When the (former) Jacksonville Suns Minor League Baseball team changed its name, logo and branding to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp last November, you gotta admit that one of the first things you probably said to yourself (amid a chuckle or two) was “What?” Over the past five months following that news, the Jumbo Shrimp front office took to the media in the hopes of getting the city pumped up to cheer on the newly-proclaimed “Crustacean Nation.” The new name and colorful shrimp character of the AA-Affiliate of the Major League Baseball Miami Marlins (whose Class A Advanced Affiliate is the Jupiter Hammerheads, by the way) seemed to be catching on. As April 12 Opening Day approached, the team touted its revamped food menu and upcoming season-long promotional events, held a contest to name the new Shrimp mascot, and even hosted a “Shrimp & Suds” Craft Beer Fest at the ballpark on April 1 (no April Fools there).
The team netted some pretty awesome results, too, because a record Opening Day crowd of 10,477 was on hand at the Baseball Grounds for the Home Opener against the Chattanooga Lookouts. The fans were treated to a 7-1 Jumbo Shrimp victory and a fireworks display following the game. The Jumbo Shrimp also won the next two games of the opening homestand, before dropping one on Saturday night. The home opener series continues on Easter Sunday afternoon. [UPDATE, April 16: According to a press release dated April 16, attendance of 41,276 during the opening Jumbo Shrimp homestand April 12-16 was the highest attended series in the history of the Baseball Grounds! The figure represents an increase of 57% over last season.]
The “Shrimp & Suds” Craft Beer Fest gave attendees an early look at the ballpark all decked out for the first time in Jumbo Shrimp logos. You might notice that the logo is a stylized letter “J.” It was also a good opportunity to snap up some Jumbo Shrimp gear (see cover photo, above).
The Craft Beer Fest featured over 50 beers, representing a wide variety of beer styles from local Jacksonville area and Florida breweries, in addition to regional and national breweries. Beer vendors were positioned all across the concession deck area, and it was easy to move between each one. Attendees had a great view of the field while sampling beer. A portion of the proceeds benefitted Jacksonville USO, and a number of USO volunteers were on hand serving beer. Guests were also treated to a car show by the First Coast Car Council, which showcased rare and vintage vehicles parked along the baselines on the field.
In addition to sampling beer, the beerfest was a great way for fans to get to know the venue’s seating and concession layouts. The fest gave guests a first look at some of the menu items available during games. The sausages at “Sausage Fest-uuuval” were sizzling, and that onion-and-pepper aroma was irresistible:
The Torpedo Shrimp, coconut-flaked and deep-fried to a crunch, are large, juicy shrimp served up in a cup. This writer settled in at the “Hot Corner” seating area along the third baseline and enjoyed the shrimp while watching the cars prepare to leave the field. By the way, the Hot Corner is pretty cool, with swivel chairs and ledges to hold food and drinks. Admission to the Hot Corner includes one beer or soda.
With a 7:05pm gametime, gates opened at 6pm. Fans were already excitedly streaming into the Baseball Grounds. The Jumbo Shrimp had previously published news stories and updates on its website about the concessions and food items. Generally, walk from one side of the concession deck to the other, and you’ll find just about any type of food: burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, BBQ, sausages, chicken, even salads and fruit cups. There’s even something called the Bold City Burger Pie — a behemoth of a burger (of sorts) — made of a one-pound beef patty and two slices of pepper jack cheese, between two eight-inch pepperoni pizzas (that’s a mouthful). In case that’s not enough, there are also dessert items, such as ice cream, cookies, candy, churros. And, yes, there are various choices of shrimp! Add shrimp to a personal pizza, or indulge with a “Surf-N-Turf” half-pound burger topped with four jumbo shrimp, among others. Even the Dog House Cart gets into the shrimp act, with the Double Play, a foot-long dog topped with peppers and onions, and sauteed shrimp! That one paired well with a Bold City Brewery Killer Whale Cream Ale. Be sure to grab some extra napkins.
The park offers tables along the center of the concession areas on either side, a covered pavilion with picnic tables, and a Tiki Lounge at the end of the general admission berm on the third base side. Upstairs on the sky deck is The Wheelhouse, an enclosed bar/restaurant open to the public, with table and chair dining and some great views.
Of course, you’ll be looking for drinks. Beer vendors are located throughout the concession deck, serving popular well-known macro beers. If you’re in the mood for something stronger, mixed drinks and frozen drinks are also available. For those seeking out craft beer, Intuition Ale Works I-10 IPA and Aardwolf Brewing Belgian Pale Ale are on draft at certain stations.
If you’re looking for more, you’ll find it in the Craft Cave, on the lower level at the third base entrance. The concession stand offers a number of local, Florida and regional beers in cans, so you’ll be able to find one you like!
And, yes, there was a game going on! The newly-named mascot — Scampi — took the field with the original mascot Southpaw, and the players were introduced amid fanfare. After the National Anthem, it was time to Play Ball!
The Jumbo Shrimp games are family-friendly and reasonably priced, and the venue offers a number of seating and concession options. Thursdays are “Thirsty Thursdays,” when fans can purchase certain 12-oz beers for $1 or 24-oz. beers for $2 at the new Tiki Terrace on the left field berm, at two locations in the right field bleachers, and at the Oasis concession stand along the first baseline. All of the promotional events are listed on the Jumbo Shrimp website. After Easter Sunday, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp head out on the road, returning to the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds for the next home series against the Mobile Bay Bears on Thursday, April 27.
Time to go Shrimpin’!
Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone ®
Covering Florida’s beer scene, and locally in North Florida
(all photos by Linda Johnson)