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Braves AA affiliate moving to Columbus

Jan. 11—PEARL- The 20 year history of Braves minor league baseball in Mississippi is coming to an end. 2024 will mark the Mississippi Braves twentieth season in Pearl, Mississippi and it will also mark its last. The Braves AA minor league affiliate will play its last season in Pearl in 2024 before moving to Columbus, Georgia in 2025. The move will place all of the Atlanta Braves minor league affiliates in the state of Georgia.

It has been no secret that Columbus has been attempting to lure the AA franchise away from Mississippi. The premier ball park in Columbus, Golden Park, was in need of some upgrades if it was going to meet MLB standards for Minor League ball parks. In late December 2023, the Columbus City Council approved a $50 million renovation of the stadium to bring it up to snuff. The multi-million dollar investment will add seating to the ball park along with hospitality suites and upgrades to player facilities. This was enough to lure Diamond Baseball Holdings, the owner of the Braves AA franchise, to South Georgia.

The Columbus franchise will instantly stand out among the Minor Leagues as Golden Park will become the oldest ball park in the Minors. Golden Park was built in 1926 and was most famously used for softball during the 1996 Olympics. From 2003-2008, it was home to the LA Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays single A affiliate the Columbus Catfish.

Columbus, Georgia has become a hot bed for lower level professional sports teams. The city already boasts a professional arena football team in the Columbus Lions and an FPHL hockey team in the River Dragons. In 2024, Columbus will add a soccer team as part of the National Premier Soccer League. Now, in 2025, the Braves will come to town.

Part of the cities motivation for the move is to boost the economy, with Columbus mayor Skip Henderson saying that the arrival of the Minor League ball club "could create upwards of 800 to 1000 jobs."

South Georgia baseball fans can look forward to Minor League baseball long term as the franchise is said to have a 20 year contract with a pair of five year renewals. This means that the ball club could stay in Columbus without signing a brand new contract until 2055.

Mississippians will certainly miss the Braves as fans have gotten to watch a very good AA baseball team with countless Braves stars rotating through for two decades. Legends like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Brian McCann, Dansby Swanson and many more have come through Pearl, Mississippi. Four of the Braves best hitters in the current lineup came out of the M-Braves franchise in Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies and, most recently, Michael Harris II.

In the bullpen, Braves aces AJ Minter, Max Fried and Spencer Strider spent time in Pearl, Mississippi. Thomasville native and Braves Minor Leaguer Hurston Waldrep also spent a short time with the M-Braves this past year before being called up to AAA.