On Friday, the independent United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL) will begin its third season at Jimmy John’s Field.
Led by experienced sports executive Andy Appleby, the USPBL began play in 2016 with three teams, all of which played at what was then a brand new Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, MI. The league added another team in 2017, as it welcomed the Westside Wooly Mammoths.
The Wooly Mammoths are returning for 2018, as are the Utica Unicorns, Eastside Diamond Hoppers, and Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers. As they did last year, all four clubs will play games this season out of Jimmy John’s Field, while the game day experience will feature some new elements. The league will have its own bat dog this season, with the ballpark itself receiving a variety of changes–including a new speed pitch in the kids’ zone and a new team store. More from Hometownlife.com:
“This year, from a marketing perspective, we actually have a new bat dog called J.J. He actually goes out and gets the bats during the game,” Appleby said. “He’ll be a great ambassador for us as well and all the kids will get a chance to pet him. He’ll be our own resident bat dog. There are a lot of those bat dogs in America that just go for one game here or there, but we actually invested in getting him trained the last 14 months. So he can be one of our big stars this year.
“We’ve also created a whole new dance team. We had over 200, young girls mostly, some boys, come and audition. We have 170 of them who made the team — there are four different teams, depending on their ages.
“We have a new bandstand,” he added. “From a ballpark perspective, we’ve refaced all of our concession stands. We have a new team store. We have a new speed pitch machine in the Kids Zone with an actual mannequin batter. It costs us, like, 10 times more than the typical speed pitch machine, but I thought we’ve got to have that. The kids will be down there all day long throwing against the batter and catcher.”
The USPBL’s regular season runs through September 2.