In The Press Box with Jeff Carman!

The Air Hogs are fun for the whole family. What are you waiting for?
The Air Hogs are fun for the whole family. What are you waiting for?

By Will Martin

As cool, cloudy, windy and wet conditions befell North Texas, I was able to sneak away for a few hours to catch up on some baseball of the local variety at QuikTrip Ballpark in Grand Prairie.

To say that Quiktrip is sporting a new look would be an understatement.

With the 4th annual Scotland Yard Baseball tournament going on with teams such as Boswell, Belton, Flower Mound, and Highland Park involved I had a chance to speak with Jeff Carman the Director of Ticket Sales for the Grand Prairie Air Hogs.

*Note* Their 2013 season of American Association play resumes on May 17th*

Jeff, great to see you again after six months. I must tell you the new look turf upon QuikTrip Park looks amazing. Talk a little bit about how this all came to be.
This started back in November…they tore up the grass and basically the process was done over the winter. February was when this project was finished up. They were here everyday with tractors and the like to remove the grass, lay down the turf and it looks great. You know, we’ve had several games on it-several high school games-we’re going to have a concert here in a few weeks. The first  major event on the turf. We’ll see how it goes.

Currently there’s a Scotland Yard Baseball tournament going on. We’re watching Belton and Flower Mound play. Next week on the 15th there will be a friendly meet-and-greet here at QuikTrip for fans to start looking ahead to the 2013 Air Hogs season which begins May 17th, correct?
Yes, May 17th is our Opening Day and we’ll be starting the season against Winnipeg. They were the champions last year so this will make for a nice backdrop. The ’11 champs versus the ’12 champs we look forward to. This Friday will be our 5th annual ‘St. Patty-O Party’. That’s when our individual tickets go on sale. This will go from 10am to 7pm. A Day for Green Beer, dollar hot dogs, dollar cokes, stuff like that. There will also be games for the kids.

The Grand Prairie Chamber also comes out and assists with tee shirts and the like. They do a wonderful job in the community. In addition the Air Hogs will have different ticket packages available in the 3 to 5 to 7 game increments so be sure to come out March 15th.

Hard to believe that on May 17th, the Air Hogs will be starting their 6th season in Grand Prairie. This speaks well to the support of the community and to the council of Grand Prairie. Just as strong today as it was in 2008.
That’s exactly right. The city helps out a lot (Parks and Recreational). That’s our goal: To bring fans and families out and pack the ballpark and enjoy a quality product. This will be my third season with the team. I began in April 2011. Not a lot of time to get ready but 2011 came together beautifully as we won a championship.

Ricky Van Asselberg is also back for his 3rd season. He is a great manager. We’ll have mostly a new lineup. Our shortstop Nishimoto is back. Ricky does a wonderful job of scouting talent and watching the kids reach their potential. All the more reason to be excited about the 2013 season.

How long has the Scotland Yard Baseball Tournament been going on?
I’ve been here three years and we have hosted it each year. Highland Park is technically the host team. Basically it’s four venues and 16 teams. Also doing the hosting is Highland Park, Trinity Christian, and W.T. White. It’s a Thursday-Friday-Saturday affair. Some schools bring out more fans than others. The fun aspect of this event is seeing the kids who might, under normal circumstances, play on fields that are less than perfect. They get a kick out of playing on a professional field.

When you talk about Highland Park we all know about the successes Clayton Kershaw and Chris Young have had on the major league level. The same for Matt Stafford on the football side. Grand Prairie now gets to toot it’s horn with newly announced ex-Air Hogs making the jump to the Major Leagues in Baltimore and Seattle.
James Paxton pitched for Grand Prairie in 2010. Right before I got here. James Paxton is rated as one of Seattle’s Top Prospects. They say he has a decent shot at wearing that Mariner uniform sometime this season.

We’re also very happy at the signing of Zane Chavez by the Baltimore Orioles. Zane did some great things here at Grand Prairie.

In 2011 we sold the contract of Craig Smith to the New York Yankees before Smitty was designated for reassignment. We also had Jason Jennings pitch for us in 2011. Rookie Of The Year for Colorado and also pitched for the Astros and Rangers. This league is a unique league. What’s cool about it is we try to get as many talented players as we can.

Consequently, if a player is performing really well scouts come out and gather them quickly. That’s not a bad thing. Ultimately we want to be able to help players get back into the big leagues. It’s always an exciting moment when you see a contract get sold to a big league team.

Ah, you mentioned Jason Jennings. The ace here in 2011. His story is an interesting one. Everywhere he went after he leaves, like Buck Showalter, his team goes to the World Series. 2005 with the Astros, 2007 with the Rockies, and 2010-2011 with the Rangers. Might we hear from him again in the Double A capacity?
Yeah, he actually came back last year to throw out the first pitch when we all got our rings. Jason got his ring. That was a special thing for him as I’ve been keeping up with him and talking to him. That was his first championship in all of baseball. Jason still lives in the area and does an occasional pitching clinic but I think as a player he’s done. You never know with players. He could have a change of heart and wind up somewhere. The Air Hogs will always bear a special place for Jason Jennings and the 2011 ride to the top.

Final question. For fans of baseball, for people of North Texas or even residents of Grand Prairie who have never made the trek to QuikTrip Ballpark is there a website they can go to if they have questions?
Sure. Fans can go check out to see our schedule. We’ll have ticket packages on sale, 3,5,7 game plans, full season tickets, Party area seating. We feature a third base party deck. We even have a pool that people can rent out, swim, and watch the game. That’s a feature few teams have. I know that’s the case in Frisco and also for the Diamondbacks since 1999.

You can also find us on Facebook. We have a Facebook page ‘Grand Prairie Air Hogs Baseball’ where I update pictures, trivia, and different events. We’ll also do ticket specials on Facebook and on our website. May 17th our season begins in addition to concerts, car shows, a biker rally, and yes Air Hogs baseball.

June 22nd we’ll have a pink out game for Breast Cancer Awareness. We also will feature many a concert after the season ends September 21st. Hope to see you out here at the Ballpark.

In addition to having a Bar and Grill out in left field with great eats and treats the oufield area is also cigar friendly. One reason I like coming here. Jeff Carman, I thank you for your time. We’ll do this again soon!