Alabama, Baseball and Southern Falls Plantation
January 2014 Trip
You land in Montgomery AL., you rent a Mustang 5.0 because the mid-sized sedan you reserved isn’t available. You drive 80 miles on 2 lane roads and you definitely drop the hammer, passing anyone going slower than 70 MPH. You arrive in a town called Catherine and once you’ve passed some old farm equipment you know you’ve found your mark. If it’s dark, there are no streetlights, just moon-lit roads. So you meet a local gas station attendant who only recognizes your destination as ‘the baseball player’s house.’ Communication is a little tough, but without request, the good man guides you to the property entrance. You’ve found Southern Falls Plantation.
At night, it’s impossible to understand the magnitude and scope of the 5,000 acre property. What’s even harder to comprehend as a Californian is the gracious and giving nature of everyone who lives and works there. We arrived at Southern Falls Plantation not really knowing what to expect and we departed with a new perspective on how to live.
So we awake in an intricately designed Lodge that would bring a Northern California hunting club to its’ knees. No detail is compromised, no smudge left un-wiped. We drove through some of the deepest south available and wound up here!? Some might call it ‘Adult Disneyland.’ Others might call it a masterpiece, crafted by the mind of a visionary, financed by a lightning bolt of a right arm and made possible in large part by a cast of characters one doesn’t soon forget.
That mind and lightning bolt I refer to belong to Jake Peavy. You know, Jake Peavy who won a Cy Young Award a Gold Glove Award and was the youngest pitcher to win an ERA crown since Doc Gooden in 1985. To round out an already charmed career, Peavy won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox, playing an integral role in their post-season success.
Jake celebrated the victory like no one else. He bought this beauty; an amphibious duck boat which his buddy Johnny Gomes scribed some choice words on. But Jake doesn’t boast about himself, so I’ll keep my boasting about him to a minimum.
The man who manages the property and most of Jake’s affairs is his brother, Luke. From running daily operations and getting a world-class hunting destination ready for show to scouting housing for his brother, Luke does it all. Their dad, Danny, remarked to me over a couple of Makers Sodas that Luke actually showed more promise early on as a ball player. The younger Peavy brother played collegiate ball at both Samford and South Alabama Universities.
To put it all into perspective, Southern Falls Plantation is a world-class deer hunting destination equipped with 50 shooting houses spanning over 5000 acres. 60 trail cameras document and photograph the local game, allowing hunters a detailed summary of the amount and quality of the deer. Local gaming only allows for 3-5 year-old Bucks to be hunted and the eco-system demands that 100 does are killed annually. A doe was shot our first day in Alabama and that’s when I met Bessie, the 60 pound sheep dog covered in deer blood. She took me for a hopeless dog lover and thus I spent the afternoon with deer remnants on me.
Two lodges on the property sleep 60 people and did I mention the replica Fenway Park equipped with Green Monster and all? The weekend before our trip, the Peavy’s hosted a “Boy’s Weekend” that consisted of friends, family and a whole assortment of Red Sox and other Major Leaguers including Johnny Gomes, Adam Dunn and more. Over 150 dudes got together, hit home runs at Fenway Park, listened to live music from the on site amphitheater and played black jack until the wee hours. Think Field of Dreams with current superstars.
Generally speaking, hunting passes time when it’s light out as everyone on property gears up for the main event: nighttime at Southern Falls Plantation. Mill Creek Saloon is the center of it all. The 30 foot bar is backed by a bevy of Jake’s MLB awards. Everyone rolls on the brand new two-lane bowling alley. Black jack tables line the elongated room, complimented by autographs and memorabilia of ball players. (Jake loves memorabilia and boasts a sizable collection of jerseys exchanged with guys he played with and against.)
