Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 25, 2014

Jays GM: Baseball and beer a good mix so far this season

BLUEFIELD — Three games in, and baseball and beer have been a good mix at Bowen Field.

Jeff Gray, the general manager of the Bluefield Blue Jays, said the sales of beer went ‘well’ for last week’s season-opening three-game series, and there have been no negative issues related to it from his viewpoint.

“They went fine, I didn’t see any issues with it,” Gray said. “I think a lot of fans were really happy, not just the beer, but the park with the changes that we have made and the environment.”

Beer was added to the Bowen Field menu for this season, which has caused some complaints from the community, but Gray said so far so good.

“I had a lot of fans come up to me and say they didn’t see any difference in Bowen Field from the first game this year to the last game last year,” Gray said. “I didn’t see any major difference.

“We have had a lot of support calls from people.”

Baseball returned to Bowen Field for the opening of the Appalachian League season last Thursday, with the Blue Jays winning one of three games with the Johnson City Cardinals.

“The first weekend went OK, everything to be as expected, the threat of rain and the little rain we got did hurt the crowds a little bit, but we had some great sponsor support,” Gray said. “We are just looking to build on that this week with the three games coming up.”

That series drew 908, 794 and 497 fans for the three games, with the Saturday contest facing the challenge of an 11 a.m. start because of the Second Chance Rocks the Two Virginias concert at Mitchell Stadium.

“I think the fans enjoyed it, the crowd was a little light, lighter than we had hoped, but we have to deal with what we can to try and get fans out,” Gray said. “I like that most of our games are at night.”

Beer was sold at all three games from the ‘Beer Garden’, which has been erected along the third base line. The facility includes a serving area, tables and chairs, and even a bar along the fence facing the field that Gray says has added to the Bowen Field experience.

“I think there was a lot of people that was really pleased with the different seating options we now have this year,” Gray said. “We have added some different viewpoints for people to watch the games and in maybe areas where they haven’t been able to watch the game before.

“They now have that opportunity.”

There was some concern that when the ‘Beer Garden’ was erected that it could hamper the “Railbirds” seating adjacent to the third base dugout, but Gray hasn’t seen any issues there.

In fact, many have commented on how pleased they are to now have extra protection with a large net that has been placed along the third base line.

“They are still here and enjoying the games every game and being good supporters of the team,” Gray said.

Gray was pleased with the volume of beer sold through three games.

“We did well, we did as expected,” Gray said. “I think we are happy with what we have been able to do in the first three games, it is only three games in.

“Everybody was good, everybody was pleased and not from my point of view were there any issues.”

Extra security has been added, making sure anyone with beer stays out of the family sections in the bleachers. Instead, they were kept busy with other activities last week.

“I think it was more not even beer related, I think it was all mostly just kids running around being kids, throwing baseballs and stuff like that, that is mostly what they handled,” Gray said. “There wasn’t anything that I saw that was reportable, just people coming out and enjoying the game was more of our focus.”

 Another three games begin tonight at Bowen Field, with the Blue Jays hosting the defending champion Pulaski Mariners for a three-game series.

In addition to beer sales, Ramey’s will host a T-shirt giveaway tonight, followed by Hardee’s Night on Thursday, and a post-game fireworks display is scheduled for Friday.

“We are trying to do the little things and really bring fans out to see the game and let them see what we are all about here at Bowen Field,” Gray said.

Princeton will also host a three-game series beginning tonight with the Kingsport Mets.

— Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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