Biloxi to welcome independent baseball to Coast

Barry Lyons, center, is jonied by League President L.J. Dupuy, left, and Tony Atchley of the league champion Pensacola

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River Bats.

Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway says he’s excited about the two-game minor league exhibition series coming to Biloxi in May, as well as the prospects for the future of independent baseball in south Mississippi.

Barry Lyons, a Biloxi native and former member of the world-champion New York Mets, announced today that the Baton Rouge (La.) River Bats and the Southeastern League champion Pensacola (Fla.) Pelicans will meet for 7 p.m. games on May 28 and 29 at Hollis Field in west Biloxi. Lyons, who was joined by Baton Rouge and Pensacola team officials, made the announcement midday during a press conference at the Palace Casino in Biloxi.

Tickets for the games will be $5 for adults or $3 for students, and, with extra temporary seating to be added by the city, Hollis Field could accommodate as many as 2,000 fans.

“These games between the River Bats and the Pelicans should give local fans a taste of what the Southeastern League has to offer,” Holloway said, “and pro baseball seems like a natural, maybe ‘The Natural,’ for Biloxi.

“Last year, we had more than 1,700 youth and adults playing baseball or softball in our Biloxi city sports programs alone, so there is interest. And as far as supporting a professional sports franchise, we’ve been home to pro hockey, basketball, indoor football and volleyball, and even the Mississippi Herricanes, a women’s professional football team that plays at Yankie Stadium.

“People will support a quality product, and baseball, America’s pastime, will have the added advantage of someone like Barry Lyons, who knows this community and knows baseball. We stand ready to help make these games on May 28 and 29 a tremendous success.”

Lyons, who operates a sports training facility in Biloxi, is hoping that the two-game series will whet the community’s appetite to establish a baseball franchise in south Mississippi, possibly Biloxi, and he’s hoping to build support for the construction of a baseball stadium.

“I have a vision for baseball here in south Mississippi, and I think we can do it in the next year or so, but we need to get working to that end.”

More information on ticket outlets and availability for the exhibition games will be announced soon, Lyons said. Meanwhile, those interested can e-mail him or call the Encore Barry Lyons Baseball Academy at 228-594-3355.

The Southeastern League of Professional Baseball is an independent league comprised of teams in Baton Rouge and Houma, La.; Pensacola, Fla.; Montgomery and Selma, Ala.; and Macon, Ga. The Southeastern league has an expansion team scheduled to begin play in 2004 in Hattiesburg.