To the people of the city of Mobile:
I fell in love at Hank Aaron Stadium, on a hill over the left field fence. I fell in love, as so many kids do, with the crack of the bat, the concession-stand pretzels, the foul ball that sits on my desk even today.
I was a Little League Baseball player, one of hundreds, maybe thousands in Mobile County, and rapidly on the way to becoming a sports-obsessed kid and, later, a sports-obsessed adult. I was an insatiable Atlanta Braves fan who wanted to be Chipper Jones when I grew up, and watched the Major Leagues from afar — maybe once a year up close and personal if I was lucky.
But the BayBears were something else. The BayBears were my team in a real and personal way, the “home team” in the most literal and meaningful sense. Though I couldn’t grow up to be a ballplayer, those titans of my childhood inspired a passion that became a college major that became a career that became a minor league soccer team.
I think about those days often, when I’m working an AFC Mobile match. I think about them when a team of 9-year-olds walks out with our players, or when I’m sprinting across the stadium to put out a table where they can get Chisom Ogbonna’s autograph. I think about them when I hear about a church league team that wants to play as “AFC Mobile” against the other teams who wanted to be “Manchester United” or “Barcelona” — the kids who, when asked about “their team” don’t think about a team in London, or in Atlanta, but in the stadium down the road. I think about them, and I’m proud.
The BayBears recently announced that they’ll stay in Mobile through 2019. This is a good thing. I hope people go to watch them. I hope there are kids who get to sit on that hill, catch that foul ball and fall in love with the crack of the bat and the smell of the grass and an absurdly salty pretzel. I hope there are kids who get to fall in love, like I did. But if and when they can’t do it there, our stands will be open to them.
And I promise to those kids, and to this city, that as long as I have a say in it, AFC Mobile will not leave this town.
Sean M. Landry
Co-owner, AFC Mobile