Ah Joe, you knew it was coming...
I had Joe stop me at the game and ask the question above, one I think bears serious merit in asking. There are many things in life to ask the above question, but in this case we are speaking of the big news at the ballpark - the 2015 Southern League All Star Game.
Mobile passed on its chance at hosting the game.
Joe, and presumably others, want to know why.
WAIT WAIT DON'T TELL ME
Of course we can't expect the League offices to tell us, they won't admit to a team moving much less give insight to a decision like this one must have been. I felt that seeing the league prexie at the recent homestand was a sign of finalization for the details and indeed we now know that the baton was passed.
The answer here is simple - money.
upgrade the stadium, the team can't afford to upgrade the clubhouses and the other teams in the league don't want their players on the Mobile playing surface or in the cramped locker rooms.
The Baybears held out on their rent for a long time, complaining that the city didn't fix the roof over the concourse and other problems. Eventually, in exchange for excusing the back rent, the city allowed the BayBears to fix the roof.
They also re-drafted their rental agreement.
The Dbax, parent club of the BayBears, want upgrades to the clubhouses and indoor batting facility. The cost of this runs over a million bucks, money the team doesn't have and can't get from the city.
THEN AND NOW
Way before this AllStar thing came up, I had asked Biscuits GM Scott Trible about the BayBears and if Mobile was in trouble. Trible said he wasn't worried about them, however that was before the season. Now staffers are demurring from questions about the state of the Mobile franchise when asked.
Joe noticed what I noticed recently, the BayBears attendance has fallen off drastically. Now under two thousand a game on average, the Hank used to draw twice that. The current totals put the BayBears eighth in the league in attendance, both average per game and overall total fans.
That ain't enough to survive.
Joe brings up a point about Jackson: even though Jackson Tn Generals are the lowest drawing team overall (other than lame duck Huntsville), the Generals actually attract a larger portion of their cities population. Per capita, there is a larger percentage of the population of Jackson that goes to games than in any other Southern League city. In spite of losing their Pringles sponsorship.
That leaves Mobile in a bad spot - facing the prospect of two new ballparks, a million dollars worth of upgrades the Diamonbacks want, another million dollars worth of upkeep the City refuses to spend on the field and stadium and drawing under two thousand fans on average to the oldest ballpark in the league.
ATTENDANCE DROP SPECULATION
Joe mentioned the drop of attendance and wondered what happened. Here is my suspicion: The new arrangement for the rental of Hank Aaron Stadium is connected to attendance, where in the past it may not have been.
Thats the quick answer for why it would seem that the BayBears went from drawing crowds up to four thousand strong down to less than half of that. I think its likely the crowds were never that large and the "official" tally was inflated by team officials to improve their standing in the league.
When your team can't afford to hold the leagues premiere event, red flags should go up.
More red flags when the team president, the only team president Mobile has had, steps down suddenly.
After putting this together I think we see why and can agree its a matter of when, not if. Unless we see a new Player Development agreement in the next few weeks, that question of when will be answered with "now"
And so it seems the real question to be asked is "where?".
MGM TO SPEND
The Montgomery mayor says that it will cost 50-100 thousand dollars to repair the drainage on the field at Riverwalk. Not sure that includes re-building the playing surface in the outfield and a new infield as well.
|Patchy turf around first base a dangerous issue|
Sheldon Burnside throws no hitter for Rebels
JULY 18 1970
Montgomery Rebels take first place in SL, sweeping Mobile in both ends of a doubleheader by the same 1-0 score.
In game two, Steve Cushmore struck out seven and gave up just five hits. John Young scored the games only run in unearned fashion when he walked, stole second and raced home on throwing errors by the catcher and centerfielder.
I met and asked John Young about this game-winning performance, he had this to say... "well, we played alot of games, I don't know if that really happened or not - there are alot of tall tales in the game."
He followed quietly with "...it was a road game."