 37th and final season at Greer Stadium rolls on, there’s one thing that becomes clear: There’s something romantic about watching a game here.
Some may be confused as to why someone would ask the most important question of his life at a ballpark, but the decision was easy for Tony.
“We moved here about four and a half years ago and when we came here, [Greer Stadium] was our getaway because we didn’t know anyone,” Tony said. “And I thought ‘why not here?’” It’s the one thing that’s stood out.”
Two years later, the happily married couple celebrated their anniversary at the stadium on May 28. The highlight of the evening came when Tony got to throw out the first pitch prior to the Sounds’ game that night against Colorado Springs.
The story of how the two got to this point seems straight out of movie. The pair dated for eight years when they lived in California. They separated, but began dating again five years later. They were looking for a new beginning, and decided Nashville was the place to do it.
“We figured Nashville was the perfect place,” Tony said. “You got the city life with the small-town atmosphere, and it’s just perfect.”
The LaGuardias admit it will be tough to see Greer Stadium close its doors for good at the end of the season, as this ballpark will always hold a special place in their lives.
“It’s really sad,” Holly said. “We’re both sentimental people.”
The couple does say, though that they are also looking forward to the Sounds new home in 2015, First Tennessee Park.