FLORENCE, Ky. - Wednesday nights will be Kentucky Proud Nights this season when the Florence Freedom professional baseball team plays Wednesday home games at UC Health Stadium.
Freedom fans will receive discounts on the Kentucky Proud items at the ballpark concession stands: hot dogs; bratwurst, mettwurst, and Italian sausages; popcorn; barbecue pulled pork and ribeye steak sandwiches; and even wine.
“We thought we’d offer more incentive for our fans to support local Kentucky farmers and vendors, and draw awareness to the Kentucky Proud program,” said Joel Bogart, food and beverage manager for the Florence franchise.
The Kentucky Proud meat items come from Brooks Meats down the road in Walton.
“Brooks Meats started to work with the Florence Freedom about four years ago, and our relationship with them is growing steady,” said Brooks’ German master sausage maker, Stefan Neumann.
Brooks sources pork from hog farmer Dave Harmon near Warsaw and The Chop Shop in Hazel Green, while it gets beef from Don Lancaster’s ranch near Petersburg and owner Steve Brooks’ family farm near Walton.
“We buy in the neighborhood of $30,000 [per year] in meat from Brooks alone,” Bogart said. “They have a great chef there, Stefan.
“We’d like to get Stefan out to the ballpark and do a ‘Grillin’ with Stefan’ promotion. We’d like to put him out there with a grill and have him explain what kind of things you can do. He’s very creative.”
Bogart said buying quality Kentucky Proud meat from Brooks has made his job easier.
“From a quality standpoint, I never have to second-guess what I’m serving,” he said. “It’s not coming in from somewhere overseas. It’s fresh.”
Bogart said some fans recognize the Kentucky Proud logo on the menu screens, while others ask what it is.
“I make sure my employees are trained to answer them,” he said. “There’s a big draw right now to buy local.”
Another promotion that will take place at every home game is a Kentucky Proud video that will play on the ballpark’s outfield Jumbotron and on concession video boards.
“It’s a video to highlight one or two of the vendors in the Kentucky Proud program and what it means to support them,” Bogart said. “We’ll highlight our popcorn or highlight Brooks.”
The Freedom, which plays in the independent Frontier League, moved to Florence 13 years ago. Its ballpark, which sits on a hill overlooking Interstates 75 and 71, will host this year’s league All-Star Game on July 13.
“We play in an independent baseball league, which means we don’t have a Major League affiliation,” Bogart said. “We get a lot of players just out of college. If we have a player that’s doing good, a Major League team will come and sign them.”
Former Florence relief pitcher Jorge Marban has moved up the ranks in the Boston Red Sox farm system, playing for Triple-A Pawtucket last season. He was with the Red Sox in spring training at press time, trying to make the team’s Opening Day roster.
“He may start the year in Boston’s bullpen,” Bogart said. “Our league definitely has good baseball being played.”
Florence’s first exhibition game will be May 4 at the Evansville (Indiana) Otters. The Freedom will open the season May 13 at 7:05 p.m. at home against the Windy City Thunderbolts.
The first Kentucky Proud Night will be May 18 at 5:35 p.m. against the River City Rascals.
For more information about the Florence Freedom, go to www.florencefreedom.com.