The Mobile BayBears recently completed their 20th season at Hank Aaron Stadium. During those two decades, they have seen more than 100 baseball players promoted to the Major Leagues.
Now after helping develop talent for the San Diego Padres (1997 to 2006) and the Arizona Diamondbacks (2007 to 2016), the local Southern League squad will be joining a new organization. The team has announced a two-year player development contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“We are thrilled to be entering into this new partnership with the Los Angeles Angels,” BayBears General Manager Chris Morgan said. “[General Manager] Billy Eppler and the Angels front office are dedicated to developing quality players at the minor league level. Everyone associated with the BayBears organization will work tirelessly to provide a positive environment for this development.”
For the last 16 years, the Angels’ Class AA affiliate club has been the Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League. During that time, the Travelers won the 2001 and 2008 Texas League Championship along with five division championships.
“The Los Angeles Angels are very excited to begin a partnership with the Mobile BayBears,” Eppler said. “This will be a great home for our Double-A players and staff.”
Over the previous decade, more than 70 Travelers have reached the big leagues. Included on the list is Mike Trout, a five-time All-Star and the 2014 American League MVP.
The BayBears have also had great success, having won Southern League championships in 1998, 2004, 2011 and 2012. This will mark the first time the BayBears will be affiliated with an American League team.
Mobile has had a long connection to minor league baseball. A team joined the old Southern Association in 1908 as the Sea Gulls, but changed its name to the Bears a decade years later. After relocating to Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1931, the Bears returned to Mobile in 1944. That team played at the 5,000-seat Hartwell Field on Virginia Street until the league shut down in 1961.
The BayBears first home game as an Angels’ affiliate will be Wednesday, April 12, 2017, against the Jackson Generals. Ironically, the Tennessee team that just won the Southern League pennant is the Diamondbacks’ new Class AA farm club.
● In other BayBears news, Director of Broadcasting Justin Baker is the recipient of the 2016 Southern League Broadcaster of the Year award. After starting with Mobile in 2012, he spent a season as the public address announcer and broadcast assistant before taking on the full duties of the man behind the microphone in 2014.
“I am so honored and humbled to receive the Southern League Broadcaster of the Year honor and be in the company of so many incredible recipients throughout the years,” Baker said. “This achievement means even more to me because I share it with the Mobile BayBears organization, our fans and my colleagues throughout the league for allowing me to pursue my dream everyday.”