Trash Pandas Manager Brings Big-game, Championship Experience to First-year Club

MADISON — Jay Bell knows something about big moments in a baseball playing and coaching career spanning more than two decades, none more so than when he scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series as the Arizona Diamondbacks rallied to defeat the New York Yankees.

Jay Bell is the first manager of the Rocket City Trash Pandas (Photo/Rocket City Trash Pandas)

Over an 18-season Major League career, he won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and was twice an All-Star.

In three seasons as a manager in the Yankees minor league system, his teams made the playoffs each season including in 2019 when the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders won the International League Northern Division.

He’s seen the other side of the sport as well.

He was at shortstop for Pittsburgh when Francisco Cabrera rolled a grounder just past a diving Bell to score Sid Bream from second base to lift Atlanta past the Pirates in a Game 7 win that clinched the National League pennant in a moment that lives in Braves’ lore.

Now comes his newest challenge: leading the Rocket City Trash Pandas into their first season as a member of the Los Angeles Angels’ Double-A affiliate in the Southern League.

“It is a thrill to be part of this inaugural season,’’ Bell said during an introductory press conference at Toyota Field, which is expected to open for the team’s first homestand beginning April 15 against the Mississipi Braves.

“To grow up in Pensacola, to have the opportunity to come to the Southern League and be a part of a brand new franchise, a state-of-the-art field, to be associated with Rocket City — Madison and the Greater Huntsville area — is tremendous.’’

Growing up in the Florida Panhandle, Bell said being back in the South and Alabama “feels like home.’’

He drove around the area in a rental car prior to the press conference and came away “really impressed with what is going on in this city. To be part of baseball coming back to this area is something special.’’

Bell is reuniting with Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. Nelson was working in the front office of the Arizona Diamondbacks when the club launched in 1998. Bell was a member of the team’s original roster.

“When I was a young baseball executive I worked for a guy named Al Rosen,’’ Nelson said. “He told me a little trick, which was to go down to the clubhouse and see who were the first players that showed up. He said ‘Ralph, those will be your managers.’

“In San Francisco, those guys were Dusty Baker, Doug Melvyn and Matt Williams. I went to Arizona and the first guys in every night were Craig Counsell, Matt Williams and Jay Bell. I knew Jay Bell would be a manager. I just didn’t know how fortunate we’d be to have him as ours.’’

Josh Caray, the Trash Pandas radio voice, echoed a theme the club has repeated since arriving.

“We are Double-A in name but a major league operation,’’ he said. “One of the things the Los Angeles Angels have done for us is they have provided us with a big-league manager.’’

Bell’s coaching staff will include Tim Norton (pitching), Matt Spring (hitting), Derek Florko (defense), Matt Morrell (trainer), and Jon Hill (strength and conditioning).

Bell and wife Laura have a daughter, two sons and two grandchildren. Sons Brantley and Brock play professionally for the Reds and Red Sox, respectively.

The Trash Pandas open the season April 9 with a five-game series at the Birmingham Barons and make their Toyota Field debut April 15 against the Mississippi Braves.

Rocket City Trash Pandas Pass $2M Mark in Merchandise Sales

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas today announced the team surpassed the $2 million mark in merchandise sales Friday – in just more than 13 months of operating.

The team began selling official licensed merchandise in October 2018 following their logo reveal event at Dublin Park in Madison. Since then, the Trash Pandas have sold merchandise in the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Centre in Huntsville.

The team’s original store proved too small to handle the crowds, so the Trash Pandas moved into double the space in their current location, at the foot of the bridge June 29.

Through Dec. 22, the organization sold $2,031,660.25 in licensed Trash Pandas
merchandise, including $492,157.14 in online sales and $1,5439,503.11 at the Bridge Street location.

“This surpasses even our wildest expectations,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph
Nelson. “We are grateful to our fans throughout North Alabama and the entire Tennessee Valley,
as well as those around the world, for support that is simply unprecedented in Minor League Baseball. As I’ve said repeatedly, I do not believe any fan base has ever embraced a new team
like ours has.

