They represent the city on the field. But have you ever wondered what those playing Birmingham sports actually think of the city?
The Magic City is home to Legion FC (a USL soccer team), the Barons (a Double-A baseball team) and the Bulls (a SPHL hockey team). Athletes span from across the country, and in the case of the Bulls include numerous players from Canada. Sure, these local athletes undoubtedly have an off-season home elsewhere or may be in Birmingham for only a few weeks, but in many cases, players and coaches have the opportunity to explore the city and find things they like while here for several months.
We recently sat down with more than a handful of Barons and Legion FC players to pick their brain on what makes the Magic City special. Though they all come from different backgrounds, they all agree Birmingham is a unique place.
Barons assistant coaches Wes Helms and Charlie Poe
Wes Helms and Charlie Poe have been around baseball for a long time.
Helms, a former MLB veteran, is well-known in our area for playing for the Atlanta Braves in 1998 and from 2000-02. What you probably don’t know is he’s lived in the Birmingham area since 2002.
Poe is also familiar with the Magic City. He played professional baseball for 13 seasons, including several for the Barons. In fact, Poe was named an all-star in 1995 as a Baron.
Poe’s playing career was followed by a coaching career. Now in his 15th season, Poe has worked under Barons head coach Omar Vizquel for the last three seasons.
Hear below the two coaches talk about living in Birmingham.
Legion FC midfielder Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson was well-traveled before landing in the Magic City.
The Atlanta native came to Birmingham from Chicago, where he spent several years playing for Chi-Town’s MLS team, the Fire. But prior to being drafted by the Fire in 2017, he played (and lived) in England for several years as a teen before attending Louisville.
Johnson enjoyed spending time in Chicago by exploring the city. The 23-year-old midfielder has continued that trend in Birmingham.
“Life outside of soccer is really important,” Johnson said. And though he’s is still fairly new to Birmingham, he already has a long list of restaurant he likes to visit. He also has a keen sense of what makes the Magic City unique.
You can read more about Daniel Johnson by clicking here.
Barons pitcher Jimmy Lambert
Any Barons pitcher would have jumped at the opportunity, but it was Jimmy Lambert who got the nod on May 29. On that day, rather than playing at Birmingham’s gorgeous downtown stadium, the Barons and Montgomery Biscuits suited up and played the hometown team’s annual game at Rickwood Field.
You can hear Lambert talk about pitching in America’s oldest ballpark below. It goes without saying that it was a neat experience for the 2016 fifth round pick from Fresno State.
You catch watch our entire interview with Lambert and teammate Bernando Flores by clicking here.
Legion FC President/GM Jay Heaps
Jay Heaps has a great relationship with the city. As the President and General Manager of Birmingham’s new soccer team, Heaps has spent a lot of time learning what the city wants and needs in this team.
Heaps’ background includes an award-winning career at Duke, where he was named the national player of the year his senior year, a decade-long MLS career, a successful coaching career in the MLS and now in the front office. Oh, and in college he also played basketball for Coach K on the hardwood.
Though the New Hampshire native hadn’t lived closer to the south than North Carolina prior to moving to Birmingham, it appears southern hospitality quickly sank in for Heaps.
You can learn more of Heaps’ story by clicking here.
Barons pitcher Bernardo Flores
Bernando Flores is a California native who is making his way through the White Sox organization.
Flores was drafted in the seventh round of 2006 draft and played rookie ball and in Single-A prior to moving to Birmingham. With his two previous teams being located in Arizona and North Carolina, respectfully, moving to Birmingham is Flores’ first experience of living in the south.
Though it’s not Birmingham specific, Flores provided an amazing explanation southerner’s favorite word that we have to include.
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