The move was a surprise, to be sure. Under his leadership, the Trash Pandas came into existence after the purchase and move of the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League), developing the team name and branding and working out a new ballpark in suburban Madison, bringing pro baseball back to the Huntsville area. In an offseason that saw many MiLB struggle, Nelson and wife Lisa, who oversaw the team’s imaginative merchandising, the team generated some $4 million in merch sales since the team name was unveiled. Te new ballpark, Toyota Field, was slated to open in 2020 before the Minor League Baseball season was scrapped; it is now set to open May 11.
He announced the move in a letter to his BallCorps LLC investors, community leader and sponsors:
It is with great pride and a tremendous sense of accomplishment, that I share the news that I have decided it is time step aside from my role with the Rocket City Trash Pandas to pursue a new venture.
For the past several years, we have worked tirelessly to create the most state-of-the-art baseball stadium in Minor League Baseball. My passion for finding and upgrading underperforming Minor League Baseball teams came to fruition when the Mobile Bay Bears were relocated to Madison and rebranded as the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The Trash Panda brand is now known throughout the world and I am beyond proud of this unprecedented accomplishment. My singular goal has always been to bring Minor League baseball back to North Alabama and, in less than two weeks, that goal will be accomplished with the Trash Pandas Inaugural Season Opener on May 11, 2021.
That said, it is time for me to focus my energies on a new project. As a result of the work we accomplished in North Alabama, a new opportunity was presented to me in late 2019. It was the pursuit of another team and potential relocation, which will require my full attention. I began due diligence on this project while overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Trash Pandas. I was committed to ensuring the Trash Pandas were poised for success and wanted to see them through the first season. When the pandemic hit, the new opportunity was to be put on hold so I could focus my energies on keeping the Trash Pandas franchise afloat, and utilizing Toyota Field in the very best ways possible while being Covid compliant, all without the teams’ primary revenue source: professional baseball. I feel that at this time, we have accomplished all that and more. In the past months, I made a commitment to pursue this new opportunity, and with the Trash Pandas Inaugural season about to begin, my desire is to go back to the work that I love the most: building a new team and a new stadium.
As Opening Day approaches, it seems to be the right time to step down and leave the Trash Pandas in the hands of the BallCorps partners. I look forward to cheering for the Trash Pandas on Opening Day and subsequent games when my schedule allows.
I thank all of you for your support, enthusiasm, belief and trust in me. Without you, this dream would not have been realized.
The response from the Trash Pandas:
Today Ralph Nelson announced his resignation to the Trash Pandas. We thank him for his service and wish him the best in his future endeavors. With the full support of ownership, which remains unchanged, General Manager, Garrett Fahrmann and Vice President, Lindsey Knupp, will capably lead the organization.
We eagerly anticipate the official launch of Trash Pandas baseball in front of a sold-out crowd on May 11. Despite the host of challenges this past year, we would like to thank each of you for your support and enthusiasm. Opening Day will allow us all to finally commemorate the collective efforts of our employees, community leaders, and corporate partners, all of whom have worked tirelessly to create this pinnacle moment – to finally play baseball in a hometown region that has welcomed us wholeheartedly.
We look forward to continuing to play an active role in bringing joy, entertainment and pastimes for years to come in Northern Alabama.
Nelson is a baseball lifer, spending 17 years with the San Francisco Giants in a variety of roles before helping launch the Arizona Diamondbacks on the player-development side and then signing on as vice president of umpiring with Major League Baseball, overseeing the combining of separate league umpire supervision.