“The Lucky Horseshoes are affordable family entertainment:” A discussion with Jeff Jarret and Jamie Toole of the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes with the new Prospect League season just days away

Baseball is a sport like few others. It is competitive and highly specialized, sure. Try hitting one of those balls they throw with a wooden bat, and most will find it less than easy.

But baseball is also a sport of a certain amount of accessibility and leisure too – or at least it has, historically been. George Carlin had a bit on it many years ago, but his points remain valid whether you’ve seen the bit for yourself; baseball is supposed to be affordable, supposed to be fun, and is supposed to be accessible to and for all.

But baseball is not always accessible, and when it costs too much to easily enjoy, attending a game no longer becomes leisurely or relaxing. It, instead, becomes a game in budgeting and personal, financial calculations; how can anyone enjoy a beer with that running through their minds?

Luckily for those in Springfield, Sangamon County, and the surrounding, Central Illinois community, folks like Jeff Jarrett – you might have heard of him from what might be called the day job that first brought him recognition – and Jamie Toole know the pain of a $15 beer. Their answer? Lucky Horseshoes baseball.

When Jamie and Jeff set some time aside to speak with WMAY just the other day, we were simply thrilled. Midwest Family-Springfield certainly is looking forward to partnering with the Lucky Horseshoes across the entire, exciting and exhilarating upcoming campaign, and our chat was in a similar vein.

Jamie and Jeff each have an easy, personable warmth about them, and it did not take very long before they were asking us questions as though they were doing the interview themselves.

They each care about people. Whether it is during an interview session, or in the reconstruction and redefinition of Springfield’s minor league baseball team, people remain of paramount importance.

While the team is set up to compete and help players improve and grow, the stadium, the showmanship, and the entire projected and lived experience is designed and conceived with people, their experiences, and the memories they inevitably are intended to come away with as they leave the grounds of Lanphier High School and Robin Roberts Stadium.

Our chat with Jamie and Jeff was illuminating and positive; they spoke about beer, baseball, building something for the community, what the future will hold, and the upcoming Springfield’s Legends Classic on May 27. Below is but a portion of our chat, but not only do we hope that you enjoy it, but that we have the chance to see you all there as well!

WMAY: Can we talk about what you guys are doing? How excited are you guys for the new season? Just days away at this point, and not only that but a new sign – and new beer – too?

Jamie Toole: We always say baseball is our platform, but not our purpose; what we mean – what is our purpose – is to bring people together. We don’t ask them when they buy their tickets who they voted for, or to support this or that policy – we don’t scroll down social media and get into arguments – we say, ‘Hey, come on out. We’re going to entertain you for two and a half, three hours. We’re gonna give you a warm hotdog, cold beer; the kids can run the bases, and they’re gonna see themselves on the video board.’

That’s our purpose, right? And baseball is certainly a part of that. But really, the entertainment that is derived by everyone who comes out is much more important to us, and that’s why you see the diversity in the programming. The one thing we haven’t mentioned is the water blaster fight; we’re trying to break the world record for size. It’s just about creating content that makes people smile.

There’s a team in Savannah, Georgia – the Bananas – that have sort of reimagined what baseball can be, and unfortunately, going into a major league baseball game in today’s economy is virtually impossible for a large portion of certainly Springfield and our surrounding area – it’s not cheap.

We went to the Cardinals game the other day, and I had to take out a small loan to pay for that; $15 beers is hard to swallow no matter how cold they are. We sell the same size beer for $5 – so there’s that.

Going to the Lucky Horseshoes is affordable, family entertainment, and I think that sort of sums up our creed and mission.

Jeff Jarret: I’m a third-generation promoter. So this is second nature to me to talk about how much fun’s out there to be had…We’re a very intimate setting you know, we have local, local, local, local, I mean, we have local food, local beer, local players, you know, there’s a lot of our house – a majority, at least half our team, in fact – is from the Springfield area, the Central Illinois area. So it’s very localized.

It’s very, very much a community effort, but that engagement and with the new scoreboard going out the video board, that’s all going to bring us even closer together because you’re going to have the ability to sit in the stands with your family, but you’re going to be on that big screen. That becomes a real tangible, emotional connection that is being created there. When you have your family up on that screen and see the replay. You go from a replay on the field to a kiss cam there. It’s an entire experience that we’re creating.