“We are truly humbled by this … and it is only the beginning.”

The Emporium at Bridge Street is the only location in North Alabama to purchase official Trash
Pandas merchandise, season tickets and mini-plans. Merchandise is also available in the online

The Trash Pandas make their Toyota Field debut April 15, 2020 against the Mississippi Braves.

Rocket City Trash Pandas Offer 23-game Ticket Plans

MADISON — By popular demand, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have announced the sale of partial-season ticket mini-plans for 2020.

“As our fanbase knows, the Trash Pandas have been overwhelmed by sales of full season tickets, far beyond what we had anticipated; with more than 1,600 sold, there are fewer than 200 remaining,” said team President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “We are also well aware many of our fans can’t commit to attend 70 home games.

“Our fans constantly ask about partial-season ticket plans. We’ve heard them, and in response to those requests, we are offering three varied 23-game mini-plans.”

Each mini-plan consists of 23 home games, but none include Opening Day. Only full-season ticket holders are guaranteed a seat for Opening Day.

The mini-plans are for box seats only, and include these benefits:

  • Just a single-year commitment
  • 10 percent discount at the Trash Pandas Junkyard and Emporium team stores
  • 20 percent off parking

“These mini-plans make the perfect Christmas gift for all the baseball fans in your family,” Nelson said.

The three mini-plans are named Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and each has its own specialty. Specific dates for each plan are available on the team’s website

The Mercury Plan is the All-American plan, including Memorial Day and the big 3rd of July game and spectacular fireworks show.

The Gemini Plan is perfect for families with 5 Sunday games and 4 Saturday games, as well as the final home game of the season.

The Apollo Plan is a weekend special with the most weekend games of the three plans. It also includes the second home game of the season.

Each mini-plan is priced at $345 per seat. All three plans are available for sale at the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Centre, also by calling 256-325-1403, fans can email or visit

War Dawgs’ Josh Langford Using Basketball Career to Drive His Mission

Josh Langford’s goal as a member of the professional North Alabama War Dawgs is no different from most players on the roster — extending his basketball career.

But he’s also taking on another mission while playing for the War Dawgs during their inaugural season in the American Basketball Association.

Josh Langford is determined to be a positive influence, something ABA teams stress.

“I want to give back to the community,’’ he said as the team unveiled orange-and-black home and road uniforms last month on the eve of their first home game.

At the age of 27, the window for Langford to climb the hoops ladder will soon close. Giving back, however, is ageless. When not practicing or playing in games, he makes a living as a personal trainer at Monrovia Community Center.

Langford lives in Huntsville, his hometown, not far from North Alabama’s home gym at Jemison High School.

He wants to build his business to create what he calls “generational wealth’’ so he can provide for his son, 4-year old Landon Amir Langford. But that’s just part of his grand plan. He also gives free training sessions.

“The training is also to give back,’’ he said. “I want these kids to stay out of trouble. There’s some crazy stuff going on, especially in our community.

“If I can get as many people as I can to come together in peace, I believe we can have a better community and clean it up a little bit.’’

Langford, who played for the ABA’s Muskogee (Mich.) team, said the key for ABA players to get recognized is for the team to advance. The league has some 150 teams that play in regions with conference play and the postseason designed to give players on winning teams a chance to receive more exposure to scouts in higher levels.

“It depends on the guys and what their goals are,’’ he said. “The group of guys on this team are hungry. They go hard.’’

Langford’s hoops career has been uneven.

He was a highly coveted 6-7 senior forward while leading Lee High to a 2009-10 state championship. He originally committed to Louisville, but signed with Auburn where he played in all 31 games and started 12 as a freshman. His sophomore season was marred by a suspension and a concussion.

The Tigers coach at the time, Tony Barbee, dismissed Langford from the team prior to his junior season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He then transferred to Southeast Missouri State where he played his final two seasons.

