Mobile BayBears’ Second-to-Last Season


DSCN7583In November 2017, it was announced that the Mobile BayBears had been sold to BallCorps LLC. Upon completion of the sale, the CEO of BallCorps stated, “We are thrilled to start a new chapter with this team today. The BayBears have had a great relationship with the City of Mobile and its fans for over 20 years. We want to build on that history and make this team as successful as possible. We are excited about what is next. The Southern League and Minor League Baseball have granted us exploration rights to investigate north Alabama, which is an exciting market, but the organization is still considering all options at this point, including the team remaining in Mobile.” In February of this year, it was confirmed that the BayBears would be moving to Madison, Alabama, which is right next door to Huntsville, Alabama, former home of the Huntsville Stars. When it was confirmed that the team would remain in Mobile through the 2019 season, I knew I had to visit before it was too late.

DSCN7588According to MiLB.com, in 2017 the BayBears averaged only 1,498 spectators per game, the lowest in the Southern League, and well behind the league leader in attendance, the Birmingham Barons who drew 5,935 fans that year. The league average was 4,835. Five years earlier, the BayBears drew the third lowest attendance at 2,112 people per game, with Jackson and Huntsville behind them with 2,052 and 1,973 average attendance, respectively. In 2007, Mobile was drawing 1,000 more fans per game than Huntsville with 3,466 average attendance, yet still had the third lowest attendance in the league.

Just last year I was lamenting the fact that Huntsville lost its minor league team after the 2014 season when the team moved to Biloxi, Mississippi. So why the move back? According to Ballpark Digest, the City of Madison is constructing a multi-use venue and ballpark. The site will include a hotel overlooking center field. A feasibility study conducted by the city estimates attendance of 4,700 people per game and net income of $2 million in the first year.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this over the next several years. Several questions still remain including, what will become of Hank Aaron’s childhood home, which is currently on the grounds of the BayBear’s Hank Aaron Stadium, and will the new team be called the Trash Pandas?

~ baseballrebecca

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Still Haunted by the Huntsville Stars


9923381-largeYesterday, I wrote of my adventures looking for remnants of the Huntsville Stars. I wondered why the team left town after 30 years? Not enough of a fan base? A bad location for the stadium? A quick bit of research turned up few clues, except an interesting article from September 2015 posted on the WHNT-19 website. In the article, the author lamented the loss of the team, which had just won the league championship as the Biloxi Shuckers against the Chattanooga Lookouts, both of which were enjoying new ballparks:

Joe W. Davis Stadium is all full of empty. It’s home to old memories, dust and, probably, the family of skunks that long-ago inspired the Huntsville Stars’ costumed mascot. And what has happened stinks.

Baseball was a rousing success in Huntsville during its three decades. Then it became an abysmal failure. The blame? Lousy, apathetic ownership. An out-dated, bad stadium. An area notoriously fickle when it comes to spectator sports. It’d take a documentary, not a commentary, to dive into all the reasons.

I don’t know what baseball was like in Huntsville, but I’m sure it was great. After all, it was baseball. Strangely, I’d always wanted to attend a Huntsville Stars game – ever since I was doing research on the minors in the 1990s and learned of it. How cool that it was named in honor of the city’s space flight heritage (Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and home to the famed Space Camp). It made me sad to see the stadium abandoned. In fact, even their website was abandoned – when you Google “Huntsville Stars,” the first website on the list is “The Official Site of The Huntsville Stars” – frozen in time from 2014. It’s just a little sad. And creepy.

As I mentioned yesterday, the team won the league championship title in three separate years, and was division champs 8 times. Here are just a few players who played in Huntsville: J.J. Hardy, Mike Bordick, Nelson Cruz, Tony Gwynn, Jr., Jose Canseco, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain, Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder, and Jonathan Lucroy.

I want to know more about this team and this place – and not just because a bunch of Orioles once played here. I’ll ask around while I’m in town. Someday, I’ll get around to doing more research on baseball in Alabama, especially in Huntsville.

~ baseballrebecca

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Wishing Upon a Huntsville Star


IMG_0024There’s nothing sadder than an abandoned ballpark. Whenever I visit a new city, the first thing I do is check out its baseball scene – past and present. Unfortunately, I arrived in Huntsville, AL, three years too late to see the Huntsville Stars.

The Stars were a Southern League (AA) team from 1985 to 2014, affiliated first with the Oakland A’s (1985 to 1998), then with the Milwaukee Brewers. They won the league championship in 1985, 1994, and 2001, and division titles in five additional years. Unfortunately for Huntsville, the team moved to Biloxi, MS, after the 2014 season. They are currently known as the Biloxi Shuckers.

IMG_0019The first thing I did once I arrived in Huntsville was type in “Huntsville Stars” in Google. Despite telling me they were “permanently closed,” Google still gave me directions to Joe W. Davis Stadium. I missed my turn and ended up in the parking lot of a movie theater, but that’s when I noticed a large, hulking structure through the fence. It looked eerily abandoned. I stopped the car and took a closer look. It was a concrete building – shaped vaguely like a baseball stadium. I could almost make out the seating area and the stadium lights. That had to be it!

I turned around, found the correct road, and drove slowly toward the stadium. It was like something out of the past. Even though the stadIMG_0018ium has only been closed for two seasons, it looked old and abandoned. Chain link fence surrounded it, though I could still see the back of the scoreboard in the outfield – and two large signs in the shape of a star on either side of it. I’d definitely reached my destination.

I circled the stadium, taking it all in. Several “No Trespassing” signs were posted along the chain link fence. The box office was sadly silent. I turned the corner and caught a glimpse of the field. I parked and walked closer, feeling as if I were disturbing a sacred resting place. As I neared the fence, I could see the outfield scoreboard again. Directly in front of me on the concourse was a sign that said “Bat Boys.” I got back into the car and drove around to the other side of the outfield, parked again, and walked as close as I dared to the dear, departed stadium. From this vantage point I could see more of the field and the seating area.

Before ghosts appeared on the field à la “Field of Dreams,” I scampered back to the safety of my rental car. I may have been too late for the Huntsville Stars, yet, I felt like they were somehow still there.

~ baseballrebecca

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