Reports: Mississippi Braves could move to Georgia in 2025

Published 3:56 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

PEARL — The 2024 season could be the Mississippi Braves’ last in Pearl.

Multiple media outlets have reported that the team could move to Columbus, Georgia, when its lease at Trustmark Park expires at the end of next season.

On Dec. 21, the Columbus city council voted to explore financing for a $50 million bond issue to upgrade Golden Park to Double-A standards, the Columbus Ledger Enquirer reported.

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It’s the first step toward bringing a minor league team to the city, most likely one from the Southern League. Since the council has voted, speculation has swirled on what team Columbus is trying to lure. The Ledger Enquirer reported the city is in negotiations with Diamond Baseball Holdings, which owns the Mississippi Braves and 27 other minor league teams.

The M-Braves and Birmingham Barons are the only Southern League teams owned by Diamond Baseball Holdings.
In addition to the M-Braves, the Ledger Enquirer mentioned Diamond Baseball Holdings teams the Rome (Georgia) Braves; the Midland (Texas) Rockhounds; the San Jose (California) Giants; and the Wichita (Kansas) Wind Surge as potential candidates for a move.

Diamond Baseball Holdings’ other teams located in the southeast include the Hickory Crawdads and Down East Wood Ducks in North Carolina; the Augusta GreenJackets in South Carolina; and the Salem Red Sox in Virginia. All are in Single-A or High-A.

Diamond Baseball Holdings also owns the Birmingham Barons in the Double-A Southern League, but that team moved into a new stadium in 2013 and is unlikely to relocate.

Augusta and Down East have also had new stadiums built in their cities within the past decade and appear to be tied in to long-term lease agreements. Augusta also led the Carolina League in attendance in 2022.

“The name has been put out, but they’ve asked us not to disclose on a regular basis the partnership,” Columbus mayor Skip Henderson said after the Dec. 21 vote.

Pearl officials have not commented publicly on the issue.

The Mississippi Braves are the only affiliate of the Atlanta Braves not located in Georgia. The franchise bases its Single-A teams in both Rome and Augusta and its Triple-A affiliate is in Gwinnett.

The Mississippi Braves have played at 8,480-seat Trustmark Park in Pearl since 2005 after relocating from Greenville, South Carolina.

The M-Braves ranked 29th out of 30 Double-A teams in attendance in 2023, with an average of 2,545 fans per game.
Columbus has had several minor league teams over the years, but none since 2008. The Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots, who play in the Sunbelt Baseball League for college players, have played a summer schedule there since 2016.

Although the city is exploring financing, the Ledger Enquirer reported, it does not mean the bonds will be issued. The council will have to take another vote, approve financing terms, and then vote again on lease terms for the ballpark and team. The Columbus city council will next meet in January.

There is a Feb. 13 deadline to get a referendum on Georgia’s state ballot for its May 21 primary.

“This is the first step of getting to where we need to be to be able to make the announcement,” Henderson said following the Dec. 21 vote. “Coming up next we obviously have to agree on a lease. The council will be involved in that. We’re negotiating right now with the organization.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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