It has been a rough off-season for fans of the Mobile BayBears. Rumors of the team’s sale and relocation finally became reality in November.

A fixture at Hank Aaron Stadium since 1997, the BayBears have captured four Class AA Southern League championships during their run in Mobile. Despite their future move to North Alabama, the players and management have a message to share: “We are open for business.”

“As many of you probably know by now, the BayBears have two more seasons remaining in the Port City and I want to guarantee that we will work hard to make sure that everyone who chooses to support the BayBears in 2018 and 2019 has a great experience in a fun, clean and safe environment at Hank Aaron Stadium,” said Chris Morgan, the BayBears’ general manager.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim continue to be the parent club of the Mobile BayBears. Serving as the new manager is Lou Marson, who broke into coaching last season as the hitting coach for the Salt Lake Bees, a Class AAA affiliate of the Angels. Marson spent six seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Indians as a catcher before signing a free-agent contract with the Angels in 2016, where he would then retire and enter into coaching.

“With this being my first year as a manager, I can honestly say this is the most talented team I’ve ever had,” joked Marson, who is just 31. “I always wanted to be a manager, but I am surprised it happened so soon. In fact, one of the guys on the team [Hutton Moyer] is the son of one of my former teammates [Jamie Moyer].”

Completing the coaching roster are hitting coach Lee Tinsley, pitching coach Pat Rice, strength coach Dylan Cintula and defensive coach Travis Adair. Athletic trainer Matt Morrell will be returning after serving in the same role for the BayBears in 2017.

Seven players on this year’s roster are Top 30 prospects in the Angels organization, according to MLB Pipeline. The list includes infielder Matt Thaiss (9th), right-handed pitcher Jesus Castillo (11th), infielder Taylor Ward (14th), outfielder Brennon Lund (20th), right-handed pitchers Luis Pena (25th) and Jake Jewell (27th), plus infielder Connor Justus (30th). Thaiss and Ward were both first-round draft picks.

Several faces should look familiar to BayBear fans, as 18 players who saw some action at The Hank last year have returned. These include outfielder Zach Gibbons, who played in 79 games; right-handed pitcher Justin Anderson, who led the staff with 42 appearances; and catcher Wade Wass, who was a Southern League Mid-Season All-Star.

The remaining pitchers include right-handers Nathan Bates, Cortland Cox, Samil De Los Santos, Ivan Pineyro, Jeremy Rhoades, Jose Rodriguez and Dylan Unsworth. Left-handers are Conor Lillis-White, Greg Mahle and Jonah Wesely.

Joining Wass behind the plate will be Francisco Arcia and Michael Barash. In the outfield with Lund and Gibbons are Brendon Sanger and Bo Way. Completing the infield with Thaiss, Ward and Justus are Hutton Moyer, Jose Rojas, Riley Unroe and Jake Yacinich.

The BayBears are hosting 70 games through Labor Day. Single-game tickets and special ticket packages are available by calling 251-479-BEAR (2327).

“Our staff and players are committed to put the best product out there that we can,” Morgan said. “These young players really deserve our support.”

Special Olympics this week

Approximately 400 special-needs athletes representing 52 local schools will be competing in track events this Friday at the annual Mobile Area Special Olympics. Track events such as relays, runs, walks and wheelchair races will take place at the complex at St. Paul’s Episcopal School. Field events will include the running and standing long jumps, shot put, javelin, softball and tennis ball throw.

The opening ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m. The arrival of the torch will be handled by the Mobile Police Department led by Chief Lawrence Battiste. On the final leg of the run, they will be joined by several Special Olympians. The competition is set to last until 1 p.m.

Expected to be present are Mayor Sandy Stimpson, City Council members John Williams and Bess Rich and County Commissioner Jerry Carl. From the Mobile County Public School System will be Superintendent Martha Peek, area athletic director Brad Lowell and Sharon Magee, executive director of special services Sharon Magee.

Team Focus to honor Saban

Mobile-based Team Focus will mark its 11th anniversary of hosting its annual fundraiser event — “A Night Honoring Nick Saban” — on Tuesday, April 17, at the Mobile Convention Center. It will begin with a silent auction at 5:45 p.m.; dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.

The silent auction features numerous signed sports memorabilia items. Team Focus founder Mike Gottfried will speak and introduce the keynote speaker, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.

“The focus of this banquet will be honoring Coach Nick Saban and his sixth national title,” Gottfried said. “He is truly a remarkable coach and man, and we are very grateful for the years of support he has given Team Focus.”

Lee Corso will also participate in this special event. The sports broadcaster, ESPN football analyst and former coach has been a featured analyst on ESPN’s “College GameDay” program since its inception in 1987.

Team Focus is rooted in utilizing leadership skills, Christian values, guidance and continual relationships to reach young men aged 10-18 who lack a father figure in their lives. This community-centered program focuses on positive influences and role models — including high-profile, nationally recognized collegiate and professional athletes and coaches — to reach these young men through individual mentoring, tutoring, monthly social activities, leadership camps and scholarship opportunities.

Gottfried and his wife, Mickey, founded Team Focus in 2000. From its headquarters in Mobile, the nonprofit group now has six chapter locations across the United States. Since its inception, the organization has impacted the lives of more than 4,000 young men.

Individual tickets cost $100. A table for 10 is $950. Sponsorships are available starting at $6,000. For more information, contact the Team Focus office at 251-635-1515 or visit