WMAY: And is that [the community feeling] something that intrinsically attracted you to Springfield and to this team and vision?

JJ: Jamie attracted me to all of this. But certainly, the name and everything did too; you hear ‘lucky horseshoe’ and, if you’re from New York City, or from Nashville – wherever – you don’t think of a sandwich.

When you think of a horseshoe in Springfield, you have to learn about what it is – yes, it’s local, local, local. It’s their [the people of Springfield’s] team. It’s their bread, it’s their sandwich, and it’s their team.

I’m lucky to be a part of it all, and to get to shout from the mountaintops about how much fun it is. Speaking of which, we’re doing four or five Jersey-off-the-back-nights – do you all know how those work?


WMAY: Tell us about these Jersey-off-the-back-nights, please?

JJ: It’s it’s super simple. You know, the players will play, but with the American Cancer Society, you’ll be able to bid on a player’s jersey, and at the end of the night, that player’s gonna walk over and give your little son or daughter a jersey – that’s money right there, that’s a real experience and memory that will remain long after the game is over and through. And speaking of experiences, who doesn’t like fireworks? We have five different fireworks nights this season as well; just another experience we’re creating.

WMAY: So how, how do the Lucky Horseshoes keep building momentum and experience? How do you all keep stacking and growing?

JT: I’m gonna tell you the secret to that. You just have to listen and you see what attracts people to the ballpark, right?

You create a good value for the people – good sport, good team, good product, good fun….So what you do is, you create the value propositions that are worthy of attracting folks to come down to the ballpark, but when you do that, you’re also able to reinvest in the facility – new video board, new beer garden, paint everything up every year, fresh signs every year, you know we’ve we’re gonna raise the standard higher each and every year too. And I think our predecessors, several ownership groups, they have come to town trying to sell baseball, and that’s not what we’re selling.

We’re selling an organization that brings people together. There’s baseball there too, there are fireworks, and there are horseshoe sandwiches; there are hotdogs and there are a lot of new food and beverage options to try and choose too.

Those are the things that people want to come out to enjoy, and you just see that that’s what they engage with. They engage with ‘Wow, this is going to be happening this year. This is cool.’

JJ: I mean, the sponsorships that have come on board – people don’t sponsor a product unless they believe in it. So when you have folks wanting to be a part of the organization, that’s special; that’s proof. That’s proof that things are being done right and that they [supporters, institutions and companies] want to get on board.

And they’re going to support us, not because Jamie’s a nice guy – not just because the Springfield Lucky Horseshoes have a cool logo. It’s because they know that what we’re doing is right and it’s right for them and their brand or brands too.

So for their brand aligned with our brand, that is a real upside, and with partners like you guys with WMAY, WQLZ, WNNS and The Lake, you know, that’s big and that tells folks it’s not about the dollars; it’s about associating with successful, community-driven and oriented brands and then building together from there…


WMAY: How will the Luck Horseshoes best succeed in Springfield?

JT: Well, there’s a great line from the movie Field of Dreams. And he says if you build it, they will come, right? If you build something special, people want to be a part of it. And I think the analogy of the snowball rolling downhill is really perfect to describe what’s happening – momentum continues moving.

And that’s the feeling that we get now. Just from people coming in to buy merchandise and support the team. There are several times a week we’ll get several $100 in merch orders from all over the country, New York, LA. It’s like the brand is just all over because there are these people that follow the logos and the fun stuff. So in a way, we’re spreading the word about Springfield, Illinois, all over the country, which is super cool, right?


WMAY: So what is what are the lucky horseshoes like in five years?

JT: Oh, wow…Probably the marquee summer collegiate baseball team in the country. Probably selling out every game, probably having field turf, LED lights, new concessions, new restrooms, a waiting list for season ticket holders connected to the community, hosting the state championship, hosting University of Illinois baseball, hosting concerts, hosting standalone wrestling events, probably the most engaging Entertainment Group within the entire region.


As Jamie noted what he perceived this team and institution would look like in five years, Jeff – with a big, broad grin painted on his face – couldn’t contain the words that sum up the future of minor league baseball with the Lucky Horseshoes in Springfield!


JJ: He’s got a plan!


Our thanks to Jamie Toole, Jeff Jarrett, and the entire Springfield Lucky Horseshoe organization for their time.

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