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New ownership group plans changes for Florence Freedom, new team name to be chosen by a fan

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

A lot of things will stay the same when the Florence Freedom take the field at UC Health Stadium to begin the 2020 Frontier League season.

Florence Freedom Co-Owner and President David DelBello was joined by elected officials and community stakeholders Wednesday, as he announced some big changes in store for the team, including a new name. Left to right are NKY Chamber President Brent Cooper, Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, DelBello, Florence Mayor Diane Whalen, State Sen. John Schickel (R-Union), and Florence City Council members Mel Carroll, Julie Metzger-Aubuchon and Gary Winn (photo by Mark Hansel)

The team expects to have the same manager, and many of the players that brought it within one game of the Frontier League Championship in 2019.

There will also be some big changes, including perhaps the biggest in the team’s history in Florence, a new name.

Team President David DelBello, who led the ownership group that purchased the team in July,  made the announcement at an event at UC Health Stadium Wednesday.

He also explained why the decision was made to change the team name after 15 years.

“We want everyone to know quite simply, this is a whole new ballgame in Florence,” DelBello said. “We have a fan-first, family mentality here. We wish to recreate the buzz surrounding a family night of going out to the ballpark.”

As when the Freedom came to Florence 15 years ago, a fan will get to choose the team’s new name.

“Beginning immediately, we are accepting fan submissions for a new name at our website,” DelBello said. “As an additional incentive, considering we are expecting many fans to put some effort into this, we are announcing a grand prize winner for the name-the-team contest – a lifetime pair of season tickets for our newly named Florence baseball team.”

The contest will run for two weeks.

Along with the name change will come a different logo, and maybe even a new mascot.

“When my partners took over the team a little less than three months ago, we inherited a local team with a wonderful 15-year history of serving the community of Florence,” DelBello said. “We saw a well-run organization that catered to its fans and we are committed to continuing that tradition. We also see opportunities for changes to the team, our organization and the ball park we sit in today.”

While DelBello said it was to early to share many specifics, he did talk about one program the new ownership group wants to expand.

“We are also committed to investing in and growing our little league programs that were started this year,” DelBello said. “We introduced the game of baseball to over 500 children in the Florence and Northern Kentucky area. We are committed to doubling that number next year.”

DelBello said some of the more popular promotions, such as “Princess Night” would also remain on the team’s calendar.

Former owner Clint Brown rescued the team from a rocky start in Florence and lead it through a prolonged period of success and stability, no small feat in Independent League baseball.

When Brown died unexpectedly in January, 2018, the future of the team was uncertain. Browns wife, Kim Brown, however, vowed to keep the team in Florence and continue the team’s run of success.

Less than a year after taking over, she was named Frontier League Executive of the Year in 2018.

The Florence Freedom will continue to play its games at UC Health Stadium next year, but there are a lot of changes in store for Northern Kentucky’s professional baseball team (file photo).

Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said the Florence Freedom has always been a team effort. She praised the Florence City Council for the commitment to bring professional baseball to the city.

“From the first day that (Frontier League Commissioner) Bill Lee…walked in and talked to us about his dream, it became our dream,” Whalen said.

Recent discussions, she said, have focused a lot on the history of the team and how it has evolved.

Whalen became emotional when talking about the night she learned Clint Brown had died.

“That was a disturbance in the force,” Whalen said. “With that disturbance, Kim committed to the team and to the city to continue Clint’s dream. When Kim Brown made the decision to sell the team she sought out an ownership group that was committed to staying in Florence.”

Brown said her decision to sell the team this summer was made easier because of the new ownership group.

“I know this is a great group of guys and they are continuing the vision that we had when we bought it,” she said. “They have new ideas and I think it’s great for the team and the community, and its moving forward. After 15 years, things are going to change and I think with this new ownership group, it will change for the better.”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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