New Minor League Baseball team identifier may not include Madison

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.”

The Agreement

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.

What’s Next

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
  • ThunderSharks
  • 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.”

Alabama school employees in limbo with PEEHIP lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A lawsuit between the Alabama Education Association and PEEHIP is moving forward with the hopes of getting some extra cash to Alabama teachers.

In 2016, the Alabama legislature passed a raise for teachers and school employees across the state; four percent for anyone making less than $75,000 and those making more than that would receive a two percent raise.

“When they saw that employees were getting a raise, they decided they wanted it,” said Beverly Sims, a representative for the Alabama Education Association.

PEEHIP, or the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan, then voted to increase their rates even though the legislature had fully funded what PEEHIP asked for.

“Some of our employees were actually bringing home less on their paychecks after they got a raise and then had to pay for those increases,” Sims said.

AEA sued PEEHIP saying their vote was illegally done because the meeting discussing these raises was closed; according to the Open Meeting Act, what the PEEHIP board talked about should only be discussed in an open meeting, and the first court ruled in AEA’s favor.

“The first judge ordered PEEHIP to put all of these increases in escrow. They could not spend the money, so if the ruling is in our favor they will have to return that money to all of the employees,” Sims said.

PEEHIP has filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court.

The court held verbal arguments for the appeal on Wednesday and now everyone is in limbo until the court makes their decision.

“It’s been so long since they had a real raise that they could really make a difference in their pocket, so if they get that money back as a lump sum I cannot even explain to you how happy they will be,” Sims said.

The court did not give an expected date for when they’ll have their decision. Sims says the employees would love to have that money for the holidays, but they’re not hopeful the court will make up their mind before then.

Community closet helping Huntsville students in need

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Imagine going to school hungry because you didn’t have any food at home or not having a coat to help you stay warm waiting at the bus stop. For many Huntsville students, that’s a reality , but one woman is trying to change that.

The purpose of the community closet is simple: helping students and families who may need a little bit of help.

If a student needs a new pair of shoes, they’re in here. If they need any hygiene products, the closet has those too. The hope is that no students or families are going to need this kind of help, but the reality is that some of them might, so the closet is stocked and ready for anyone who needs it.

“It immediately meets the needs of the kids right away,” said Audrey Crutcher, vice principal at Riverton Intermediate School.

From school supplies to snacks and warm clothes for the winter weather coming in, this closet has it all.

“It changes their whole spirit for the rest of the day, you know. They go on and I give them their high fives and thumbs up and like you look good, and that’s what all of this is here for,” Crutcher said.

The closet gives supplies to students at six schools in Huntsville; all the students have to do is ask a counselor or teacher for help and their need will be met, no questions asked.

“You know, we don’t think it’s in our neighborhood. We never think it’s in our neighborhood that kids are in need or that families are in need. You walk around your neighborhood and see that everybody has things,” said Shelly Aultman, founder of the community closet. “So to know that the classmate of my son might need food or shoes or a pencil, I just couldn’t let that happen.”

Aultman wants all students to succeed in life and in the classroom and she says this closet is helping to make that happen.

If you’d like to donate to the community closet, items can be dropped off at Riverton Intermediate School.