Play ball! MGM Park ready for tonight's debut - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Play ball! MGM Park ready for tonight's debut

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MGM Park will open tonight and fans are already lining up for the home opener (Photo Source: WLOX News) MGM Park will open tonight and fans are already lining up for the home opener (Photo Source: WLOX News)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Tim Bennett always believed the Biloxi Shuckers would play baseball at MGM Park on June 6. Even when Biloxi's new mayor said the June opening date wasn't possible, the Shuckers' co-owner remained optimistic.

Tonight, 6,000 fans will pack into MGM Park for the Shuckers opener versus the Mobile Bay Bears. And Bennett can sit back and say I told you so.

Because MGM Park was a construction zone, the Shuckers opened the season on a two month trip. The 54 games they played on the road ended last night with a 317 mile drive from Birmingham to Biloxi.

The Shuckers put more than 2,600 miles on their team bus. Their two month road trip criss-crossed the southeast.

The most impressive part is this. Despite rising on a bus for 54 games, eating fast food and living out of suitcases, the Biloxi Shuckers come home in first place, with the league's best record.

The state of Mississippi put up $15 million to help build MGM Park. Biloxi chipped in the remaining $21 million. Because the ballpark didn't open in April, Biloxi must pay more than $100,000 in fines. That total was actually $250,000. But, the Shuckers lowered the penalty as part of a negotiation to get MGM Park open on June 6.

Opening night festivities begin with a downtown Biloxi street party. At 12:45, the area near Howard Avenue and the Vieux Marche will become a giant tailgate party for baseball fans and anybody who wants to soak in the excitement. Shuckers players will be there, meeting fans, and signing autographs. Just before 2:00, the party takes a short break. Fans will escort the Shuckers to MGM Park, so players can get ready for the opener. 

The gates to MGM Park open at 5:00. An on-field ceremony with Gov. Phil Bryant, Biloxi Mayor Fofo Gilich, Shuckers brass, and the 2015 baseball team begins just before 6:30. The first pitch is scheduled to be thrown at 7:10.

Tonight's game is the first of five straight versus Mobile. The brief homestand ends Wednesday.

Be sure to watch WLOX News at 6:00 and again at 10:00 for live coverage of opening night festivities.

If you'd like to see the opening ceremonies, but you don't have a ticket, log onto WLOX.com or open your WLOX News app at 6:30. We will live stream the on-field events, so you can be part of this history making night in downtown Biloxi.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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