City on verge of deal for baseball team?

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Move over, Albany Panthers -- you're likely about to have some professional company in Southwest Georgia.

Bill Larsen, one of the owners of the newly founded Peach State League in Macon, will be in Albany today to meet with City Manager Alfred Lott and Albany Recreation and Parks Department Director Suzanne Davis at 2:30 p.m. Larsen is hoping to present Lott a proposal that is to the city's liking, and in an e-mail to The Herald late Wednesday, Davis discussed what today's meeting would entail.

"The Peach State League is proposing to use Paul Eames Stadium for 2010 and possibly 2011. The proposal is for 15 games in 2010 and then 42 games in 2011, based upon the response that they receive in 2010. They are also requesting to name one of the teams in their league the 'Quails,' " Davis wrote. "This is the team that would be housed in Albany in 2011. For 2010, the league will consist of teams representing Macon, Milledgeville, Warner Robins, and possibly Albany. Other specific details regarding seat pricing, concessions, and rental fees are still be discussed and will be in the best interest of the City."

If the proposal is accepted, professional minor league baseball would finally return to the area for the first time since 2008 -- and the fifth time in the city's history. The South Coast League was the most recent to try Albany as its home for a team, but the SCL folded after one season. Although, the South Georgia Peanuts did win the inaugural league championship under ex- New York Mets star player, Wally Backman.

Lott, for one, said Wednesday that he is open to the idea of baseball's return.

"I think baseball is a good thing to have anywhere," he said. "It's America's favorite pastime, and it's a lot of fun, especially for families. So if we can get it in here -- at no significant cost to taxpayers -- then I would be for it."

Larsen, when reached by The Herald on Wednesday at his office in Macon, said he would have more of "an indication in the next day or two," where the negotiations stood, but that Albany wasn't just on the league's radar -- it was exactly the kind of town the Peach State League was looking to field a team in when it was founded.

"It's beautiful," Larsen said when asked if he'd visited Albany and its baseball facilities at Paul Eames Park. "It couldn't be better."

Larsen and a group of owners started the league in late December and plan to play its first games June 19 in Macon.

Davis, meanwhile, confirmed that shortly after that date, the first pitch could also be thrown out in Albany.

"The dates that the Peach State League are proposing (for the Albany franchise) for 2010 are: July 10, 11, 12, 13, 14; July 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; and August 4, 5, 6, 7, 8," she wrote. "The proposed game times are: weekday games starting time at 7 p.m.; Saturday games starting at 6 p.m.; and Sunday games starting at 2 p.m. These are just proposed dates and would have to be examined by ARPD to ensure that they do not conflict with any (American) Legion baseball or otherwise prescheduled game(s)."

The Peach State League, like the South Coast League, has a business model in which all the teams are owned by one collective group, rather than individuals. For instance, Larsen will be one of the owners for all four of the proposed teams, but will serve as the GM for the Macon franchise, the nickname for which is the Pinetoppers.

Whether that model will be attractive -- or unattractive -- to Lott and the city, remains to be seen.

Davis, who has been at the forefront of the negotiations since they started, said there is one primary detail to remember for those crossing their fingers and hoping that baseball will return to Albany

"This season, if it happens, will just be a test," she told The Herald by phone Wednesday afternoon. "Because we had the other -- and we all know what happened there.

"But either way, it's exciting to think about baseball coming back to Albany."