After recovering from a disc injury received in a train wreck while traveling with his Michigan team, he got two invites to G-League tryouts. He didn’t make it, and before joining the War Dawgs, he played in the ABA and with the defunct Huntsville Force.

He’s now determined to be a positive influence, something ABA teams stress.

“I’d like to stop the violence as much as I can,’’ he said. “I’m not God, but I’ve got God in me.’’

The War Dawgs host the Jackson Showboats on Saturday; tipoff is 7:15 p.m. at Jemison High School. Tickets cost $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets for students and military personnel are $5. Visit


Regymen Fitness: Feel the Burn … and Afterburn

Ready to Burn, Box, and Build?

Then, let’s get HLIT with High Level Intensity Training at Regymen Fitness in Times Plaza on South Parkway.

Featuring a trailblazing method that’s guaranteed to disrupt any ho-hum workout routine, Regymen’s Burn-Box-Build consists of three programs in 90-minute intervals. Designed to challenge your body for muscle gain, calorie burn, flexibility, and agility, the workouts have been developed with variety and excitement in mind, to prevent muscle complacency and boredom.

“In the world of boutique fitness, most are concentrated on one form,” said Jason Haynes, owner of the Huntsville location. “We offer a lot more variety for our customers; not just for individuals, but for families, too.”

The Regymen program maximizes the potential of afterburn, Haynes said. Scientifically known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), afterburn is caused by the body’s need for oxygen after cardio and resistance training. It must replenish its energy sources to return to its normal state. The body needs to consume energy, and that energy comes directly from the body. This is how calories really burn.

After a long career in federal government, Haynes always had a long-term vision of owning his own business. Jason, his wife Anu, and their two sons enjoy an active lifestyle based on health and fitness.

Regymen Fitness owner Jason Haynes. (Photo/Steve Babin)

After their oldest son, Steven, graduated with a degree in exercise science, he got a job with the Regymen studio in Niceville, Fla. Steven liked the premise and the corporate culture, encouraging his dad to check it out.

Soon after, Jason met with the corporate team, “It seemed like a perfect fit,” he said.

Regymen’s corporate headquarters are in Baton Rouge and the company strongly emphasizes pre-testing at its four locations.

“They’re visionaries, continuously evolving their product in front of industry leaders,” said Haynes. “A lot of forward-thinking staff with a great understanding of fitness. It’s not a closed system; there’s a continuous feedback loop. All the coaches from the studios dial in weekly for ‘boots on the ground;’ not just the fitness side, but the corporate side, too.”

Haynes said the studio provides a local-feel, unique to the Huntsville-Madison County community.

“Regymen’s corporate culture is for us to be involved with the community, getting out into the community, having social events and hosting monthly events to build relationships that go beyond a workout,” said Haynes.

Rocket City Trash Pandas Mascot to Make Debut at Bridge Street Christmas Tree-Lighting

A long-awaited moment will arrive Nov. 22, when the Rocket City Trash Pandas’ mascot makes its public debut with none other than Santa Claus in the 12th annual “Lights Up!” Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at Bridge Street Town Centre.

The 12th annual Bridge Street Town Centre Christmas Tree-lighting will be Nov. 22.

“The Rocket City Trash Pandas are truly honored to take part in this North Alabama holiday tradition,” said President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “As our gift to the community, we are presenting … or should I say, ‘unwrapping’ our mascot.”

For more than a decade, residents have visited Bridge Street for the ceremony marking the traditional start of the holiday season. Festivities run from 4:30-7 p.m., with the tree-lighting at 6:15. The mascot will be revealed just prior to the lighting – and Santa has asked if the Trash Panda can assist lighting the tree.


Name the Mascot Contest

The Trash Pandas are now holding a “Name the Mascot Contest.”

Over the next two weeks, season ticket holders and other Trash Pandas Nation members will receive a ballot via email to vote for one of six names: Apollo; Buzz; Cosmo; Crash; Jetson; and Sprocket.

