November 2010

Swept Up in the Latest News

tidal.jpgI’m always happier, both in blogging and in life, when there’s something important to focus on. Something big, with a sense of momentum that can carry me right along with it.

But usually it ain’t like that. One simply has to make do with what’s available, imbuing it with enough meaning to make it seem worthwhile.

So welcome to today’s blog post, a full-to-bursting bouillabaisse of imminently worthwhile and meaningful material!

I’ll start with what you surely all came here for: video of anthropomorphic sushi engaged in a high-stakes battle royale amidst a sprawling winter wonderland.

Which of the Vancouver Canadians racing mascots will prevail? Only those who have watched this video know for sure!
 

But perhaps you prefer your Minor League mascots in cameo, as opposed to vegetable, rolls? If so, then watch on. You might be surprised at who turns up, as he’s a most elusive character. He’s also a vegetable. 

And, of course, hardly a day goes by when there is not a new logo to share. I’m particularly pleased to share this, the official mark of Chattanooga’s Engel Foundation:

EngelLogo (3).png 

As you’ll no doubt recall, this is the group that is seeking to restore the iconic Southern Association facility (which played host to a veritable cavalcade of baseball greats). I wrote an article and blog about the efforts during my trip to Chattanooga last season; read all about it HERE and HERE.

Oh, so it’s more logos you want? Then more logos I have. The three images seen below were designed by the ubiquitous Plan B Branding, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Boise Hawks. Fans can vote for their favorites at the team’s web page, but as of now that image in the middle possesses a formidable lead.

Clearly, the Hawks’ are a talon-ted squad!
hawks25.gif
Like a recently-robbed scooter store, I’m all out of segues. So let’s just keep moving…

For those who may not have seen it via Facebook, Twitter, or scrolling CNN news story, there is currently a piece on MiLB.com about Marty Dobrow’s book “Knocking On Heaven’s Door.” Check it out HERE, or just look at the cover here:

dobrow.JPG 

Finally, it is worth noting that the Baseball Winter Meetings are less than a week away. Therefore, I have two questions for you:

– Will you be there?
– Regardless, what sort of articles/blog posts would most interest you?

Feedback, please. I know you’re out there.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Taking It To The Next Level

Thumbnail image for TinCaps-Apple-Logo.jpgI’ve been so immersed in the world of logo design these past few weeks that there is a slight possibility I may have neglected other notable Minor League happenings.

Did I just write “slight possibility?” I meant “absolute guarantee.”

For instance, did you know that that Fort Wayne’ Tincaps will be hosting a four-game Pacific Coast League series? Earlier this week, the Tincaps and parent club the San Diego Padres announced that the Padres’ Triple-A Tucson affiliate will play the Las Vegas 51s at Parkview Field from July 14-17. 

This rare, if not unprecedented arrangement, came about because the Padres are in the process of buying the Triple-A club (formerly the Portland Beavers). Their long-term intent is to  move them to nearby Escondido, CA, but until the specifics of that are straightened out the team will play in Tucson. 

Except, of course, when they are playing a four-game series in Fort Wayne. Maybe some press release quotes can help ease the confusion you may now be experiencing:

“Our fans can get a taste of Triple-A baseball right here at Parkview Field,” TinCaps President Mike Nutter said. “These players are on the cusp of the Major Leagues and several have already reached that level. The opportunity to bring these games to Fort Wayne is a testament to our great relationship with the Padres and their appreciation for all of the support from the team and fans here. It is also another example of the incredible things we can do at Parkview Field.”

And from the Padre perspective:
parkview.jpg

“The TinCaps are a great organization and Parkview Field is one of the finest facilities in Minor League Baseball – at any level.” Padres Director of Player Development Randy Smith said. “We are happy that we are able to provide TinCaps fans this one-of-a-kind opportunity by bringing Triple-A baseball to Fort Wayne.”

Regardless of the admittedly confusing circumstances that led to this arrangement, the bottom line is that this is great for the Tincaps. It gives them the opportunity to showcase a higher level of baseball at Parkview Field, featuring players who very well may have previously logged time in Fort Wayne in 2009 and/or ’10. 

Such an opportunity is worth the logistical hassles, an issue I’ll explore at a later date. For now, satiate your desire for more info by clicking THIS LINK.

In other, more rodent-based news, the Richmond Flying Squirrels have announced two comic-themed images of Nutzy which will be featured across all of the club’s marketing and branding for the 2011 season.”

Here are the images, which show that Nutzy’s powers (and pectorals) continue to grow. 
power stance.jpg

 in flight.jpg


That is a seriously determined squirrel, one clearly able to overcome enemies such as greased bird feeders and bb gun-toting teens. 

