A couple of years ago in the summer of 2017, the people of Macon were given the chance to vote on a name for a new baseball team. We had no idea whether or not this would go anywhere. True, we had a field and a strong history of baseball in Macon, but the stadium was decades old and needed a lot of work. Suspending any worries or doubt, Macon decided to play along and at least come up with a name. The final options were the Macon Bacon, Hits, Heat, Soul or Noise, and of course, the catchy rhyme and love of bacon won out.
Around the same time, renovation began on the stadium– quickly, to finish in time for the season to begin six months later. In a whirlwind of construction and training, the Macon Bacon were ready in time to take on the Coastal Plain League for a surprising and inspiring summer. With a lot of dedication, our team made it through the first hard year of challenges and built a respectable reputation on the field. I sat down with Sarah Leo, Director of Partnership Activation, and Tyler Vertin, Director of Marketing, to talk a little bit about how last season went and what fans can look forward to this year.
As the second oldest minor league stadium in the U.S., the renovation of Luther Williams Field was more than welcome. Fans of baseball in Central Georgia flocked to the stadium to see what the new Macon Bacon facility and team were all about. Almost half of all home games sold out last year, and tickets are already selling fast for this summer. Not only did the Bacon win their first game of the season, but they also went all the way to the final championship and made a name for our city in the Coastal Plain League. Right away in 2018, the Macon Bacon began earning awards for their hard work such as NewTown Macon Award for Growing Jobs, Coastal Plain League Organization of the Year, and the Sammy Award for Best Marketing Pitch.
This year is the 90th anniversary of Luther Williams Field. Although the renovation brought new attention to the area, there’s a lot of history behind the stadium. An array of teams have played here over the years such as the Macon Highlanders in 1904 all the way to the Macon Music in 2007, but the Macon Peaches were the predominant face of the field for 50 years. As a testament to the Peaches, Macon Bacon will have a “Macon Peaches” night on June 13th with exclusive “Peaches” jerseys and happy hour specials. Later, on July 20th, is an Allman Brothers tribute night featuring a concert and tie-dye jerseys. Check out the schedule on the team’s site– maconbaconbaseball.com– to see what will be going on at each of the home games.
While the community is needed to support the Macon Bacon, the team does a great job uplifting Central Georgia as well. Last year and continuing into this year, “Tools for Teachers” is the Macon Bacon’s largest initiative within the community. Partnering with Macon-Bibb County Schools, five 5th grade students from each classroom in the county are nominated as “MVBs” (Most Valuable Bacon) to attend a game and parade with their parents. The following night’s game is dedicated to the teachers, principals, and their families. Group nights are an important part of the Macon Bacon’s involvement in the community– any group (15 or more) with a love of baseball and fellowship can receive a special discount on tickets and food, and non-profit organizations, such as schools or churches, can fundraise at the game by receiving $5 back per ticket. This is a great opportunity to raise money for your organization and support the team.
Compared to last year’s inaugural season, everything about the Macon Bacon is bigger and better. People may have been unsure about the reemergence and revitalization of baseball in Macon, but last year proved that we are happy to see it back! When you come to a Macon Bacon game, it is best to get there about an hour early. The first pitch is usually at 7, but you don’t want to miss out on the brightest new amenity at Luther Williams Field: the Game On Training Kids Zone. During the games this summer, kids can play their own Macon Bacon game with wiffle balls on a playground, practice in the batting cage, and speed pitch.
The ballpark is also introducing a Plantation Rum Tiki Bar near the entrance in addition to restocking the beer garden from last year. If you haven’t tried it yet, the Macon Bacon team has its own beer by the Macon Beer Company called “Macon Plays”, a nice and simple cream ale brewed with fresh dark & robust maple syrup.” But if you’re not into beer, you can now grab a rum slushy or fruity drink at the Tiki Bar, perfect for the crazy summer heat that’s about to come our way. Last year, Macon experienced record high temperatures that hadn’t been recorded since 1925– back when Luther Williams was the mayor!
This season, the Bacon are excited to welcome back eight players total from last year. Summer ball offers many options for players, but to see 20% of the roster coming back shows how good of a team our city offers. Last year, we were excited to see Riley King and James Williams from UGA, and both of these all-star players are coming back for another season (unless otherwise drafted because of their outstanding year so far). Minor league baseball is a crucial stepping stone in an athlete’s career: if a minor league team contributes exceptional coaching and support to an athlete’s success, then that team is doing its job. The Macon Bacon team is made up almost entirely of Georgia athletes moving from high school ball fields to the city plate. While playing in the major leagues is an athlete’s end goal, it’s awesome to see the players move up from their hometown.
For 90 years, baseball has been part of Macon, and I would imagine that we will still be playing on the same field 90 years from now. With support from a community that loves to come together and enjoy a traditional American sport, the Luther Williams Field will stand as a testimony to where Macon once was and where we are going. 300 years ago, Macon was a trade route stop between the coast and inland. 200 years ago, Macon was born and envisioned as “a city within a park.” Now, we are the Heart of Georgia, a place of rest along the river for those going through our state and for those who plan to stay. A baseball game is three hours long, a season is a few months—but within the span of a year, baseball season is the time for us to come together and pursue Luther Williams’ dream of “wholesome entertainment” on the baseball field.