Baseball fans say ‘Goodbye’ to Mobile Bay Bears

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MOBILE, Ala.- On Monday, the Rocket City Trash Pandas became the official AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. In seven months, the minor league baseball team will play its first game in Madison. And while that`s exciting news for Huntsville and Madison, there’s some sadness in the stands in Mobile as the team is playing its final games. Labor Day marks the end of the line after more than 20 seasons for the Mobile BayBears. But for people who work every home game at Hank Aaron Stadium, it’s a labor of love. “I’ve been here the last six years. It`s the funnest job I’ve ever had. And I’m very sad to see the BayBears go,” Mobile BayBears usher John Joseph said. If you show up at the park and can’t find John Joseph, chances are, he’ll find you. “I try to make it a point to say ‘hello’ to every single fan who comes here,” Joseph said. Joseph admits that’s not quite as daunting of a task during the Bears final home series against the Tennessee Smokies. “It’s been more energetic than I thought it was going to be. We originally thought it’d be two or three fans in the stands,” Tennessee Smokies pitcher Cory Abbott said. This year’s Bears will finish in last place in the Southern League with a 50-86 record. Still, the holiday weekend is a last chance for many families to say ‘goodbye’ to the Bears. “We know they’re moving up north. We’re going to miss them, we’ve had a good time down here. We’ve really enjoyed the company. We’ve made a lot of new friends, a lot of new people,” BayBears fan Todd Freeman said. By the seventh inning stretch in Sunday’s game, it was evident Joseph wanted to savor every moment. “We’re all going to be in tears tomorrow. And I’m not going to leave this place until they lock me out,” Joseph said with a laugh. Joseph says he remains upbeat about the future, despite the size of Sunday’s crowd, which he guessed to be only around 400. Joseph says like the players on the field, he’s also had offers next season, to usher for the Biloxi Shuckers and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He says he’ll spend the winter weighing his options. City leaders with Mobile say they’ve received some interest in the park, but so far, there are no future plans for Hank Aaron Stadium.

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