The Trash Pandas Nation includes customers who have purchased Trash Pandas licensed merchandise at the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street and in the Trash Pandas online store. Fans who wish to vote but do not receive an email ballot can receive one by signing up for the Trash Pandas Nation online at

“After the success of the fans’ voting on the name of our team, I can’t wait to see what name they choose for our mascot,” Nelson said.

Following the tree-lighting ceremony, the mascot will sign autographs in the Trash Pandas Emporium, the official store of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, at the foot of the bridge.

Fans have bought more than $1.7 million in licensed Trash Pandas merchandise in 12 1⁄2 months, setting Minor League Baseball sales records. The Emporium, which follows Bridge Street’s holiday schedule, is also the official outlet for season tickets. Less than 250 full season tickets remain.

Bridge Street Town Centre’s “Lights Up!” event is filled with festivities for the entire family. The crowd will enjoy live music from local band Big Daddy Kingfish, the Christmas tree lighting, Santa Claus, and fireworks. It’s a spectacular event that will help everyone get into the Christmas spirit.

The Trash Pandas mascot and costume was designed by San Diego-based Brandiose and created by Custom Characters of Glendale, Calif.

Brandiose designed the iconic logos and brand for the Trash Pandas which has captured national and international attention. Custom Characters’ client list includes The Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks Animation, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., among others.

Huntsville Classic, Korn Ferry Tour Join for Huntsville Championship

The Huntsville Classic golf tournament and fundraiser, a community-wide staple since 1989, is joining forces with the Korn Ferry Tour to provide a week-long event in the city.

The Huntsville Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit fundraiser, announced a partnership with the Huntsville Championship. The tournament is in its first year.

Golf fans will have the chance to play with Korn Ferry Tour players in the Pro-Am, or watch tournament play through a variety of ticket options. The Huntsville Championship will take place April 20-26 at The Ledges. The Huntsville Classic dinner and concert will be May 7 at the Von Braun Center.

Proceeds will benefit the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville and the new Huntsville Hospital Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation.

“As our region grows, collaboration and cooperation are more important now than ever before,” Chris Hanback, chairman of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, said in a press release. “These exciting changes to our 30-year-old signature event will provide new opportunities for the Foundation’s growth and impact. And, of course, the mission of the Classic remains the same — to raise essential funds needed to support our local, not-for-profit hospital. Without this event, key lifesaving equipment would not be possible.”

Penn Garvich serves as tournament chairman of the Huntsville Championship, which is one of 28 sites nationally and internationally on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“The Huntsville Championship is honored to partner with Huntsville Hospital Foundation,’’ he said. “From the beginning, our focus has been about providing a premier Korn Ferry Tour golf event while also giving back to the community.’’

The Korn Ferry Tour replaced the Nationwide Tour, the final level before players reached the PGA. The Korn Ferry Tour has 28 events scheduled for 2020 in 20 states and four countries. The former PGA Q-School is also now part of this tour.

Majors champions Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson all played the Korn Ferry Tour.

According to its press release, Huntsville Hospital Foundation inspires philanthropic partners to invest in medical technology and programs that advance Huntsville Hospital’s mission to improve the health patients in its region of 1.1 million residents. Through the generosity of its donors over its 41-year history, it has grown to almost $38.5 million in assets and has distributed more than $54 million toward Huntsville Hospital’s service to its patients.

The Alabama-based sports marketing and event management firm Knight Eady operates the Huntsville Championship.

Rocket City Trash Pandas, Inline Electric Announce Partnership

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas and Inline Electric have announced a long- term strategic partnership to include naming rights for the Inline Electric Rock Porch bar.

The Inline Electric Rock Porch will offer a unique view of the action in Toyota Field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“We are excited to have Inline Lighting and Electrical Supply join the Trash Pandas family,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Inline Electric is a home-grown business that has been known throughout our region for their quality products and customer service for three decades. Since we designed the Rock Porch, I have always felt it will become everybody’s favorite spot in the ballpark. We are thrilled that Inline Electric, a North Alabama business institution, has elected to sponsor it.

“The Inline Electric Rock Porch will be providing our fans with the most unique vantage point in Minor League Baseball.”

