When all of the dignitaries line for the first pitch at the new minor league baseball stadium in Biloxi next April they should be doing it on a field named for Barry Lyons.
Sure, there will be naming rights for the stadium just like in Pearl at Trustmark Park where the Mississippi Braves play. However, there should be a special effort made to name the playing surface after the Biloxi native, who has spent a good portion of his life trying to bring minor league baseball to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
A lot of the gratitude in a lot of the speeches will go to Tim Bennett, who turned out to be the promoter that made things happen both in Pearl and in Biloxi. But, make no mistake, this was Lyons’ vision.
And it has been a long, strange trip for the Lyons, the former All-America catcher for Delta State. After a couple of trips to the College World Series with the Statesmen, Lyons was drafted by the New York Mets and ended up spending a couple of years playing for the Double-A Jackson Mets during the glory years of Minor League Baseball in the Capital City and metro area.
He went on to play for the Mets and was a part of the 1986 World Series winners against the Boston Red Sox.
After also playing for the Dodgers, California Angels and Chicago White Sox, Lyons retired in 1995.
His retirement was two years after his first meeting with Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway in which Lyons suggested the city make a run at bringing a minor league baseball team to Biloxi.
Since that meeting, Lyons has done everything he could to bring minor league baseball to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He has met with teams and investors over the years, time and again believing that one day his dream would come true.
Then, he met Tim Bennett. The two forged a friendship. Lyons, who will be 53 next week, shared his hopes and dreams with Bennett and introduced him to all of the people of the Coast that could make life easier for an investor wanting to sink money into a baseball stadium and into Lyons’ dream.
Well, here we are 20 years after Lyons’ first meeting with Biloxi officials, and Gov. Phil Bryant and lots of dignitaries have just made a formal announcement that there will, indeed, be a minor league baseball stadium built in Biloxi.
It will be built directly across the street from the Beau Rivage Casino in the city block bounded by Interstate 110, U.S. 90, Howard Avenue and Caillavet Street.
A franchise will be brought in to play against the Mississippi Braves on a regular basis in the same Southern League that Lyons played in, beginning 30 years ago.
Bennett, the new team, the Beau Rivage and all of the city leaders of Biloxi should do the right thing and make sure that when those first pitches are made next April they are being done so on Barry Lyons Field at Caillavet Park or Beau Rivage Park or whatever major donor wants to pay to have its name on the front of the stadium.
But leave the playing surface name for Lyons, for that it where he has left his blood, sweat and tears over the course of a lifetime in the name of baseball in Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Congratulations Barry, your vision is becoming a reality.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1018