Thursday, September 28, 2017

Baybears Sale Leaves Mobile With History But No Team



Not much going on in the Biscuit scene but there is a bit of Southern League news to pass along. This info comes from local news reports and internet media coverage with some assembly required.


The BayBears transaction is moving forward, quietly. Though you won't hear anyone openly say as much, its practically a done deal and the team will have a new home in 2019 leaving the Hank vacant and Mobile without affiliated baseball.

The lack of honesty and forthright sharing of information that pervades baseball front offices and league executives frustrates fans who support said teams and leagues, but it doesn't prevent us from learning what is going on. Thank you, freedom of the press.


ALREADY SOLD ONCE - ALMOST

Local reports from various cities show that a previous sale of the BayBears had fallen through. The team was to have been sold and relocated to Baton Rouge, but for unknown reasons that purchase was not completed. The potential ownership group was not named and is apparently no longer a factor in the sale of the Mobile franchise.


Yet now a new group of potential owners has stepped up and signed an agreement of purchase with MiLB for the only double-A team available for relocation. This group has been given written assurances by three different cities that a new ballpark will be built if the team will come.


 In related news....
The city of Madison, Alabama has approved a zoning change that opens up an area for "multi purpose venue" in the form of a "stadium or ballpark". When asked back in July about the Mobile sale league prexie Lori Webb refused comment on what she called "a private business matter".


However, public filings show that back in July the Baybears potential new owners, BallCorp LLC headed by Ralph Nelson of Arizona, reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that they were seeking backings with $20M capital. The same documents state that BallCorp would only be investing short-term, with a goal of selling the team in five or six years.


PART OF THEIR BIG PROJECT
 The potential ballpark is likely part of the "Town Madison Project" that includes a half-million dollar mixed use space near Interstate 565. The planned project boasts of being over 500 acres. Of course luxury hotels and apartments are included in the plans, as well as retail and restaurant space.

Its an ambitious plan by Madison officials, who have been working behind the scenes to put their project into action for more than two years.

Madison officials reportedly assured BallCorp that the new ballpark would be state of the art and ready for opening day 2019. However the BayBears have a lease with the city of Mobile that runs through 2020.




MOBILE EDGED OUT
All summer rumors persisted that the sale was pending, with likely destinations being Baton Rouge, Savannah or Madison. Madison is located just about fifteen miles outside of Huntsville.

Once new ballparks were located in nearby Pensacola and Biloxi the Mobile facility was essentially rendered obsolete and it became obvious that investors were lining up potential cities behind the scenes to relocate the BayBears. Vultures have been circling "The Hank" for at least three seasons, with Mobile trailing in attendance despite fielding solid teams over the past decade or so.

Even the BayBears Gm was recently quoted as saying the rumors of the move "have more meat to them" than in the past.



HUNTSVILLE CONNECTIONS
As assistant to Southern League president Don Mincher, current prez Lori Webb has much familiarity with Huntsvilles history in the league.

 Its a possibility that familiarity has influenced the chances for the Huntsville area to regain its team and in addition, a new ballpark that was unattainable when the Stars were forced out after the 2014 season.




MOBILE HAS LONG HISTORY

If 2018 is to be the last Mobile team, its a sad end for the city. And its one that doesn't bode well, the last time a team moved from the Little Easy it took almost thirty years to replace them.


Satchel Paige, Mobiles Greatest Pitcher
A rarity among southern towns, Mobile has long been known as a baseball city. Volumes have been written about the famous players Mobile has birthed. From Hank Aaron to Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Double-Duty Radcliffe the Mobile baseball pedigree runs deep and all the way to Cooperstown.


Mobile fielded the very first known baseball team in Alabama in 1867, just weeks ahead of Montgomery's first game. When baseball held its first post-civil war national convention, Mobile sent a representative on behalf of the players in that area.

The Mobile Swamp Angels joined the Southern League in 1887, the bay city was a stalwart of the league through the 1890s.

In the 1900s Mobile, like most southern teams, bounced around several different circuits and levels but always managed to get a club together and compete.

In the state of Alabama, only Birmingham has fielded more teams than Mobile. Mobile has put a total of 89 teams into competition since 1886, most often appearing in the Southern League or Southern Association.

Mobile was a force in the 1930s and 40s, between 1937 and 1942 the Mobile Shippers played in five championship series and three times emerged league champs.

With names like the Swamp Angels, Shippers, Bluebirds, Blackbirds, Seagulls, Red Warriors and Acid Iron Earths the Mobiles were first dubbed the Bears in 1918. They became the BayBears in 1997 when Mobile returned to affiliated baseball after a twenty-seven year absence from affiliated baseball.

However, it looks like time is running out on the Little Easy and its baseball fans as MiLB has decided that baseball is done in Mobile - at least for the foreseeable future.


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