And as for myself, I’m about to overcome the enemy known as “the five-day work week.” Have a great Thanksgiving, and please know that I am truly grateful for everyone who reads this blog.  

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Keepin’ It Rail In Altoona

Last night one had the sense that something big was about to go down in Altoona. Anticipation hung in the air like a thick layer of misty morning fog. And the tension? The tension was palpable.

Palpable, I tell you.

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In the month of November, an emphatic OMG! emanating from the inner recesses of a Minor League stadium can only mean one thing.

Yep, you guessed it. A new logo:

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The new primary logo seen above replaces this:

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Remaining constant, of course, is the team’s adherence to the railroad theme. After all, “Curve” is an homage to the famous 220 degree Horseshoe Curve train track that winds around the summit of the Allegheny Mountains.

The Horseshoe Curve is what inspired this secondary mark:
Curve_horseshoe.jpg
The team remarks in the press release that “It’s believed the Curve is the first and only professional sports franchise in the commonwealth to use the keystone as part of its primary logo.”

The Pennsylvania keystone gains further prominence with this, a third logo:
Curvestone.jpg
As a Pennsylvania native, I’m a big fan of the logo seen above. I think I’ll have to get one of these caps and pretend the “A” represents my hometown of Ambler. Anybody out there have any love for (or at least knowledge of) Ambler?

Thumbnail image for Curve_engineer.jpgThe uniforms will be revealed early next month, but the Curve do note that “Further honoring the area’s railroad ties is the new color scheme for the team: Railroad Red, Boiler Bronze, Charcoal Gray, and Soot Black.”

I guess Train Track Tan, Sleeping Car Cerulean, and Propped Up By Federal Subsidies Silver didn’t make the cut.

The logos were designed by Minor League stalwarts Plan B Branding, always proponents of attention to detail and local emphasis. On the Plan B blog, designer Casey White notes that “there are a ton of hidden symbols infused into this new brand” and that they “contain one of the coolest twists to an official On-Field that we’ve ever created.”

Heady words, those.

Instead of doing investigative reporting, I’ll just solicit feedback from the readership — Anyoneeplurubus.jpg see any hidden symbols in the new logos? The latest edition of the team’s “Tuna Vision” web series provides plenty of info on the motivations for the new logo, but precious little on potential hidden symbols.

Finally, the club is currently soliciting names for the engineer featured in the primary logo. Email your suggestions to engineer@altoonacurve.com

I’d go with “Casey at the Track”, in honor of folk hero engineer Casey Jones. That guy sure has had a lot of songs written about him.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

There Is An "I" In This Team

Intimidators_red.JPGThe new logo bandwagon has been trekking across the Minor League landscape as of late, most recently making a pit stop in Kannapolis, NC. 

Kannapolis is home to the Intimidators, a South Atlantic League club named after the late Dale Earnhardt. A Kannapolis native and NASCAR legend who once owned a minority stake in the team, Earnhardt was nicknamed “The Intimidator” in recognition of his aggressive tendencies behind the wheel.

And now, the Intimidators are honoring “The Intimidator” with an alternate logo.
 
Intimidators_dale.JPG

Players will only sport the logo during what the team refers to as “Dale Earnhardt-related occasions”. But given Earnhardt’s legendary status among NASCAR’s huge legion of fans, this is a mark that should resonate far outside of the local market.

“In looking over ways to continue to enhance our partnership
with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and the Dale Earnhardt Foundation, we thought this
new alternate logo was a fitting tribute,” said Intimidators general manager Randy Long in the press release.

Here, Earnhardt’s son Kerry (himself a race car driver) models the new look:

Intimidators_kerry.JPG

The team also announced an additional alternate logo, which is like Cyclops and the first Super Bowl in that it consists of one “I”: 

Intimidators_I.JPG

Unlike every other Minor League logo unveiled this offseason, the Intimidators’ new marks were not designed by either Plan B Branding or Studio Simon (finally!). They were the  work of Phire Branding, an Ann Arbor-based company that has previously designed Earnhardt’s website and NASCAR Hall of Fame logos.

But lest we forget, the Intimidators primary logo isn’t going anywhere.

intimilogo.jpg

And for good reason! This logo is a perennial winner in the “Angriest Letter” category at the annual “Anthropomorphic Awards” (held in my living room each January). It might look a little like a high-heel shoe, but it is a high heel shoe that can and will destroy you. Show some respect.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com                                                                    twitter.com/bensbiz

Requests, Plugs, Thank Yous, and Spandex

simple.jpgGonna keep things simple today, as Thursday’s retort-a-thon wore me out.

