MGM Park West Paws

Way back in high school, when people used the term “south paw”, I thought they were saying “south pa”, without the “w”.  The only way that made sense to me at the time was if “pa” was the abbreviation for Pennsylvania, so in using that phrase they were saying that someone was from southern Pennsylvania, like maybe from the greater Philadelphia area.  I dunno.  Who knew?

I cannot recall now if the clarification some time later of the phrase’s true meaning – a left-hander – came with public or with only private humiliation.

With that personal history, I now make it a point to educate any youngsters that are with me watching a baseball game of the phrase, it’s meaning, and it’s history related to left-handed pitchers in traditionally laid out baseball fields.

And then along comes MGM Park.  When I first saw plans for the stadium, with home plate at the northwest corner of the lot, instead of the southwest, I honestly thought it was a mistake.  Certainly we would lay out our stadium in a traditional orientation, wouldn’t we?  Why would we not?

I am a baseball purist.  I believe the American League – with its God-forsaken designated hitter – plays a game which should not be referred to as baseball.  I pine for a 154 game schedule. (Could its return be possible?)  I can accept pitch clocks, because I believe a baseball game is traditionally a 2 to 2 1/2 hours long, not 4 hours long.

When the stadium construction cam finally made it clear it was being aligned to the northwest, my baseball purist anger swelled.  How can this be?  Lefty pitchers won’t be south paws, they’ll be…west paws!  What an outrage!  We should do…or say…something!


Brent Suter, a Biloxi Shuckers West Paw.

So I fumed. Just ask my wife, who eventually had to assure me the world would continue to turn regardless what direction a double-A minor league baseball stadium was aligned.  All through the lead up to the season, and during the long opening road trip, I steamed.  Even more than the team name “Shuckers”, which I was slowly warming to, this layout thing bugged me.  How could a team starting from scratch be so by-the-book on everything else, and yet screw this up?

And then came opening night.  We were there with everyone else, and saw for ourselves first hand the stadium layout.  And then it made sense.  Of course a stadium named “MGM Park” would want to have the Beau Rivage casino and hotel in prominent view.  With home plate at the northwest corner, most fans get a clear view of the people that had a large hand in making our team a reality.  Fans also see a few of the other buildings in Biloxi’s “skyline”, like the Hard Rock casino (including the guitar), and the hospital.  I guess I am OK with that.

Also, I realized any other layout wouldn’t have as good a view. Home plate at the southwest corner wouldn’t give fans a view of much of anything, maybe the hospital, and at the southeast corner fans would’ve had a great view of…the highway.

Winds I’m not so sure about.  In the existing layout, the (what turns out to be) prevailing southerly breeze flows in from around the Beau Rivage, over the right field foul area, and out over the left field fence.  I can live with that.  What if home plate were at the southeast corner?  Would the stands largely block those southerlies?  Or would they still find a way in and out over the outfield?  That I don’t know.

So, MGM Park has a quirk, and I am at peace with that.  You can now amaze (annoy) your guests with this fascinating tidbit of “west paw” trivia.


Long Time No See

I started this Biloxi Shuckers fan blog at the beginning of June, made a few posts, and then just a little over a month ago I went missing, seemingly falling off the face of the earth, not to be heard from until now.  What happened?  Well I will tell ya, since you deserve an explanation, but it ain’t pretty.

About the time of my last post, I spent one Saturday afternoon doing yard work, getting in a good work out, but afterward it didn’t seem my heart ever wanted to calm down.  After a couple hours it was still beating hard, and I was throwing more and more PVC’s (Google it).  This alarmed my RN wife, so she hauled me to a walk-in clinic, who in turn sent me on to a cardiologist.  At the cardiologist I got an EKG, stress test and echo-cardiogram.  All was fine EXCEPT for the echo: that test showed my ascending aorta – the main pipe leading up out of my heart, was greatly enlarged, more than twice the size it should be, and way beyond the point where replacement is called for.  I had a CT scan to confirm I indeed essentially had a water balloon leading out of my heart, and then all effort was focused on arranging for surgery to get it fixed.

In fairly short order we made contact with surgeons at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, one of which (Dr. J Michael Duncan) took my case, and bottom line I had open heart surgery on July 9.

Instead of a normal aorta leading out of the top of the heart:


I had one that was greatly enlarged, and so had to be replaced:


Dr. Duncan put one of these bad boys in me:


When it is quiet, you can hear the mechanical valve clicking open and shut.

If you remember the actor John Ritter from Three’s Company, a ruptured aorta is what killed him, and I believe it is also what took Lucille Ball.  More importantly for me, however, is that I greatly suspect this is what killed my father, when he was literally only two years older that I am now.  The cardiologist whose care I was under in Houston – Dr. Roberto “Lufy” Lufshanowski (an utterly charming man) – said that my aorta could have ruptured “at any time”, and that would have been a very bad day.

So now I am home recuperating from the surgery.  Awfully sore, but with some good meds to take.  They say I shouldn’t go back to work for another month or so.  Well, that gives me time to follow some Biloxi Shuckers baseball, doesn’t it?

I have several topics I have been waiting to write about, and as I have the strength I will produce and post them:  MGM Park “West” Paws, Discounts for Military Members, Barry Lyons (Finally), player performances and more.  If you have any ideas please feel free to submit.  As I said in my first post the goal of this fan blog is not to compete with the local media or the official team sources, but to be a fan forum where we can cover topics that the regular media either doesn’t have the space or (justifiable) inclination to cover.

And no more medical posts!

James Duke, 24 July 2015