They’ve all added up to record attendance at TVA Credit Union Ballpark and General Manager Zac Clark being rewarded with the Appalachian League’s award for the top GM last season.
This year, the changes to the stadium will be more subtle, but one in particular will go a long way in making it a successful summer for local baseball fans.
The Cardinals have undergone a major upgrade in the hot dogs they will be selling.
“The biggest complaint we got was about our hot dog,” said Clark, who runs the day-to-day operations of the team for Boyd Sports. “You go to the ballpark and you want to enjoy the hot dog. Our hot dogs the last year or two just weren’t cutting it. So we got new all-beef hot dogs that everybody’s really going to enjoy.”
When the Cardinals open the season on June 18 by playing host to the Pulaski Yankees, a familiar face will be in the dugout. Roberto Espinoza will be back for his third year as the team’s manager. Espinoza also spent a year in Johnson City during his playing days.
“I’m really excited about having Roberto back,” Clark said. “He and I have become close, especially this offseason. Roberto is really in tune with Johnson City. He loves this area. This is where he wants to be.”
A schedule full of promotions awaits.
Two bobblehead nights are scheduled at the stadium this summer. Steve Spurrier bobblehead night, featuring the Ole Ball Coach in his Science Hill uniform, is set for Aug. 2. Andrew Knizner bobblehead night is June 29.
Margaritaville Night is coming back on July 20 and the big one, Star Wars Night, is set for Aug. 24. That drew a franchise-record 4,167 fans last year.
The first 1,000 fans this year will receive a light saber.
“Last year, that was the one that the community really, really came out in full force for,” Clark said. “We’re excited to bring that back. Citi has joined us to partner with the United Way. All the proceeds from the sale of the jerseys go to the United Way.”
Another promotion Clark thinks will be popular is an appearance by cartoon character Peppa Pig, on July 27.
“That’s going to be a zoo,” Clark said. “In talking to our friends at the Smokies, they had Peppa Pig and (Cubs slugger) Kris Bryant on a rehab assignment. Who do you think drew better? All I’ll tell you is it wasn’t Kris Bryant.”
One more addition to the stadium will be an area called The Sweet Spot, with refreshments aimed at the younger crowd.
In addition, there is a special promotion for every night of the week for the season.
Monday night is the night to bring the family without breaking the bank. The dollar menu is extensive and includes hot dogs, sodas, popcorn, chips, candy, Dr. Enuf and select beers.
“That’s really everyone’s favorite,” Clark said. “When I’m out and about in the community they always ask ‘Is Dollar Monday coming back?’ And we’re always excited to tell them that one’s not going anywhere soon.”
TACOS AND TALLBOYS
Tuesday night brings a newcomer to the Cardinals’ fold. Ole’s Guacamole is providing the tacos for what will certainly become a popular promotion.
Two-dollar tacos are combined with $2 tallboys, either OG Amber Ale, made by JRH Brewing for the restaurant, or Coronas.
The name is pretty self-explanatory. Included in the price are all the hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, ice cream sandwiches, Pepsi products and popcorn you can consume during the game.
“I think it took people a little while to realize what that was,” Clark said. “It’s a good deal and a fun night.”
This is the traditional dollar-beer night taken to another level. Small beers are $1, while mediums are $2 and larges are $3. Pepsi products are also $1.
Most Friday nights will feature a fireworks show after the game. In addition, since the team is away on the Fourth of July this season, July 3 will be the big Independence Day celebration at the ballpark.
TVA Credit Union Ballpark will be full of sound on Saturday nights as local bands play in the concourse before the game.
The music is sponsored by Campbell’s Morrell Music on downtown Johnson City.
There will also be a couple of shows on nights other than Saturday.
During three Sunday home games, the Cardinals will give away tee shirts to the first 500 people through the gates.
Included in the giveaway will be powder blue shirts, modeled after the jerseys the St. Louis Cardinals brought back this season.