Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Naming a Minor League Team

One of my favorite things about minor league baseball is participating in Name the Team/Mascot contests for a chance to score free tickets and notoriety. It is not uncommon for minor league teams change their name or logo/mascot when moving to a new ballpark, city, parent club, or league to symbolize new beginnings. Recently, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees announced just such a change for next year when they move into their newly renovated stadium. The team requested new name submissions that reflected the history of the area and represented the Scranton area well. These are the finalists: 

Black Diamond Bears
Trolley Frogs 

These choices left me feeling disappointed, and if I was a fan of this team I would be downright angry. I emailed the Marketing Director of the SWB Yankees to voice my displeasure and he basically responded with "thanks for your opinion, the support of the community has been great." I'd like to know who is supporting these choices, because they are terrible. I mean, what the hell is a Black Diamond Bear? Would anybody be proud to call themselves a Trolley Frog? It seems like the formula these days to name teams is to precede a type of animal with an adjective or some sort of noun reflective of the city. Iron Pigs. Silver Hawks. Sea Wolves. This method ranges from lazy to nonsensical. Hockey is even worse, because those teams just add "Ice" in front of something, like IceHogs. I don't know about you, but I don't view neither a wolf in the sea nor a pig on ice as striking fear into an opponent. Let's go through the rest of these choices. Blast - what is this, the WNBA? Team names should never be a present-tense verb, they should always be the plural form of a noun, no questions asked. No more Lake Elsinore Storm or Greenville Drive (the only exception is Swing of the Quad Cities, because that was pretty much the greatest minor league team and uniform combination of all time). Are Fireflies and Porcupines even associated with northeast Pennsylvania? I appreciate that these are unique, I mean there are only so many Dog or Cat or Bear teams you can have. But if you're going to name a team Porcupines or Flying Squirrels or Blue Wahoos, that name better ring true with every resident of that town as being very familiar. Nobody in Milwaukee questions why their team is the Brewers. That really leaves RailRiders as the most logical choice by deductive reasoning. I might still be apt to choose Porcupines just because I imagine the mascot being hilarious.

It's time for fans, and ultimately teams, to step up to the plate and start thinking of better names. Although it's not a minor league team, one of my favorites new names of the last few years has been the Chinooks of the Northwoods League. It's marketable, everybody understands it, it's unique, it has a sense of civic pride, and it lends itself to a fun mascot. RailRiders could be successful in the same ways, although there are several team names prefixed by "rail," so loss of creativity points there. From what I can gather, Scranton is known for coal mining, railroads, and papermaking. Miners. Engineers. Papermakers. It's not that hard. It doesn't need to be complicated with superfluous words like "Red Miners" or "Paper Bears." I just hope that in this case, the management will do what the Akron Aeros did last year and come to the conclusion that there is absolutely nothing wrong with their original name, in this case the Scranton Red Barons.

Brewers 52-62, -16.5 (3 @ Rockies, 4 v. Phillies)
Reds 69-46, +5.0 (3 v. Mets, 4 v. Cubs)
Twins 50-65, -12.5 (3 v. Tigers, 3 @ Mariners)

Erik - 24
Peter - 34


John Hoffman said...

Hey Pete,
Nice post. I think mgmt can overthink these things - see "Marquette Gold" - and some minor leagues become irrelevant with being generic.

Was happy that my own Seattle Sounders took a fan vote when they went up to MLS. Fans totally shat on all the options and wrote in Sounders. Who wants to be the Seattle Republic or Seattle Alliance? Nobody.

pnagel2 said...

I think the worst example of this is from another city you used to live, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. I tried to keep the rant to baseball or I wouldn've been writing all day. Thanks for reading John, hope all is well.

John Hoffman said...

yeah, always had to snicker and make fun of the alumni for their golden shower team. captain 'cane wasn't much better either, nor his reboot - something about an IT student struck by lightning who gained super powers. i shit you not.