Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Southern League Rumors, Fayetteville NC? Biloxi Begins Building

Smokies are bashing Biscuits, needing just one more win for a series victory in the final three games. The Skitz get good starting pitching, but the defense has been challenged to make the tough plays and the bullpen has to swim upstream.

Sadly, the Biscuits bat rack has fallen into a deep slumber and may be in early hibernation for the winter. The Biscuits could be eliminated from postseason play as soon as Wednesday. Thankfully we get to play out the string against under-achievers Pensacola and Jackson as the only opponents left on the schedule who have as little to play for as Montgomery. At this point, its all about pride.
Sun setting on Biscuits season


With the city leaders of Fayetteville North Carolina on a scouting trip to Durham NC to check out the facilities, word on the street is that Fayette wants back into the baseball-entertainment field. The Fort Bragg and Fayetteville area has a population that is somewhere north of the 350K range. The city hopes to build a new ballpark and lure an existing team, though there is no word on what level they are interested in attracting.

The current Jacksonville-to-Jackson TN jaunt is over 700 miles as well. For me, this puts Fayetteville North Carolina in the range of getting a possible Southern League team.

Located about 750 miles from Biloxi, the Fayetteville-Biloxi commute would be the longest in the league but by less than 50 miles.

Running a single-A team in the SALLY league from 1987-2000, the area is considered a good spot for minor league ball due to its economic situation and lack of strip clubs.

Fayetteville has a long baseball history, dating back to the early days of the Eastern Carolina League and the mid-50s Carolina League. That franchise was sold and relocated in 2001 as the Lake County Captains, which obviously meant a serious demotion from being the Fayetteville Generals.

Guys like Travis Fryman, Jose Lima, Van Mungo and Gabe Kapler have all worn the Fayetteville uniform with pride. And so did Bob Fazekas.


The Biloxi ballpark is called MGM, and the gamble is paying off Grands for team ownership who wagered correctly that the city would drag its feet in building the park on time. However reports are that construction has started with the arrival of a single crane and a few test pilings being put in.

The report also states that Opening Day in Biloxi is hoped to be July 1st, but the idea of missing another months worth of games or more seems possible.

One of the best parts to come from this - the City of Biloxi has had to buy its own supplies for the construction in order to get around the Sales Tax on them. The city has been trying to cut costs at every turn, so its expected to be the worst ballpark 30 million dollars can buy.

Already described as "pre-fab" the Biloxi team should be called the Orphans no matter what the results of the Name-The-Team contest!

A bigger story, though currently un-confirmable so it drops down to page two in the blog, could be the rumor floating around the park concerning the Southern league and its continued efforts to move teams struggling at the gate.

More than one person has suggested that the Huntsville city leaders are looking to building a new ballpark and will lure the Jackson Generals for 2016.

I am not sure I buy this, as it does little to solve the main problem the league has, which is Mobile's attendance. It also would have to be on the fast track in terms of construction and funding, thats currently not happening publicly enough to convince me that Huntsville could have a new park built in time. We see the time it takes in Biloxi for their pre-fab park and the funding for it has been in the public eye for two years or more.

With the Baybears drawing 300 fewer fans a night than the Generals the  rule of worst-first should dictate the Mobile franchise gets first fixings. Not to mention the expiring Player Development Contract with the BayBears and the new parks flanking the Hank.

The real issue that League Prexie Webb should be trying to address is how to get the BayBears out of Mobile and into a new stadium without angering the Arizona Diamondbacks. The parent club has already seen enough of Mobile, just as the Padres did before them.

If there is a Double-A league that is struggling, its the Southern League. At the same level, both the Eastern Leagues 12 teams and the Texas leagues 8 teams all draw much higher attendance totals than in the South. All the Texas league teams average at least 4200 fans a night, where in the Eastern League all teams but one bring in three thousand per game.

In the Southern league, half our teams draw 3500 or less per night. Two teams, Mobile and Huntsville, fail to attract even 2000 a night. Now that the Stars have found a new home, attention must turn to the Baybears.

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