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The Madison Record
Longtime sportswriter and author Mark McCarter recently published a new book looking behind the scenes of the birth of the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The award-winning, Hall of Fame writer has now published three books. Photo Contributed

Pandamonium!: Local Hall Of Fame Writer Mark McCarter Chronicles The Birth Of The Rocket City Trash Pandas In New Book

MADISON- Reading books has always been a way of life for Mark McCarter. Matter of fact, on average, he’ll complete the read of a book every two weeks, so it’s no surprise the longtime, award-winning author has just completed his third book, which chronicled the birth and the delayed first season of the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

Published by August Publications, Pandamonium! tells the story of professional baseball’s return to Huntsville through in-depth interviews and personal experiences McCarter he himself witnessed of the behind-the-scenes making of the Minor League Baseball franchise.

“The idea came from Ralph Nelson (managing general partner/president) and was commissioned by the Trash Pandas as they loved the idea and Ralph was a driving force to make it happened,” said McCarter.

McCarter spent 17 years as a columnist with the Huntsville Times and is a four-time Alabama Sportswriter of the Year. He was inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame and the Huntsville/Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame and is currently a board member of the later Hall of Fame. In June, the 67-year-old will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame.

His history as a writer includes two earlier books: The Racetracks Book about NASCAR and Never A Bad Game: 50 Year of the Southern League. It was his second book he presented to Nelson which led to his writing about the Trash Pandas.

“Ralph was impressed on how the stories in the book touched him,” added McCarter. “In that book I wrote about Huntsville’s own Don Mincher, the one-time Major League Baseball player who went on to be a major part of the Huntsville Stars team. Matter of fact, Ralph indicated the first World Series game he ever saw featured Don Mincher’s last at bat as a Major Leaguer, which was an RBI single versus the Reds as a member of the Oakland A’s.”

The seven-month project of writing the book on the Trash Pandas came to a roadblock the same time the Trash Pandas had to put a stop in what was to be their inaugural season in 2020. The COVID pandemic hit and the printing company in Michigan which was set to print the completed writing shut down. Much like the Trash Pandas in their efforts to pivot their efforts to the 2021 season, McCarter updated the book with another chapter on the organization. All was set. Then a bombshell hit just prior to the start of the 2021 season.

Nelson decided to resign from his position from the Trash Pandas.

“I will be forever grateful to Ralph for bringing baseball back to Huntsville, but I needed to make changes in the book,” said McCarter. “Kevin Reichard, publisher with August Publications, got with me about delaying the book. We cut about 25,000 words from the original manuscript and I wrote about the first season and how it worked out with the new management.”

McCarter has always been the type of reporter to see what’s behind the scenes and see the guts of a subject. He did so magnificently when he dug into the lives of some of the players for the Trash Pandas. For the players, Minor League Baseball is very challenging and can be a tough life living in crowded quarters with teammates and many times not eating well.

McCarter befriended Trash Pandas’ relief pitcher Kieran Lovegrove and his efforts to open up to McCarter was eye-opening. “He was great as he stood up for players to be able to survive,” added McCarter.

So far, 2,500 copies of the book have been printed and McCarter recently had a book signing at Toyota Field to announce his in-depth look at the team that has taken Minor League Baseball by storm. He currently works as Assistant Athletic Director for External Operations at the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH).

He sat many afternoons and early evenings along with weekends writing his third book, which McCarter said he’s most proud of. He added, “This finished version is actually better than the original version as this tells a lot of the players. I think it’s a fun read.”

McCarter attended both Memphis State and UT-Chattanooga but received his college degree in 2014 from Athens State University in liberal arts. His career began with his first job in the media at the Chattanooga News Free Press right out of high school where he was a writer for his high school newspaper. He was mainly a baseball player in his younger days playing mostly first base. He even jokes about the honor of leading the Lookout Mountain Slowpitch League in home runs in 1984.

For anyone who reads a copy of Pandamonium: The Inside Story of Pro Baseball’s Return to The Rocket City will quickly come to the conclusion, McCarter hit another homerun.

The book is available at both the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Centre and The Junkyard Team Store at Toyota Field.

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