Columbus, Ga. – The Sunbelt League announced Monday afternoon the addition of a new team based in Columbus, Ga. for the 2021 season.
Columbus joins the Sunbelt as the seventh team and is one of two entering the Sunbelt in 2021. The addition of both expands the total number in the league back to eight for the first time since 2017.
“I want to thank the city of Columbus, the media, the council, and the mayor for allowing this to happen, and I’m really excited about this,” said Sunbelt Commissioner Todd Pratt. “I’ve heard this term ‘Bring baseball back.’ It’s back here in Columbus. I look forward to working with the city of Columbus and (team president Scott Brand and owner Jeff Croop) to make every opportunity available for these young men. Not only is Columbus growing, so is the Sunbelt League, and Scott and Jeff and the city of Columbus are a big part of it.”
Columbus is run by Golden Park Restoration Inc. (GPR) led by team owner Jeff Croop and president/general manager Scott Brand. Both bring vast experience in professional sports and played an integral role in bringing professional sports to the Columbus area. Under their leadership, the organization will play all their home games at Golden Park in downtown Columbus with plans to renovate the stadium before the start of the 2021 season. The 5,000 seat stadium, which was built in 1951, has been home many events over the past six decades, including the Beep Baseball World Series championship game in 2013.
“We’re excited finally to open the doors to this grand stadium after so many years,” said Columbus Deputy City Manager for Current Operations Lisa Goodwin. “(Scott Brand and Jeff Croop) are doing great things here in our community at the Civic Center with hockey and the River Dragons organization, and it just made good sense to partner with those who we already do business with. We’re just excited to be able to have this opportunity to cut the lights on and to bring people into the stands. We’re truly looking forward to having baseball right here on the banks of the Chattahoochee (River) once again.”
“I have a high level of excitement,” said Croop on joining the Sunbelt. “We’re excited about the Sunbelt League. It’s a great league and a great fit for Columbus, and we’re excited to be in it. We’re excited to do this. Scott (Brand) does a great job of putting fans in the stands, and our staff will do a great job of supporting that.”
“I’m extremely excited,” said Scott Brand on bringing baseball to Columbus. “I love the concept of the wood bat league. The Sunbelt League offers its players good quality coaching. The teams are solid, and we thought ‘You know what? We want to go to a league where we’re going to challenge a little bit.’ That’s why we picked the Sunbelt, and we look forward to being a member of that outstanding league.”
Both Scott Brand and Jeff Croop currently serve in their same respective roles with the Columbus River Dragons, a minor league hockey team of the Federal Hockey League which they founded in 2019. Under their leadership, the River Dragons averaged over 3000 fans in attendance per game and clinched a playoff spot in their inaugural season before it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to his stint with the River Dragons, Brand helped founded the Waterloo Bucks, the 1st expansion team in the Northwoods College Baseball League in 1995 and was named executive of the year. He also helped increase and set attendance and corporate sponsorship records in stints as vice president and general manager of the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League from 1992-96, the Youngstown Phantoms from 2013-15, and as president and general manager of the Carolina Thunderbirds from 2016-19.
Croop runs a graphic arts design and marketing business in Richmond, Virginia called USA Ignite. Prior to his stint with the River Dragons, the upstate New York native served as owner of the Utica Blizzard of the Colonial Hockey League in 1994 before they moved to Winston-Salem and became the IceHawks in 1997, and also served as the General Manager of the Richmond Riverdogs of the United Hockey League starting in 2004.
The Columbus baseball team is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @colgabaseball. They are currently holding a social media contest to decide on a name. You can participating by following the links on their social media accounts.
The Sunbelt Summer Baseball League has been providing premier summer baseball for the Southeast since 2005. For everything around the Sunbelt League go online to sunbeltleague.com for news, scores, broadcast information, and much more and on Facebook and Twitter @sunbeltbaseball.