Jake, Luke, Big Sexy, their Uncle “Mac”, Ellen, Jennifer, Papa, Danny and a whole cast of characters at Southern Falls Plantation make the nighttime an unforgettable occasion. Inside Mill Creek Saloon, music blares, pins crash, Papa tells stories of yesteryear. We played a little IPhone DJ later in the evening and to my surprise, I found out later that Jake had downloaded “Lorde” and “Whitney Houston” amongst others onto my phone. The dance party kicked serious ass, but I felt I had to contribute a little Cali flavor so I dropped some Warren G “Regulate.” Thankfully, it was appreciated and the remaining party goers all ‘dropped it like it was hot.’
To the right of the saloon, sits a massive fire-pit with a concert-sized amphitheater resting just below. This is where you get the good stuff. Jake strums his guitar and sings covers and originals in the country genre. At 32, he delivers singer song writer montages that wax of Jeff Bridges’ performance in Crazy Heart. All of the ladies exhibit pro-level singing voices and Jennifer, Luke and Jake’s cousin, knocked us off our feet. One evening, Danny, Jake and Luke’s Father delivered an unbelievably haunting and spectacular rendition of Bog Seger’s “Turn the Page.”
Granted, I’m in awe because, well, baseball is my church and I’m at a baseball player’s house. Honestly, what drove this weekend home for me were the people who make Southern Falls Plantation happen. “Everyone is an Assistant Manager,” remarked one of the ladies in a spectacular southern accent I couldn’t begin to reproduce in writing. Everyone living and working on the property contributes. Danny is the hunting guide and takes folks out to one of several prime hunting blinds. Mac and Big-Sexy work with Luke on general property maintenance and enhancement. Missing Southern Falls Plantation, I actually reached out to Luke and Big Sexy, asking where I can submit my resume for one of these “Assistant Manager” positions, but quickly realized I wouldn’t make the cut.
— Justin Fox (@Jfivefox1) February 5, 2014
The ladies keep the 60 rooms fresh with towels and bedding and life goes on this way. Simplistic? Maybe. Has the Peavy clan broken the code to the secret of living? I think so.
Luke and Jake share closeness not very common amongst brothers. Luke handles Jake’s affairs and Jake brings home the bacon. They consider themselves “The Outsiders” because they strive to be different and choose not pretend to be elite just because they’ve been fiscally successful. They hold onto their roots, they value their family and they treat newcomers like old friends.
You may be wondering, what is the end game here? Why the massive, world-class hunting lodge, amenities, Fenway Park etc? I’ll tell you why. The Peavy’s love hosting their friends and family and very soon will turn the plantation into a very profitable getaway for corporate retreats and hunting groups from around the world. They’ve successfully hosted 175 guests for a weekend with Jake’s “Boys Weekend.” Jake’s World Series Party had Needtobreathe playing in their amphitheatre. They expect to make a good amount of revenue when their retreat hosting is off the ground.
People will come. It’s been built and they will come. They will flock to Catherine Alabama. Just like they did Ray Kinsella’s corn field in Iowa.
January 2015 Trip:
Southern Falls gets better with age. Updates to the property are abound. There’s now a dedicated 250 yard driving range complete with mats that allow one to hit shots straight from the main deck. Everyone shoots for a deer feeder that resides about 85 Yards out. After about 75 tries, I hit it. Jake hits it one out of every seven or eight tries.
Ground has broken to insert a lake just to the left of the range and additional housing for Jake, his wife Katie and four boys is being built on the property. The Peavy’s have began hosting private events on a complimentary basis to get a sense of where they stand for the day when corporate retreats start and the effort becomes profitable. The weekend after we left, 30 kids from Jake and Luke’s high school were hosted as a retreat for their baseball program.
Exciting things await Southern Falls. I’m excited to watch it all unfold.
Southern Falls Plantation:
LISTEN TO JAKE PEAVY ON THE BUSCH LEAGUE SPORTS PODCAST
BUSCH LEAGUE SPORTS PODCAST (6-22-14)
Major League Baseball starting pitcher, Jake Peavy, of the World Champion Boston Red Sox sits down with FOX for a candid conversation. They discuss:
- The Current Red Sox Season
- The offseason after winning a World Championship
- Peavy’s career
- Peavy’s Alabama Ranch, Southern Falls.