The Greenville Drive always hope for the stands to be packed — but tonight especially so.
The scene at Fluor Field will be broadcast to a national audience, presenting an opportunity to showcase not only the Boston Red Sox affiliate’s rising stars and the stadium’s replica Green Monster, but also the city itself.
Downtown, in particular, will be on display for a full three hours, as CBS Sports Network televises the game live and features in-game interviews and footage of the city.
“We’ve really made this broadcast about showcasing Greenville, and it just so happens the Drive is the platform through which that showcase will take place,” Drive owner Craig Brown said. “We feel an obligation to put forward our best foot.”
The telecast of the Drive’s contest against the Lexington Legends is part of the sports network’s season-long, cross-country tour of 10 minor league baseball stadiums.
Greenville is the only Class A team to be featured and the second-to-last city on the tour.
On Wednesday, the CBS production crew toured the stadium — from the silos of infield dirt in the grounds crew headquarters to the home dugout to the press box and into the Field House condos that overlook the outfield.
Production operations manager Aj Godinez has produced all of eight of this year’s nationally televised minor-league games thus far and the entire 15-game season last year.
Godinez has seen all manner of ballparks with all manner of names — Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Omaha Storm Chasers, Akron Rubberducks, Albuquerque Isotopes, even the Fightin’ Phils and their ostrich habitat beyond the centerfield fence in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Last year, the Charleston RiverDogs and Myrtle Beach Pelicans were featured.
“It’s fun for us to go to all the ballparks and see how they each do their unique take for a fan experience,” he said.
After touring Fluor Field, Godinez said he can see why the Drive park was chosen during the bid process.
“It’s a very nice park,” he said. “They do it up right. I’m excited to see it in action with fans.”
Expect more equipment and wires. Reporters will be roaming the sidelines. During the day, cameras will be filming footage of places of interest downtown, like Falls Park.
Dick Gabriel, a three-time Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year, and former Cincinnati Reds World Series champion Doug Flynn will announce the game.
The telecast will feature in-game interviews with Brown, Mayor Knox White and retired MLB catcher and University of South Carolina standout Landon Powell, who now operates a baseball academy in Greenville.
The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, housed in the Greenville native’s childhood brick home that was moved onto the Drive stadium grounds in 2008, will be featured in an interview with the curator, Drive General Manager Eric Jarinko said.
Perhaps a well-timed trolley will make an appearance, he said.
Another feature will be shot from the perspective of one of the condos overlooking the field, providing an opportunity to share how the stadium has influenced and interacted with downtown revitalization.
The 500 Club will get special treatment, Jarinko said. After all, it’s “Thirsty Thursday” and drinks are a dollar.
This is the Drive’s 10th season at Fluor Field — built in 2006 on the site of an abandoned West End lumber yard littered with hypodermic needles.
The city’s forward-looking vision for a downtown park at the site paid off, connecting the north end of Main Street with the West End and sparking a wave of redevelopment that is at its height today.
The park was named “Ballpark of the Year” in 2006 and drew an average attendance last year of more than 5,000 per game.
The Drive are making efforts to have the stands packed, communicating with season-ticket holders to show up early and draping free red T-shirts over each reserved seat.
The CBS Sports Network is available across the country on major cable, online and satellite providers.
Locally, it can be found on Charter Cable (303, 818 HD), AT&T U-Verse (643, 1643 HD), DirectTV (221) and Dish Network (158).