A ballpark that has been sitting somewhat dormant since the Pinetoppers and the Peach State League folded in 2012 will have a new life and a new tenant in 2018. When Macon-Bibb County Commissioners voted to allocate $2,500,000.00 for the purpose of renovating Luther Williams Field, it also meant that a new team will call the facility that saw its first game in 1929 home.

The new tenant? It’s not going to be a minor league affiliate of an MLB club. It’s not part of an expansion of a new professional league that’s being formed. The yet-to-be-named Macon team will be part of the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate wood-bat Summer league in the Summer of 2018. The organization will be owned and operated by Jon Spoelstra and Steve DeLay. The CPL currently has 15 teams in the league that plays from June to early August, when most college players are out of school.

“We’re excited to announce Macon as the newest expansion franchise in the Coastal Plain League,” CPL COO and Commissioner Justin Sellers told the Macon Telegraph, WMAZ-TV and WGXA-TV. “Macon-Bibb has a storied history rich in baseball and we look forward to creating the newest chapter with a CPL team. Additionally, we are thrilled to have Jon and Steve as owners in the CPL and know that their vast experience will ensure the success of this franchise for years to come.”

“We’re thrilled to be part of the Coastal Plain League and bring fun, family oriented entertainment to the city of Macon and Historic Luther Williams Field,” said DeLay. “We’re looking forward to getting the community involved.”

The $2.5 million in renovations will take place before the start of the 2018 season. Luther Williams last played host to a minor league team in 2002 and has since been home to multiple independent ball teams, as well as the site of several films such as Trouble With the Curve, 42 and the IFC sitcom Brockmire.

“Baseball is coming back to Macon-Bibb in a big way and we couldn’t be more delighted to be the next team in the Coastal Plain League,” says Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert. “Our community has shown a resurgence in support for baseball at all levels, and Macon-Bibb County is doing what it can to support that, from improving and upgrading existing facilities to working with local partners to build new facilities and of course, making significant upgrades at our Historic Luther Williams Field.”

Luther Williams Field was added to the National Register of Historical Places, joining such local landmarks as the Hay House, Cannonball House, Fort Hawkins, Sidney Lanier Cottage, Rose Hill Cemetery, Ocmulgee National Monument, Grand Opera House, St. Joseph Catholic Church and dozens of other locations in Macon. In 1994, flooding caused the Ocmulgee River to rise to record levels. When the levee at Central City Park could no longer hold back the flood waters, Luther Williams Field was under water. The flood and the cleanup forced the Braves to play eight of their home games on the road.

There’s a lot of work to be done both on the field itself and with the seating area. Below is a list of things that the new ownership will have to address.

Field

Bullpen Mounds – Need work, 2nd pitching rubber needed, plate area in bullpen needs to be either turf or rubber mat; wood benches in both bullpens

Outfield fence – Redo with treated wood or chain link fence

Move flag pole to left field and add two more flag poles

Batters eye (approx. 10 to 13 feet high)

Resod ENTIRE field, including infield! Game mound needs work BADLY!

Plugs for bases, warning track

Check tarp for holes

Infield dirt, dirt at home plate and basepaths (1st and 3rd) need to be replaced

Seating areas

Bleachers alongside 1st and 3rd base dugouts, additional concesison stand in both areas

Secure gate next to 1st base bullpen, check drainage, especially in dugouts

Grandstand area needs power washing, insect nests need to be removed

Stage on third base side needs to go (possible wasp/yellow jacket hazard, splinter hazard), bush next to stage needs to go (possible wasp/yellow jacket hazard!)

Game operations area near press box stairs need

Press Box

Check ALL electical outlets

Check PA system, put in new sound system if needed

Take down blinds from windows and replace if needed

Check phone/internet lines in press box

Scoreboard – New electronic board!

Fix door on third base side of press box

Recarpet press box

Umpires Room behind grandstand needs to be renovated.

Locker rooms (especially the home locker room) need painting and carpets.

There’s a lot to do. They’ll need to start advertising as soon as possible, meeting as many people and talking about the team and getting host families for the players to live with during the season, as well as office and game-day staff to hire. The quicker people know about the team, the better chance they have at success. Macon is a “word of mouth” town and that doesn’t always work. No matter the name, this team needs to get itself noticed. If nothing else, a team such as this could provide temporary jobs for those that work in the food industry, grounds crew, press box, ticket office and other duties on a baseball team.

When the Braves left to go to Rome in 2002, there would be three independent league teams that would occupy Luther Williams Field (2003 – Peaches; Southeastern League, 2007 – Music; South Coast League, 2012 – Pinetoppers; Peach State League) and those teams, while entertaining and playing some decent baseball, failed as did their leagues. Let’s hope that this team will have a little more success. The organization says they will hold a launch party in Macon later this summer to reveal more information about the team and stadium. For updates as they become available visit http://www.maconbaseball2018.com.