This piece was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine.
In the middle of what to some could be considered poetic chaos, there is a disarray of hotel bookings, bus scheduling, vendor organization, food and beverage orders, and official players rosters yet to be released. All those are made by one man. I sat down with Jason Compton, General Manager of the Jackson Generals, who is now in his seventeenth season with the team. The Major League Baseball season had already begun by the time the Generals kicked off on April 7. One may ask how crazy this business truly is; the answer is far more complex. Just days away from first pitch, Jason nor any other minor league affiliate of the Seattle Mariners knew who they would be expecting! We’re going to take a look into the functions of a professional baseball General Manager—and one grown locally right here in West Tennessee.
You have to remember that the game of baseball isn’t always about hits, strikeouts, or even runs scored. It’s about effort in getting dirty, a positive attitude even in defeat, and that graceful hold of anticipation that strangles even the strongest of men. To those who play, it’s a way of life. To those that couldn’t play and wanted it most, it is life. In his book, Ball Four, Jim Bouton wrote, “A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around the whole time.”
Asking Jason to be candid about what the Generals needed from West Tennessee, his answer was to draw in more people. “The city and county are standing behind us and have been a huge part of our success,” he explained. What people fail to remember sometimes is that this is Double-A baseball, which in recent years has become the quickest springboard to get to the majors. If you go back two seasons ago, there are least seven active players from that roster alone who are playing for the Seattle Mariners or other major league teams, or on the forty-man roster (a player who could be called up at any time).
When asked what changes he’d like to see in Jackson, Jason stated, “I’d like to change the perception of what Jackson really is. The first story you see on the news or read about in the paper is usually one that gives us a bad misperception—one that is unsafe or dangerous—and this is simply not true.” He went on to say that they are here to promote a fun atmosphere and one that is affordable for a family to enjoy. “We’re going to put on a good show, have good food, and if you don’t have a good time, then come see me.”
By the end of our conversation, I came to notice one stark piece of evidence about Jason and the organization of the Jackson Generals: ownership. He took ownership over the opportunities that they have and accepted the challenge for any obstacles that may present themselves. He even stated, “Mariners country is not here, but we’re trying to grow it.” Jason did go on to say that they have increased attendance for two consecutive seasons, and to have a third would be huge for the team. “If you didn’t come out to a game last year, then attend one. If you came to one, come to two.”
For Compton, baseball has been a staple his entire life, from his playing days in youth to now running a professional team as a business. When asked about balancing the team as a business and supporting a player’s choice of career (one that more often than not ends in failure) he doesn’t take credit. The first words from him were, “We are running a business, yes, but I have a great staff,” referencing them as “the best I’ve ever had.” In regards to the players, he stated that it’s their job to support the environment, help them get where they’re going, and try not to get in the way of the team. At the end of the day, Compton says, “It’s our job to promote fun for the fans.” Providing themed nights such as Star Wars, Disney characters, and fireworks is just a portion of what they do, but you have to remember you’re also getting to see professional baseball in Jackson, Tennessee. You instantly feel connected to the execution of what Jason has accomplished up to this point, but more so you feel a sense of pride and excitement about what the future has in store. It’s that kind of ownership that I for one can appreciate. It’s that same ownership in which the city, county, and surrounding areas should take in its product. It is a product I urge you all to experience, participate in, and be proud of: a professional sports team, here, in our town, our home.
Jeremiah Coggins is an Executive Recruiter specializing in helping companies and candidates find one another in this crazy career world. Jeremiah has two sons, Cason (7) and Brennan (5), who keep him extremely active. He and his boys stay busy in the sports arena, attend Englewood Baptist Church, and love to stay fit.
Photography by Jeremiah Coggins and Katie Howerton.