New Gastonia baseball team named for freed slave and ‘world’s most fearless animal’

·3 min read

Gastonia’s new professional baseball team unveiled its club name on Wednesday, with logos depicting a quick-to-pounce mammal that eats scorpions and snakes and is known as “the world’s most fearless animal.”

Most importantly, the Gastonia Honey Hunters name at the same time honors a famous figure in Gaston County’s past: Ransom Hunter, the county’s first freed slave and the first to own property there.

Hunter called his farm near the Catawba River Freedom, The Charlotte Observer reported in 2014 when his descendants were planning their first reunion in 30 years that July 4. He opened two livery stables and a general store, and sold off land that became downtown Mount Holly, according to the newspaper.

Brandon Bellamy, the team’s owner and the second Black to own a professional baseball team, came across Hunter’s name and legacy last year and this inspiring phrase by him, team spokeswoman Veronica Jeon said: “Always strive for something better, but never forget where you came from.”

Bellamy is originally from Detroit and is CEO of the Velocity Companies, a Maryland-based developer. He is the only Black majority owner of a professional baseball team at present.

Brandon Bellamy, owner of Gastonia Honey Hunters baseball team
Brandon Bellamy, owner of Gastonia Honey Hunters baseball team

His team is scheduled to debut this year in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball — the second team from North Carolina, after the High Point Rockers began play in 2019. The league has six teams in the Mid-Atlantic and Texas.

Stadium to host events year-round

The Honey Hunters will play in the new 5,000-seat FUSE stadium on Franklin Boulevard (U.S. 74), linking downtown Gastonia with the city’s historic Loray Mill area, according to a post on the league website. FUSE stands for Franklin Urban Sports and Entertainment District.

Team officials will manage the stadium, which plans to host sporting events, festivals and concerts year-round, according to the league.

The primary logo for the Gastonia Honey Hunters, a new baseball team set to begin play in the Atlantic League in 2021.
The primary logo for the Gastonia Honey Hunters, a new baseball team set to begin play in the Atlantic League in 2021.

$100 million investment opportunity

Bellamy and his company also plan to partner with the city on economic development projects tied to the ballpark, including residential, retail, hotel and office space properties, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

Those projects represent “a potential $100 million investment opportunity for the city,” league officials said.

“We are excited to have Mr. Bellamy join us in our continued efforts to create a great place that our community can be proud of,” Gastonia Mayor Walker Reid III said in a statement. “This is a milestone for our city and an example of how economic development partnerships invigorate a community and prove to be mutually beneficial for all parties.”

The sleeve emblem for the Gastonia Honey Hunters’ uniforms is shown in this image released by the team on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The new baseball team is set to begin play in the Atlantic League in spring 2021.
The sleeve emblem for the Gastonia Honey Hunters’ uniforms is shown in this image released by the team on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. The new baseball team is set to begin play in the Atlantic League in spring 2021.

Fire Ants, Hogzillas no match

As for the honey hunter?

After extensive research, focus groups and voting by fans, the team narrowed its list of name finalists to Gastonia Fire Ants, Gastonia Hogzillas, Gastonia Honey Hunters, Gastonia Hotshots and Gastonia Uppercuts.

“Honey Hunters was chosen to reflect the shared traits between City of Gastonia and those of the world’s most fearless animal: fearless, determined, and resilient,” Bellamy said in a statement.

“From Day One, I was inspired by these attributes of Gastonia, particularly as they relate to their unwavering commitment to ‘continuous improvement,’ or as we like to say, the ‘hunt for honey,’ which is something we can all relate to.”

The honey badger “is even in the Guinness Book of World Records” with that Most Fearless Animal title, Jeon said.

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