Laurel professional baseball in danger of going under without more support
By Ben Tigert
For the Leader-Call
Organizers of the National Urban Professional Baseball League, which began in May with four teams, including one in Laurel, said the league could fold on June 30 if sponsors and more community support does not happen.
“Our vision is to provide affordable family entertainment, promote diversity in the game of baseball and to allow those baseball players that feel like their opportunity has passed them by to fulfill their dream of playing professional baseball,” league founder Michael Mayden said. “We are calling on everyone to rally to the cause of saving and supporting this league over the next 10 days. We call on the community, church and business leaders to help provide us with the much-needed sponsorship to make Laurel, Mississippi our permanent home.”
Businesses looking to sponsor a team is asked to vist www.nupbl.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The league began May 23 with four teams — two in Mississippi and one each in Texas and Tennessee — and was designed to pay homage to the old Negro League teams in the first half of the 20th century.
The NUBPL website states that “African American baseball players have been limited in their opportunity to participate in the game of baseball. This league would afford players the opportunity to play baseball on a professional level, which includes being compensated for their skill.”
The three-state format has changed, though, with all four teams now located in Laurel with games being played at Wooten Legion Field.
“We chose Laurel for a number of reasons,” Mayden said. “Laurel has a rich history in baseball. When we traveled here to help pick a location, we were quickly embraced by the community.”
The teams are Josh Gibson All Stars, Lester Barclay All Stars, Vickie Pasley All Stars and Rube Foster All Stars. The teams are named after Negro League Baseball stars. Josh Gibson All Stars had originally been the team that would be located in Laurel. Appropriately, the team has two players from Laurel, and two other players from South Mississippi.
Nigel Moffatt is a graduate of Laurel High School and played at Hinds Community College. He is an outfielder and pitcher. Outfielder and pitcher Jeremy Woods also graduated from LHS and played collegiately at Tougaloo College in Jackson. Shortstop Malcolm Marshall graduated from Hatttiesburg High School and played at Calhoun Community College in Alabama and Shawnee Community College in Illinois. Rounding out the local contingent is outfielder Steve Tait. He is a graduate of Pascagoula High School and played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Bishop State Community College in Mobile, Ala.
Players of the NUBPL are paid $500 by the league. The current pay rate is temporary, as the league intends to increase pay as the league grows. Being able to pay the players is a big part of the vision of the league. Receiving an income from playing baseball allows the players to focus on the sport and it also plays a part in drawing players.
“This was an opportunity to keep playing a game I love. And this gave me the chance to get paid to play,” said Tait, a 29-year-old outfielder.
The other players had similar reasons why they chose this league.
“(The league) gave me the opportunity to keep doing something I love to do,” said Marshall, 29.
Moffat, 21, said the league’s location in Laurel was a factor in his decision. “This gave me the chance to come back and play with friends that I’ve played with in the past.”