Despite media reports of the Southern League’s approval of the sale of Mobile’s minor league baseball team, officials are remaining tight-lipped about the AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.
According to media reports out of the Huntsville area, the SL approved the sale of the BayBears to an investment company out of Phoenix called BallCorps, but league President Lori Webb could not confirm it.
“The sale of the Mobile franchise is incomplete,” she said. “Until the sale process is complete, we will have no further comment.”
She added that there was no timetable for the sale to be completed.
BallCorps was the firm linked to initial rumors about the franchise’s move to Madison County, as part of a new stadium deal. Ralph Nelson, CEO of BallCorps, had no comment on the issue.
In a statement on Monday, city of Mobile Senior Director of Communications George Talbot said the city was unaware of the team moving at this time.
“We are in contact with the BayBears ownership and have received no official notification of any plans to move the team,” Talbot said in the statement. “Baseball has an important role in Mobile, and our goal is to keep the team in Mobile. As the home of the most MLB Hall of Famers per capita, we remain committed to building upon Mobile’s baseball tradition as part of our family-friendly community.”
Following a meeting between city officials and the BayBears’ ownership group, city spokeswoman Laura Byrne said there is currently no contract in place for the sale of the team, or for the team to move.
Further complicating the issue is the contract the city entered into with the team. The club is under contract to play at Hank Aaron Stadium until March 2020. In an attempt to hold up its end of the contract, the city has recently spent thousands of dollars to upgrade the lights, sound system, seats, playing surface and other amenities at the city-owned facility.
“I would hope the BayBears would stay,” Councilman John Williams said. “We’ve done our part and when we do our part we expect others to do their part.”
The BayBears would have to pay the city $380,400 if the team leaves in 2019, Byrne said.
For Williams, it’s a quality of life issue for the citizens of Mobile, as professional baseball is a family-friendly event.
“It helps us to get where we’re going by 2020,” Williams said, referencing a slogan created by Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “Not everyone can afford to go to Atlanta and sit in the good seats … I think (Hank Aaron Stadium) is a great venue.”
BayBears General Manager Chris Morgan deferred all sale questions to SL management, but said in an email message the team is focused on the 2018 season in Mobile.
“I can say, with 100 percent certainly, the BayBears will be playing in Mobile at Hank Aaron Stadium in 2018 and our staff looks forward to staging a great experience for those who attend BayBears games next season,” Morgan said.