To start with, I’d like to bring your attention to the bi-weekly “Offseasoning” features I’ve been writing for MiLB.com. As it’s name would imply, these articles take a look at what a Minor League player is up to in the offseason. Terry Doyle and Wande Olabisi have been profiled thus far, and a piece on Scot Drucker will run next week.

But after that? My supplies are low. So if YOU are aware of any interesting offseason player endeavors then please get in touch with some recommendations. You know where to find me:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Offseason endeavors abound these days, because offseason endeavors are all we’ve got. A particularly interesting one involves Lowell Spinners director of corporate communications Jon Goode, who recently co-authored a book with Glen “Big Baby” Davis of the Boston Celtics.

It’s called “Basketball With Big Baby“, and the cover showcases the title character’s formidable head-swiveling abilities:

big baby.png
 

Goode previously authored “Pitching With the Papelbons”, released in 2007.

Moving from an individual endeavor to a group one, the Reading Phillies remain hard at work on their extensive renovations to FirstEnergy Stadium. In this most recent video, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor shows his gratitude to the hard-working construction crew.
 

More like “Happy Franks-Giving”, if you ask me.

And — hey! — after a one-week absence, it’s time for Gratuitous Video Friday. I’ve been listening to Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusion I” all week long, so today I’m going to have to go with their video for “Live And Let Die.”

This video is a non-stop cavalcade of some of the best rock n’ roll outfits of all time. Nothing can top the policeman’s hat-catcher’s chest protector-kilt combo, although the get-up pictured right there in the screen grab comes pretty close.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

There’s Nothing To Be Embarrassed About

Thumbnail image for Omaha_batnose.JPG
I’m a fan of ESPN’s Rob Neyer, one of the most astute baseball writers working today. But after reading his recent blog post, not-so-subtly titled “Omaha Joins Ranks of the Embarrassing”, it’s clear that he doesn’t have a strong grasp of Minor League Baseball operating principles.

The post is inspired by Omaha’s recent name switch from “Royals” to “Storm Chasers”, and draws heavily from my MiLB.com article on the subject.

Writes Neyer:

There are some truly awful minor-league team names out there. An abbreviated list: IronBirds, Doubledays, Baysox, RiverDogs, LumberKings, TinCaps, Intimidators, BlueClaws, JetHawks, BayBears, SeaDogs, River Bandits, SilverHawks, ValleyCats. Call it the “IronRule”: If you’ve got two capital letters in your name, you’ve done something wrong.

online-IronPigsLogo.jpg

  

The latest and greatest case in point: the Omaha Storm Chasers.


He then goes on to quote extensively from my MiLB.com piece, expressing incredulity about the necessity of three mascots before reaching the conclusion that the Storm Chasers name will last for all of “four or five seasons.” 

I understand not liking a team name, Storm Chasers or otherwise, but to snidely dismiss so many Minor League teams as “doing something wrong” completely misses the point. What, exactly, are they doing wrong outside of not declaring an undying loyalty to the parent club (and keep in mind that such affiliations are subject to renewal every two or four years)?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Mission_taco_redemption.JPG

Should teams be denied the right to develop their own unique identities? Is homogeneity across the Minor League landscape really a better option?

The following is (the bulk of) my reply to Mr. Neyer:

With no control over the product on the field, Minor League teams are first and foremost about entertainment. While in a perfect world the fans would be keeping score while studiously analyzing MLB’s future stars, the reality is that teams surround the game with as many goofy distractions as possible in order to reach the broadest demographic (those who might not care about sports, in other words, but are looking for an evening of affordable family-friendly recreation).

Thumbnail image for Werner Park logo.jpgAnd regarding the Storm Chasers, this has little, if anything, to do with the Royals name falling into “disrepute.” After four decades in beloved but oversized and impersonal Rosenblatt Stadium, the team is moving to a new ballpark and finally has a chance to create a far more vibrant entertainment destination. The Storm Chasers name offers innumerable branding opportunities within the facility, and gives the team the chance to establish a far-reaching identity within the community completely distinct from the parent club.

And, yes, the new name will greatly increase merchandise sales. This is a business, after all, and profit can and should take precedence over a masochistic adherence to tradition. 

rfs.jpg

Recent entrants to the “ranks of the embarrassing” that are currently thriving include the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Both provide a case study of how and, most likely, why the Storm Chasers name will succeed in the long-term. In a nutshell (pun intended, in the case of the Flying Squirrels): Fun is the name of the game, and should be exemplified in all aspects of the operation. If it takes three mascots to accomplish this, then all the better.

