HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Welcome to the home of a 2015 Southern League championship finalist. Well, home for 15 games anyway.
The Biloxi Shuckers, formerly the Huntsville Stars and who played a sliver of their schedule here this summer, stretched the Southern League championship series to five games before losing to Chattanooga. The Shuckers play in a tidy new stadium a block from the Gulf of Mexico. The Lookouts play in a handsome ballpark above the Chattanooga skyline.
Nobody plays here. Joe W. Davis Stadium is all full of empty. It’s home to old memories, dust and, probably, the family of skunks that long-ago inspired the Huntsville Stars’ costumed mascot. And what has happened stinks.
Baseball was a rousing success in Huntsville during its three decades. Then it became an abysmal failure. The blame? Lousy, apathetic ownership. An out-dated, bad stadium. An area notoriously fickle when it comes to spectator sports. It’d take a documentary, not a commentary, to dive into all the reasons.
Face it, pro baseball needed to die in Huntsville for it to live again. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a baseball guy, and I’m a guy who thinks this city needs a variety of entertainment options. But we need to rebuild the hunger for a team. We need local involvement in ownership. We need a downtown ballpark.
Minor league baseball succeeds across the country in markets our size. But it succeeds because it has become an event, a destination, a social hub, not merely the nine innings of drama some of us appreciate.
In three or four years, we should and could have baseball in downtown Huntsville. In the meantime, somebody else is watching our team. Somebody else is celebrating our playoff run.
And that stinks.