MADISON, Ala. - The new minor league baseball team set to play an April 2020 season at a stadium in Town Madison may not end up having the word "Madison" in its full name.
The Mobile BayBears will move to the Tennessee Valley and there is currently a Name the Team contest to decide what it will be called. Voting is open until Monday and Wednesday the top name will be announced.
But there's another part to a name: the identifier that comes before it. Earlier votes included whether to identify the team with Madison, the Rocket City, or North Alabama.
Wednesday, team owners told WHNT News 19 they are "leaning toward" a more regional identifier than one specific city. Ralph Nelson, Managing Partner of BallCorps, said the city has been "very gracious" about that idea.
"We're getting close to making some decisions, and it's very exciting," he stated. "We've known since the very beginning that, because of where this stadium is being located, right there on the interstate, that it was really going to be a regional destination."
Nelson added, "Because of that, we have always known we did not want to identify specifically with a city so we were looking for different ideas."
He said a lot goes into which identifier the team ends up with.
"How it sounds with the team name. How it looks on a uniform. How it looks on merchandising. How it will identify the team to people outside the region," Nelson listed.
Even if Madison is not in the final name, Nelson told WHNT News 19 that it would still appear in many prominent places around the ballpark.
"Madison will still be recognized on every player's uniform. Madison will be recognized at other places in the ballpark. Madison will be a huge part of our business model," he shared. "But... there's a good chance it will not say Madison but everybody in baseball knows exactly where this team is playing."
But Madison has a lease agreement with the ballclub that provides the team will be named after Madison. The Team Name section states:
"BallCorps shall include the name "Madison" as the primary word in the club's team name. However, in the event that BallCorps determines the name requirement should be revised not to include the word "Madison," then it will seek City's consent to amend this Agreement, and City will use all reasonable and best efforts to honor BallCorps's request, and City will not unreasonably withhold its consent."
At Monday's city council meeting, President Tommy Overcash summarized it like this: "Basically what that's saying is we are going to be open to their findings and we are going to do what's best for the team and ultimately, what's best for the city."
Early on, at the time the lease and licensing agreement was signed, Mayor Paul Finley said how important it was to him to call the team Madison. However, he noted at the time that could change as referenced in the above portion of the agreement.
"We did research it. We started researching other teams with regional identifiers. We asked people about it," said Nelson. "We found that the majority of people who are citizens of the city of Madison who voted for an identifier did not vote for the city of Madison as the identifier. The majority of people who live in the city of Madison who voted in the Name the Team contest voted for something other than Madison."
Overcash shared on Wednesday during a phone conversation with WHNT News 19 that the council would all like for it to be called Madison, but they also want the team to be as successful as possible. He said that BallCorps, and the branding team Brandiose, are experts who understand the market and baseball. He believes the council is sensitive to the ball club's need to be inclusive of the entire region to sell merchandise and increase attendance.
To keep Madison out of the team name, the city council will need to agree that calling it something else is the right thing to do for the success of the team, Overcash said. He did confirm they are open to that.
Earlier this month, Finley told WHNT News 19 that another team identifier would require a council vote and would also impact the venue's utility cost split between the city and BallCorps.
Wednesday, September 5, BallCorps will announce the team name and identifier live on WHNT News 19.
The top 5 Team names are:
- Comet Jockeys
- Moon Possums
- Space Chimps
- Trash Pandas
Nelson said that at the end of the day, it's all about building a brand and a team that the community can enjoy.
"This is all about the community," he said, "and having somewhere that everybody is going to have a good time."