BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Manicuring the pitcher's mound, stocking up the ice cream machine, and compiling the latest RBI statistics. Those are among the many tasks happening at MGM Park before each home game for the Biloxi Shuckers.
Besides the ball players, there's a much larger team at work behind the scenes, getting MGM Park ready for another night of baseball. Workers arrive early in the morning and stay until late at night.
A typical game day starts around 8:00 a.m. and ends somewhere around midnight.
Willie Lawrence is the groundskeeper at the park. "I enjoy everything about it. The one thing you'll find about groundskeepers in baseball, they don't do it for the money. They do it 'cause they love it."
Consistency is the primary assignment when it comes to grooming and preparing the field. Lawrence wants to get it just right and keep it just the same for each ballgame.
"The biggest challenge totally is weather," said Lawrence. "You have to adjust for rain. You have to adjust for lack of rain. And all of those things will dramatically affect the ballgames. So, the weather by far is the biggest challenge a groundskeeper has."
While Lawrence prepares the field, the kitchen crew is hard at work.
"Our kitchen staff is busy preparing suite food. We feed the players as well. Players take the field for batting practice around 3:00. So we feed them a pre-game meal and a post-game meal," said Mike Brulatour with Spectra Food Services. "We take pride in the fact we try to do as much as we can locally. Even though we're feeding 5,000 people coming to dinner every night, so we have to be somewhat ready."
As a work crew from a sign company installs new advertising on the outfield wall, Trevor Matifes tends to the inflatables in the "fun zone" section beyond the right field fence.
"My main thing is just making sure the ballpark is ready to go each night, making sure it's clean, ready to be opened up for gametime. Making sure the inflatables are blown up. So, it's about three or four hours of work to get this place ready for a game," said Matifes.
Long before the umpire yells "play ball" there's plenty of activity at the downtown ballpark.
Amy Johnson is creative services manager. Her behind the scenes world is the production suite at MGM Park. All that you see and hear on the big screens is created by the production crew.
"We have four cameras we use during each game. One on each dugout. So, we have first base and a third base. And then we have a high home camera, which is further in the press box. And then out on center field, we actually have a static camera," said Johnson.
Like many on the Shuckers staff, Chris Harris wears many hats. His primary jobs are media relations and broadcasting the Shuckers games on radio.
"Most of us were here from the get-go," said Harris. "Had to sit at a fold-up table and chairs without an office to go to. And from the ground up, we've seen this come into fruition, I think, for all of us, it's more than just a place to work, it's family... Not many teams in the country have a facility like this. And I think we should be thankful every day that this is here and we have a chance to work here every day."
Now take all that behind-the-scenes activity, and multiply it by 70. That's the number of home games for the Biloxi Shuckers this season.