The Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas not only have one of the most popular team names in baseball, they also boast one of the newest stadiums in the Minor Leagues -- following the opening of Toyota Field in Madison, Ala., this year.
The club is called Rocket City due to its proximity to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in nearby Huntsville, Ala., and the Trash Pandas nickname refers to racoons -- which are known for their ingenuity, much like engineers. Toyota has a manufacturing plant in Huntsville, making it a natural sponsor.
Toyota Field was set to open in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the Minor League season. The ballpark hosted several events, including amateur baseball games, movie nights and a Christmas light show, before it officially opened for the Trash Pandas this season.
It’s been a major success for both the Angels and Double-A Rocket City. The Trash Pandas are drawing nearly 6,000 fans per game -- which is the most among all Double-A clubs -- and the facility is one of the finest in Minor League baseball. Trash Pandas merchandise has also been a huge hit, surpassing $4 million in sales since the team’s name was announced in 2018. The Angels and Trash Pandas have an agreement to be affiliated for at least 10 seasons.
“Rocket City has been great. As an affiliate, they’re really impressive,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. “From an environment standpoint, the stadium is outstanding and the facilities are great. The clubhouse is great. And then from a fan standpoint, having the experience of playing in front of those kinds of crowds with that kind of energy, day in and day out, has been a great experience for our guys."
The stadium, which was built by the city for $46 million, brings baseball back to the north Alabama region for the first time since 2014, when the Huntsville Stars relocated to Biloxi, Miss. The Trash Pandas moved from Mobile, Ala.
Fittingly located at 500 Trash Pandas Way, the stadium is situated just off I-565 and can be accessed via a newly completed eastbound ramp. The ballpark's dimensions are 326 feet to left field, 400 feet to center field and 326 feet to right field. It has a capacity of roughly 7,500 fans. The ballpark also features the SportsMed Stadium Club for season-ticket holders, 15 suites and a party deck on the third-base side.
A 360-degree concourse allows fans to walk around the entire stadium while enjoying the game. Fans can also watch batting practice in the batting cages located on the first-base side of the concourse. The bullpens are both in left field, while the stadium features two berm areas for seating. The outfield area, called the Toyota Outfield Experience, also features a barbershop.
The Trash Pandas theme carries over to other areas of the ballpark: The team store is called The Junkyard and concession areas include the Gravity Grille and Dumpster Dive, where fans can purchase the popular Dumpster Wrap.
Players have access to a state-of-the-art clubhouse and top-notch workout and training areas. Even the dugouts are modeled after their Major League counterparts, while the batting cages are connected to the clubhouse.
"Everybody who has been there has nothing but rave reviews about not only the facility, but how they treat our players," Minasian said. "It's an outstanding ownership group and staff there. We're in a really good spot."