A magical year in Birmingham continued today as the Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs announced the Barons as the Don Mincher Organization of the Year as voted on by league general managers. In addition, Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson has been named the Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year, as voted upon by his peers.
Named in honor of the late Don Mincher, who served as Southern League President from 2000-11, the Organization of the Year is awarded to the Southern League club exemplifying the complete baseball franchise. By claiming this honor, Birmingham will be the Southern League's nominee for Minor League Baseball's John H. Johnson President's Trophy, which will be presented at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.
"It's been an amazing journey for our entire organization this season and we're honored to receive the Southern League's most prestigious award," the Logan family said in a statement. "This honor is a testament to the hard work and dedication of both our full and part-time staffs and the entire Birmingham community who has embraced this ballpark and team with overwhelming enthusiasm. We'd also like to congratulate Jonathan on winning the league's Executive of the Year award."
With the opening of Regions Field, the Barons have been able to reinvigorate their fan base as well as contributing to the revitalization of the downtown area. The crown jewel of Birmingham's newly developed Parkside District opened its doors to a sold-out crowd on April 10th to rave reviews from fans and others all over the baseball industry and was recently named Ballpark of the Year by Baseballparks.com. The Barons set numerous attendance records in 2013 with 396,820 fans (5,669 average per game) attending, easily leading the league in both categories. The attendance was the highest for a Southern League team in the first season of a new ballpark and was the 4th-highest single season attendance in league history.
The Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox has also enjoyed a tremendous season on the field in 2013, winning the Southern League North Division First Half championship, the North Division Pennant in a thrilling five-game series against the Tennessee Smokies and currently hold a 2-0 series lead over the two-time defending Southern League Champion Mobile BayBears with Game 3 to be held Friday at Regions Field. The team produced ten Mid-Season All-Stars for the league's North Division as well as two Post-Season All-Stars and produced the league's Most Valuable Player in Marcus Semien.
Nelson will officially be recognized for as the league's Executive of the Year at the Southern League Fall Meetings as well as the Minor League Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando in December.
In his ninth season as Barons General Manager, Nelson earns his second Executive of the Year honor, having won the award in 2009. It is the sixth time a member of Birmingham's front office has won the award since 1982. Nelson, along with Barons owner Stan Logan, oversaw the design, building and opening of the award-winning Regions Field in downtown Birmingham.
"2013 has been an incredible year for Birmingham and the Barons," Nelson said in a statement. "This award is completely reflective of our entire organization and the great job everyone has done during our inaugural season at Regions Field. It takes a total team effort to pull off a magical season like we've had and the credit goes to everyone in our organization from the Logan Family to our game day and full time staffs of both Parkview Catering and the Barons. I am honored by this recognition and sincerely appreciate Lori and all of my Southern League colleagues. I am humbled and honored by this award as I worked in the this league during Jimmy Bragan's tenure as President and his accomplishments and lasting impact for not only the Southern League but the game of baseball are legendary. Lastly, I would like to thank my wife, children and parents for their support and understanding of the unique requirements that go into working in the game."