There’s nothing more disappointing than a Minor League affiliate with the same name as its parent team. The only thing that comes close is the sheer boredom I get from teams with a cliché, high school mascot name like “Bulldogs” or “Cougars.”
In the first part of this series/rant on my love of silly Minor League Baseball team names, I explained why I feel these eye-catching names mean so much to non-Major League teams and their fans.
As I said in that article, I have no hard numbers to back up any claims that a team called the “Farmburg Bulldogs” wouldn’t succeed as a business or as a team. Nor do I have any evidence that a team called the “Lakeview Turbo Snails” would do better in either aspect based on name alone.
I just think teams that don’t necessarily have the same quality of play as higher-level teams should capitalize on the opportunity to use a crazy name and stir up some buzz. As they say, all press is good press, right?
Possible bonuses of fun names
A good name is important for every level of the farm system, but even more so at the lowest levels – single-A short season, college summer ball, etc. Triple-A teams inherently have an easier time attracting fans than rookie level ones, between level of play, bigger prospects and the occasional Major League star recovering from an injury.
Personally, I would rather wear a Modesto Nuts shirt than a Salem Red Sox one just based on the fun name and logo. I’m a life-long Red Sox fan, but why would I buy merchandise that looks the same as the better team I already have shirts of – apart from switching “Boston” and “Salem?”
If anything, it just makes it look like I can’t afford to go to a “real” Red Sox game – which, though true, doesn’t need to be broadcasted to the world.
The Modesto Nuts shirt and logo could also start a conversation between me and some stranger who has never heard of the team. Plus, I don’t necessarily have to be a Seattle Mariners fan to support the Nuts.
From a director of fan experience and social media perspective, there’s a lot more I would able to do and many more puns I could make for special events during a game or promotional piece as the Mantis Shrimp than as the Tigers. This goes for great home run calls from the broadcasters as well.
Even get the fans in on it, have them choose the name from a list of silly ones like the Amarillo Sod Poodles did recently. Sure, some fans might be sticks in the mud and start a petition for more “normal” options, but those are also the people I don’t want to be seated next to at the ballpark.
Warning: don’t make the mistake of crowdsourcing the name ideas. The internet is either going to give you “Batty McBaseballFace” or something offensive and terrible.
How to find a great name
So we agree that the more out there a team’s name is the better, right? Good. Let me break down how to find the best name for wherever you’re thinking of starting a team.
Golden Rule: The name should be unused
If any of your players or staff went to a high school with that mascot, trash the name. If any idea ends with “Sox,” and you’re not the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago White Sox, forget it.
Feel free to add your own cliché naming schemes to this rule.
Idea #1: Make the name relate to the location
All of the best names have some sort of meaning behind them or multiple interpretations. Not only does it almost always make for a cool team name, but it’s a history or culture lesson for the kiddos as well.
For example, when the State College Spikes were originally conceived, they were the Pirates’ single-A short season affiliate. Though the mascot is a white-tailed deer – the Pennsylvania state mammal – “Spikes” could also refer to a railroad spike – a reference to the Altoona horseshoe curve. The Pirates’ double-A affiliate, the Altoona Curve, also have that reference under wraps.
The Harrisburg Senators are also great, seeing as Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania and they’re the affiliate of the Washington Nationals, in the capital of the United States.
Idea #2: Use alliteration or rhyme
As a broadcaster, seeing teams with alliteration or rhymes make me really happy for some reason. It’s just so much fun to talk about the Florida Fire Frogs, Lansing Lugnuts, and Tampa Tarpons.
Bowie Baysox is close, but “Baysox” breaks my golden rule.
In the Coastal Plain League of summer collegiate baseball, the Savannah Bananas and Macon Bacon will forever be the posterchildren of how to pull off this idea. Also, the Bananas sold out every game of their 2017 and 2018 seasons (60 games straight).
Idea #3: Get weird with it
If your team is going to be located in an exceedingly boring town – or you’re too late to snag a great alliteration like“the Texas Toast” – just throw darts at a board of words until something makes you laugh.
I refuse to believe there was any other way that the New Orleans Baby Cakes originally came up with that name. Apparently the name comes from a traditional delicacy from the area called a king cake, but I like my version better.
By the way, once the Zephyrs changed their name to the Baby Cakes, the team reported increased merchandise sales.
If you happen to read this article and one day have the chance to name your own team, make sure to do it right. Do it for the good of all lower-league sports.
Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.
This is the second article in a series (read: rant in several installments) on my love for and strong opinions about Minor League team names. The other articles will be linked below.
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