As part of the agreement, Inline Lighting & Electrical Supply has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and Toyota Field. The Inline Electric brand and logo will be prominently featured throughout the stadium, including the Inline Electric Rock Porch bar overlooking right field.

“Inline Lighting and Electrical Supply is proud to be a sponsor of the Rocket City Trash Pandas new venture in North Alabama,” said Bruce Summerville, President of Inline Lighting and Electrical Supply. “Our customers in Huntsville, Athens, Sheffield, Cullman and Albertville are certainly excited to participate with
in making this a huge success for all of North Alabama.”

Von Braun Center Unveils LED Lighting System in Propst Arena

It was an event fit for a king.

Or, as in this case, fit for the reigning Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville Havoc.

In last Friday night’s home debut for the Havoc, the Von Braun Center unveiled its LED lighting system in the Propst Arena.

The upgraded lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

“Over time, the previous lighting system became less efficient with bulbs requiring frequent replacement, as well as producing a noticeable background noise during events,” said VBC Executive Director Steve Maples.  “Additionally, the previous fixtures were extremely limited in the special effects and production capabilities compared to newer, sophisticated lighting systems.”

The upgraded lighting system enhanced Friday’s hockey game with strobing light effects, and full-red lighting to coincide with the team’s colors.  The lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

The new LED lighting system brightens the arena, further enhancing the fans’ experience.

Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting manufactured the LED system that also features 12 new LED video panels manufactured by Daktronics.

The scope of the new lighting system included the installation of 86 fixtures with programmable color-changing capabilities.  The system is estimated to deliver an annual energy savings of $45,132, along with a reduction of approximately $8,923 in annual arena lighting maintenance costs.  The $340,000 lighting upgrade is being paid for through the VBC’s capital funding.

The system features full color-tuning fixtures to enhance events with colorful light shows and other lighting experiences.  With this upgrade, the options for a completely integrated lighting system for events is unlimited and will result in an enhanced fan experience, as well as improved viewing opportunities of both live and televised events.

The new lighting system activates instantly and takes less time to become fully operational as compared to the previous metal halide fixtures. Also, the programmable controls allow operators the ability to immediately change lighting schemes.

The new LED lighting system offers a wide range of adjustable color temperatures, and consistent lighting capabilities giving VBC staff and performers out-of-the-box opportunities for creating captivating visual moments.

War Dawgs Unveil Uniforms; Open Home Season Tonight

The North Alabama War Dawgs unveiled four uniforms Friday in anticipation of the first home game tonight in their inaugural season in the American Basketball Association.

The team opened the season on the road with a 119-113 loss to the Atlanta Storm, which is the opponent for tonight’s 7:15 home game at Mae Jemison High School.

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10 at Tickets at the door are $15, but just $5 for students and military personnel. War Dawgs t-shirts will be sold at the game.

The team recently added former Lee standout Josh Langford. He joins two other local stars previously on the roster in Jeffery Moss (Bob Jones) and Dallas Jones (Butler/Buckhorn).

Team owners Timothy Jones and Chris Burge, General Manager Courtney Benjamin, Coach Antwan Habersham and assistants Ruben Cable and Kenneth Lee were joined by the players and the dance squad Diva Dawgs at the uniform reveal. Jemison High supplied a drum line.

North Alabama will wear home and road uniforms with orange the featured color and black as an accent. The team also unveiled a pink breast cancer awareness and a red, white and blue patriot-themed ensemble.

The ABA has some 150 teams that play in regions with conference play and the postseason designed to give players on winning teams a chance to receive more exposure to scouts in higher professional levels.

The league ( some unique rules designed to promote fast-paced action.

One is the “3D light.’’ If a team fails to get past midcourt in seven seconds, or the defense gets a backcourt steal, a red light will flash at the scorer’s table indicating the 3D rule is in effect. When 3D is active, a team can score three points for a made shot, but four if a basket is made beyond the 3-point line and five for a bucket near midcourt.