Biloxi Shuckers

New GM Chuck Arnold looks to bring Pensacola's success to the Shuckers

 The Shuckers new general manager Chuck Arnold at MGM Park on Friday, January 8, 2016.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD The Shuckers new general manager Chuck Arnold at MGM Park on Friday, January 8, 2016. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- Chuck Arnold spent the last two years working for one of minor league baseball's better success stories of the last decade -- the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

The Cincinnati Reds' Double-A affiliate hasn't had many winning teams on the field, but it has produced plenty of sold-out crowds and a devoted following.

Now that Arnold is on the job as the new general manager of the Biloxi Shuckers, he hopes to bring some of that magic to MGM Park.

Arnold has only been in Biloxi for a little over a week so there is not yet a master plan for the future of the Shuckers, but he does want fans to know one thing -- he's listening. "Our No. 1 focus is customer service and giving our fans a voice," Arnold said. "Our ticket holders can write in comments and suggestions. We want to hear about what we're doing well and we want to hear what we can improve on. We want to make sure the community knows this is their team -- Biloxi's team, the Mississippi Gulf Coast's team."

The difference between a general manager on the major league level and in the minor leagues is vast.

While MLB general managers are tasked with the hiring and firing of coaches and acquiring players, minor league general managers are busy running the day-to-day business operation -- everything from ticket sales to promotions for fans.

Arnold, 35, served as sales manager at Pensacola and was promoted to vice president of sales just before Shuckers ownership tabbed him as the man to replace Buck Rogers, who stepped down as Biloxi general manager in November.

Don't be fooled with his background in sales. Arnold is a baseball guy.

He played baseball at NAIA Milligan College in Tennessee and worked as a coach for a brief time at King University in Bristol, Tenn.

"I've been in baseball my whole life," Arnold said. "I grew up thinking I wanted to be a baseball coach. It's truly a blessing to still be involved. I had to transition into the business side of the things, but it obviously helps to have that baseball background. It's very rewarding to get involved in the community and meet the fans. That's what it's all about. I'm blessed to have this position."

Following a 54-game road trip to start the 2015 season, the Shuckers played 45 games at MGM Park. The average attendance was 3,459 for regular season games played in Biloxi.

If those attendance numbers had panned out over a full schedule, the Shuckers would have ranked fifth in the 10-team Southern League.

Pensacola ranked second in the Southern League in 2015 with an average of 4,421 fans in a stadium with a capacity of 5,039.

For Biloxi to build on 2015, it will have to be more innovative in getting fans to the ballpark and that means more game day promotions.

"We have a lot of traditional baseball fans, but we have a lot of fans where this is something to come out and have fun," Arnold said. "We want to appeal to fans of all ages. We'll have those promotions and develop theme nights. We have 12 firework shows lined up. We want it to be fun for the community. We can't control the outcome on the field, but we want to make sure fans have a good time, win or lose."

There is also a plan to implement a survey to get an idea of what fans want at MGM Park. Arnold and his staff will also be brainstorming creative promotions for the 2016 campaign

One addition to the fan experience for 2016 will be a mascot, which will be introduced soon.

Another boost for the Shuckers in their second season with be an exhibition game with the parent club Milwaukee Brewers on April 2 at MGM Park.

Ticket sales for the game have been brisk so far.

"I think that's huge for this community," Arnold said. "We're thankful the Brewers have agreed to come in and play the game. It goes back to bringing attention to this great city. We'll have ancillary events around the game. It's a big event for the entire community."

Arnold had the opportunity to attend some Blue Wahoos-Shuckers games in Biloxi last season and was impressed by what he saw.

"(The fans) were excited they were in the playoffs," Arnold said. "It was loud out there and that was fun to see.

"I think it's amazing the resources we have (at MGM Park) from the suites to the party decks and video boards. In the backdrop, we have the view of the gulf and the Beau Rivage. We have a great setting. We have the resources here we need to be successful."