Sports column: Take one last chance to appreciate the M-Braves before they’re gone

Published 3:55 am Sunday, April 7, 2024

As a society, we tend to take certain things for granted. Water will flow when we turn on the faucet. Roads will be reasonably well-paved to get us where we want to go. Lights will turn on when we flip the switch.

For 20 years, minor league baseball has been part of that background noise of life in Central Mississippi. The Mississippi Braves came to Pearl in 2005, in a brand new stadium that soon became one of the state’s premier baseball venues. Trustmark Park hosted not only the M-Braves, but the MHSAA high school championship games and college games as well.

That will soon change. The M-Braves are heading into their final season in Mississippi, as they prepare to move to Columbus, Georgia, for 2025. It’s uncertain what will become of Trustmark Park when they leave, but it is obvious that this summer will mark the end of an era for baseball in the region.

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The reasons for the M-Braves becoming the C-Braves or G-Braves are too long and complex to go into in a couple hundred words. The short version is that attendance dipped over the years and the team’s ownership group made a business decision to move the team.

From the fans’ side of things, it feels like we took the M-Braves for granted. A night at the ballpark was fun and relatively inexpensive, but the 45-minute drive from Vicksburg to Pearl was a bit of a chore. For people closer to the ballpark, the same thought process occurred when deciding whether or not to sit outside for three hours on a humid 92-degree summer evening. It became easy to say, “Eh, we’ll do it next time,” and then the itch to see a game fades away.

Now there aren’t many more “next times.” The M-Braves will soon be a fond memory like the Jackson Mets and Jackson Generals. A generation from now, people will talk about seeing players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Spencer Strider, Austin Riley and Michael Harris at Trustmark Park, in the same way previous generations tell stories of Daryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra and Kevin Mitchell play at Smith-Wills Stadium.

The good news is that there is still one more summer to create some memories before the M-Braves leave.

They opened their 2024 season on the road Friday night, and will return home for a six-game series beginning Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. against Biloxi. There is a day game Wednesday at 11 a.m., and the series continues through next Sunday, April 14.

Several of the Atlanta Braves’ top prospects will start the season in Pearl. There are some players with Mississippi ties to root for, like pitcher Hurston Waldrep (a former Southern Miss star) and outfielder Brandon Parker (a Gulf Coast Community College alum and Saucier native).

There are some interesting stories, too, like pitcher J.J. Niekro, the son of former MLB pitcher Joe Niekro and nephew of Hall of Famer and Braves legend Phil Niekro. J.J. will start the home opener Tuesday night.

So take one last chance — or several last chances over the next few months — to enjoy some high-level pro baseball a short drive down Interstate 20. Don’t take it for granted. It’ll be gone before you know it, and you might not fully appreciate what we’ve had until it leaves.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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