Pro baseball coming to South Miss.
BILOXI — South Mississippi will finally be the home of a minor league baseball franchise.
A ceremonial ground-breaking event took place Thursday afternoon here, just across the street from the Beau Rivage Casino.
The Huntsville Stars, a Double A team in the Southern League and an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, will re-locate to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in time to begin play in 2015.
Ken Young owns five minor league baseball franchises in four states, and said that he expects his newest acquisition to be as successful as all the others.
“When you look at this market, there’s certainly a good demographic, a good population base. And looking for things to do on a spring and summer night I think are the key to what will make us successful. Our job is to make it a lot of fun. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this ballpark. You can come to the park and just have a good time.”
Young, president of the Lutz, Fla.,-based ballpark concession company Ovation, Inc., also owns the Triple-A Norfolk (Va.) Tides and Albuquerque (N.M.) Isotopes, as well as the Double-A Bowie (Md.) Bay Sox and Single-A Frederick (Md.) Keys. In 2009, he was named Baseball America’s Minor League Executive of the Year.
Governor Phil Bryant was among a handful of officials on hand Thursday for the ground-breaking. The working name for the 5,000-seat facility (with room for an additional 800-1,000 fans on the berm beyond the outfield wall) is Caillavet Park, though Young said it’s likely corporate naming rights will be sold between now and Opening Day 2015.
“The minor leagues have changed over the last 20 years,” Young said. “What’s happened in Double-A is you often get those major prospects who go directly from Double-A to the major leagues. … So if you often talk to the farm directors of Major League teams, their best talent is at the Double-A level, not the Triple-A level. They use the Triple-A level to sign older players, more insurance for the Major League level.
““This market is one big on family and fun entertainment,” Young said. “Biloxi has a good demographic and population base. We’ll make the tickets affordable. The key to the market being successful (is) having a lot of fun. Biloxi and the Gulf Coast’s a great place for baseball.”
There will be a “name the team” contest announced in the near future, with fans allowed to submit entries before franchise officials choose the final name. Young said there is a “good chance” the team will have “Biloxi” in its name, in appreciation for the city’s financial support of the move, including the proposed sale of $21 million in bonds for stadium construction.
Young said that the team will “most likely” remain an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers after the move. Huntsville has been a Brewers farm team since 1999, though seven of the 10 Southern League affiliation agreements (including the Stars) expire after 2014. New affiliation agreements are generally announced in early September.
Young said a general manager and other front-office staff should be in place some time this Spring. Season tickets are not yet on sale, but fans can visit the team’s website, www.baseballbiloxi.com, to fill out a form and receive a priority number.
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