Monsters in the Park – EA Sports Today
Oxford to Approve Stadium Franchise and Lease for Choccolocco Park-based College Summer Baseball Team; will be updated
By Al Muskewitz
Eastern Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – Calhoun County baseball fans will have a hometown team to cheer on after the high school season ends while watching some of their former high school stars play when a summer college league of wooden bats returns in the county for the first time 13 years next summer.
Oxford City Council is expected to approve a resolution for a franchise and stadium rental agreement with the Sunbelt Baseball League at its board meeting on the signing field infield at Choccolocco Park on Tuesday night.
The city issued a press advisory on Friday announcing a “major new tenant announcement” at Choccolocco Park for Tuesday. The event will bring together representatives of the city and representatives of the Sunbelt Baseball League and Ignite Sports.
The team is expected to be called the Choccolocco Monsters and sport a black and gold color scheme suited to Oxford. He will play on the signing field during a nine-week season that runs from June to August and will be made up of current college players largely within a 60-mile radius of the stadium.
Players like former Oxford High School stars Trey Higgins (Mississippi State), Brennan McCullough (Murray State) and Jake Spivey (AUM) are said to be among those who may be wanted for the roster.
Gadsden City offspring Paden New (Bethel) and JJ Gray (Southern Union) played in the league last season.
The last time there was a summer baseball with wooden bats in Calhoun County, the Eastern Alabama Big Train made a cameo appearance at Henry Farm Park in Jacksonville in 2009. This team included local stars like Jono Waugh, Judd Edwards, Saxon Butler and Caleb Bowen.
Jeff Croop, owner of the Columbus River Dragons minor hockey team and Columbus member in the SBL, is the owner of the Monsters. Scott Brand, the general manager of the River Dragons, will be their general manager. A field manager has not yet been appointed.
Details of the contract with the city are not known, but the owners of the team are expected to pay annual rent to the city of Oxford and the city will secure parking and concessions for the games. Plans call for the addition of locker room showers and 300 additional seats, increasing Signature Field’s capacity to 1,500. Officials hope the team will attract 800 fans per game.
“We will definitely be the # 1 court they play on,” a source close to the project told East Alabama Sports Today.
There is already talk of the league hosting its 2022 All-Star Game at The Big House, which was voted the nation’s No.1 high school baseball field in December 2016.
The Sunbelt Baseball League is based in the Atlanta metro area and is one of several wooden club summer college leagues across the country, perhaps the best known being the Cape Cod Summer League in New England. . It is affiliated with the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball and partially funded by Major League Baseball.
The SBL commissioner is Todd Pratt, a former major league wide receiver with the Yankees, Phillies and Braves.
Other teams in the league include the Brookhaven Bucks (playing at Oglethorpe University), Alpharetta Aviators (Veterans Field), Atlanta Crackers (Kennesaw State), Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots (Golden Park), Gainesville Braves (Ivey Watson Field) ), Gwinnett Astros (Peachtree Ridge HS), Marietta Patriots (Georgia State Complex) and Waleska Wild Things (Reinhardt University).
The league’s best-of-3 championship series between Alpharetta and Columbus kicks off Friday night.
The monster landing is believed to be the big first stop for Choccolocco Park, drawing a team to an even higher level in the future. Park officials had been working on attracting a team since February and have reached out to teams from at least four different leagues about their interest in playing certain games at Oxford.
SBL operators, interested in a major league expansion at the time, felt the Choccolocco Park experience during a site visit at an Oxford High School baseball game and hopped on the opportunity to bring their product here.
Nine SBL alumni have played in the Majors since the league’s inception in 2005.
This story will be updated.