THE DEAN’S LIST WITH DEAN HOCKNEY
It seems hard to believe, but the Kokomo Jackrabbits are now over halfway through the team’s second season in Municipal Stadium. There have been many highs and a few lows, but for the most part, the first half of season two of Prospect League baseball in the City of Firsts has been a hit. Here is a quick letter grade snapshot of the good and bad of the first half of the season.
Kokomo Municipal Stadium (B): Well, the stadium is still not complete, and until then, I cannot give a high score. But, fans love it, as evidenced by the stadium being voted the Best Summer Collegiate Ballpark in America for the second consecutive year.
There are still areas that are incomplete, like the lack of batting cages and a concession stand window that is 20-feet off the ground. But several areas were completed in time for the 2016 Jackrabbits season, like the second concession stand, walkways and clubhouses (although it is strange that there is no field-level door for the players). The new $250,000 video board is outstanding and will only get better as it is programmed with information.
Players (A-): What can be said about the players? How about five Prospect League all-stars for the second consecutive season! And two of those will be starting – Griffin Harms in the outfield and Ryan Hutchinson at third base. The squad came close to locking up a first-half playoff berth, and as of right now, they are in first place in the East Division for the second half. Could a playoff game come to Municipal Stadium next month?
The players are also accessible to fans – especially the young ones. Before each game, Jackrabbit players are on the concourse greeting fans, and after the game they are on the field signing autographs and meeting the community. And from what I can tell, the players and coaches truly enjoy meeting their fans – even after tough losses.
Concessions (B): The lines are now all but gone (last year, they lasted up to 30 minutes) and the food is very good at the Brew City Grill. The hot dogs are the best around, and from what I can tell, the beer and Coca-Cola are flowing at a steady pace. I am still looking forward to the arrival of DiMaggio’s Pizza, though.
Entertainment (B+): From fireworks to giveaways to on-field fun, the entertainment at a Kokomo Jackrabbits game is very good. Jax the Jackrabbit is one of the best mascots around and is great with kids, and the Get Outrageous Crew – led by Jessica Green from Z92.5 – keeps fans engaged between innings. With multiple bobblehead giveaways and interestingly themed home stands (I am stoked for Star Wars and WWE), there is something for everyone at a game.
Mother Nature (A): Thank you Mother Nature – we have not had a rain out and the temperatures have been pretty good through the first 20 home games of 2016.
Organization and coaching (B+): Last year, everyone was talking about the on-field antics of the field manager. But this year, Matt Howard has been a leader on the field – not just in coaching but with the way he carries himself. He has the team winning and there is little to no negative publicity this season. The Jackrabbits did a great job in promoting Howard – and a playoff berth will surely up his grade after the season.
Overall (B): Taking everything into consideration, I will give the first half of the season a B. What the stadium lacks in construction completion the team overcomes with exciting play on the field. While lines may be long at the ticket window (up to 45 minutes long before the last home game), once fans are seated they are quickly entertained by either game play or other activities. From all of the conversations I have had with fans, it is well worth paying a visit to a Jackrabbits game for an entertaining evening of the National Pastime.
Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.
Dean Hockney is the publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana, sports editor of the Kokomo Herald and the public address announcer for IU Kokomo and the Kokomo Jackrabbits. You can follow him on Twitter (@Sports_Journal) for the latest in local sports news and game reports.