Hank Aaron Stadium
|Hank Aaron Stadium|
|Location||Mobile, Alabama United States |
Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, AL, was the home of Mobile affiliated baseball from 1997 through 2019. In 2021, after losing the 2020 season to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Mobile BayBears of the Southern League began playing in a new ballpark in Madison, AL, as the Rocket City Trash Pandas.
Nearly two decades before, "The Hank" finally gave the former Charlotte Knights a new home: Bumped by Triple-A expansion and blocked from New Orleans, LA, by another Triple-A move, the franchise had shared the Nashville Sounds' home in 1993 and 1994 as the Nashville Xpress and played 1995 and 1996 at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington as the Port City Roosters.
The BayBears drew more than 300,000 in their first season, but never again - eventually falling under 70,000, which is well beyond the normal novelty-wears-off drop.
Aaron's boyhood home was moved to The Hank in 2008 and repurposed into an in-park museum two years later. Outside, Satchel Paige Drive salutes another Mobile great. The two greats faced each other once, in a 1968 Atlanta-Richmond exhibition; Aaron lined Paige's 0-1 pitch softly to third.
The city vacated the ballpark with the March 31, 2022, expiration of a management sublease it took over from the departed BayBears' ownership. The next day, Mobile used a 1997 oversight to void the 99-year lease on the land it signed to build the stadium.
With the stadium now empty of pro ball, there is talk of moving the Aaron home again - possibly to or near a new Mobile attraction to be called the Hall of Fame Courtyard. That project is to open in the summer of 2023 near the Mobile Convention Center. The Courtyard, anchored by a larger-then-life statue of Aaron, will spotlight Mobile's uncanny role in baseball's Hall of Fame.
Remarkably for a city its size, it is either the native or boyhood city of five baseball Hall of Famers: Paige, elected in 1971; Aaron, 1982; Willie McCovey, 1986; Billy Williams, 1987; and Ozzie Smith, 2002. Only New York and Los Angeles have more, and columnist George Will points out that means Mobile is #1 per capita.