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Team hopes fans will like flavor of Jumbo Shrimp: Ticket sales strong for April 12 home opener

By Mark Basch, Contributing Writer

When Randy Ready tells people he’s the manager of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, he often has some explaining to do.

“I’ve got to break that down quite a bit,” Ready said Tuesday as the Jumbo Shrimp met the media at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

In case you missed it during the offseason, Jacksonville’s Southern League team changed its name from the Suns to the Jumbo Shrimp.

To break it down, the team said the new name reflects Jacksonville as a big (Jumbo) small town (Shrimp), and also symbolizes the abundance of waterways surrounding the city.

General Manager Harold Craw said the team came up with the name after meeting with fans at games last year and getting feedback about their impressions of Jacksonville.

Craw came to Jacksonville last season along with new team owner Ken Babby.

“We just took all of these running themes” and came up with Jumbo Shrimp, he said.

Craw said fans seem to embrace the new name. “Ticket sales are up across the board,” he said, and fans have been coming to the team store at the ballpark to buy merchandise.

Advance sales for the team’s home opener on April 12 are 50 percent to 60 percent higher than last year, but Jacksonville is a “walk-up town” with fans often buying tickets on the day of the game, Craw said. So he won’t know for sure about attendance until the team takes the field.

“You always want to see that first home stand,” he said.

Several players expressed enthusiasm for the new name.

“Heck yeah, absolutely,” said Austin Dean, an outfielder who played for the Suns last year when asked if he liked the name.

“I think it’s going to get more fans to come to the game,” said pitcher Matt Tomshaw, who has a unique perspective on Jacksonville fans compared with his teammates.

Tomshaw is a Jacksonville University alum who lives in Jacksonville year-round. During the offseason, he worked for Black Knight Financial Services Inc. to help make ends meet.

“The minor leagues don’t exactly pay the best,” he said.

Pitching coach Storm Davis also has a handle on the local market as a Jacksonville native, but he was more reserved in his assessment of the Jumbo Shrimp.

“I liked the last name and I like this name,” he said. “I’ve got to be politically correct.”

Ready, like Davis, is a veteran major league player starting his first season working in Jacksonville. He was also more reserved about the name than the players.

“It is what it is,” said Ready. “I think it’ll catch on.”

Ready did say he liked the team’s logo, which shows a shrimp in the shape of a “J” for Jacksonville.

“I hope the fans can kind of gravitate to it,” he said.

Fans will get used to seeing shrimp, which will be available in various forms at every concession stand, said Craw.

The Suns had losing records the last two years, and team officials are hoping for better results from the Jumbo Shrimp.

The makeup of the team’s roster, as well as the manager and coaches, are chosen by the team’s major league parent club, the Miami Marlins. Craw’s role is strictly on the business end of the team.

“We control everything that happens outside the white lines,” he said.

But as the Jumbo Shrimp open the season Thursday in Mississippi, everyone is ready for a new era.

“We’re starting fresh. I think we’ve got a good group of players,” said Ready.

“It’s always an exciting time of the year.”

mbasch@jaxdailyrecord.com

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