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Saturday Morning Quarterback: Sounds are seen, heard, but unknown

Andy Reed • Jul 7, 2018 at 8:30 AM

A couple of days ago, I saw a feature story on Nashville Sounds shortstop Jorge Mateo, who is apparently on the verge of reaching the major leagues. That same day, I saw a TV feature on leadoff batter Nick Martini, who had reached base in 65 straight games going in to Friday night.

It’s the first time this season I’ve seen any names attached to the 2018 Sounds. That’s a far cry from my youth when the early-years Nashville Sounds produced some of the biggest baseball heroes of my generation.

Don Mattingly, Buck Showalter, Steve Balboni, Willie McGee, Otis Nixon and others spent a season or several at the then-state of the art Hershel Greer Stadium as the Sounds were the biggest sports story from April through August. When they starred in the majors (and, with the exception of longtime MLB manager Showalter, they all did) we remembered when they were Sounds.

If Mattingly, who later won an American League batting championship and Most Valuable Player award for the Yankees and now manages the Marlins, had done what Martini is doing back in 1981, he would have been the lead story night after night in both Nashville newspapers and the three TV news channels which then existed.

Back then, there were no Titans. No Predators. No soccer.

By the way, if you know the Sounds pitched a combined no-hitter during the Predators’ Stanley Cup playoff run in the spring of 2017, it’s probably because you follow my Democrat Facebook page. I never saw it mentioned in any traditional Nashville media, which was rightfully focused on the Preds, but there was no game that night.

The Sounds’ founding owner, Larry Schmittou, believed winning was the best promotion, though he also used other tricks to get fans to come through his turnstiles. If you own a baseball helmet ice cream cup, they were sold first at Greer Stadium.

Schmittou’s successors, like minor league owners everywhere today, pay no attention to the current players, who are under the control of the major-league parent club. Thus, minor league general managers basically ignore the teams which wear their uniforms and focus on what they can control - promotions to draw fans to the park. Whether the team is in first place or last, it doesn’t matter.

And it works.

Despite the area media running canned Titan stories every day (which were produced and probably run during minicamp weeks ago) on a team whose players are scattered across the country and won’t be back in town for training camp for another few weeks, the Sounds drew 11,000-plus on the July 4th holiday with no promotion that I ever saw. The team didn’t even have to produce a postgame fireworks shot. Nashville’s big extravaganza could be seen beyond center field while the game was still in progress.

By the way, can you name a current Sounds player or manager? Didn’t think so. Do you know what kind of season they’re having? Don’t care? Thought so. Fans are turning out at First Tennessee Park to enjoy the still-new park and the overall experience of minor-league baseball. We cheer for the Sounds and boo the opposition and umpires, but in the long run, whether they win or lose is secondary.

Too bad Jorge Mateo and Nick Martini will be forgotten, if they were ever known, in Nashville.

Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at areed@lebanondemocrat.com

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