I’m not saying that the Storm Chasers, or Minor League Baseball in general, is beyond reproach. Some fans may find it hard to embrace such a cartoonish and defiantly unserious persona, and “Name the Team” contests that seem to give short shrift to the popular vote are bound to alienate sections of the fan base.

But criticisms of the industry that don’t take into account key operating principles (and themilb_logo.gif recent success thereof) are hard to take seriously, especially when stated in such an obstinate and close-minded fashion. You have to be able to understand something before you can effectively rip it apart.

I’d love to get your thoughts on all of this, whoever you may be. Feel free to dust off the always-underutilized comments section, and of course opinions can be always be expressed through email and Twitter.

To quote the immortal Mr. Sparkle: Can you see that I am serious?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Logos On and On and On

2011_Fisher_Cats_Script_Logo.JPGI’ve spent a lot of time over the past week writing about logos. This may seem like a frivolous endeavor, but not when you consider that within philosophy the word “logos” is defined as “the rational principle that governs and develops the universe.”

Not so frivolous after all, is it? Thus justified, let me move on to the changes that have taken place in New Hampshire.

Before taking on the “Fisher Cats” moniker, Manchester’s Eastern League franchise was briefly (and controversially) known as the “Primaries.” It’s fitting, then, that the team has changed its primary colors to ones which evoke the American democratic process: red, white, and blue.

Now that I’ve made things as confusing as possible, as is my m.o., let’s go to the visual evidence. The team’s primary logo used to look like this:

NHold.gif

And now it looks like this:

2011_Fisher_Cats_Primary_Logo.JPG

The re-tooled home cap, with enhanced re-tail value:

2011_Fisher_Cats_NH_Logo.JPG

Alternate cap logos abound. This batting practice design would also work well in nearby Paw-tucket:

2011_Fisher_Cats_Paw_Logo.JPG

This highly-stylized “FC” should appeal to discerning high-society types.

2011_Fisher_Cats_FC_Logo.JPG

And this? This is just awesome. Me to this Uncle Sam logo: I want you!

2011_Fisher_Cats_UncleSam_Logo.JPG

Don’t take that one for granite, New Hampshire!

————————————————————————————————————————————

Meanwhile…The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, one of last week’s blog subjects, have announced a contest in which fans are asked to take a picture of themselves with any of the new logos.

In order to help promote the contest, the team has created some Photoshopped classics of our 26th President to serve as inspiration. Classics such as this:

tr.jpg

Now that’s something you can take for granite.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

Omaha Opts For A Meteorological Moniker, With Chaser

Like Crystal Pepsi, the Dodo Bird and civilized political discourse, the Omaha Royals are no longer.

In their place are the Storm Chasers.

Omaha_primary.JPG

Storm Chasers emerged as the winner of a “Name the Team” contest that received 1500 entries (where fore art thou, Omahogs?), and was announced on Monday evening. The name pays homage to Omaha’s standing as the extreme weather capital of the country, and gives the club a plethora of branding opportunities as they prepare for their inaugural season at Werner Park (a team store called the “Storm Shelter”, for example).

While mascot Casey the Lion will remain, he is being joined by two weather-related costumed characters.

Stormy doesn’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. He’s anemometer-ically correct: 

stormy.jpg

Don’t Mess With Vortex

Omaha_batnose.JPG 

The above logo will adorn the club’s home caps, while the road caps feature the “O-Bolt” emblem seen below. I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that the logos were designed by Plan B Branding, the San Diego-based company whose work has been featured many, many times on this blog.

Omaha_OBolt.JPG
Whirlwind alternate cap logo:

Omaha_SCwhirlwind.JPG

And on the batting practice cap, the above whirlwind wraps itself ’round and ‘twixt the O-Bolt.

Omaha_WhirlwindObolt.JPG

The home and road unis, for your viewing pleasure.

Omaha_Unis.JPG

 
Omaha_oadunis.JPG
But lest one forget about the “Royals” entirely, this sleeve patch notes the long-standing affiliation between Kansas City and Omaha.

Omaha_KC patch.JPG

But speaking of Royals, it seems that many in the community didn’t desire a name change in the first place. A quick search through the internet will unveil a plethora of negative reactions, from the team’s Facebook page to local news stories. Even Deadspin, the most popular Mean Girl in the sports blog clique, took a few cheap shots.

But when you get right down to it, isn’t all publicity good publicity? And what many of those criticizing fail to understand is that this is how Minor League Baseball operates nowadays. It’s entertainment first and foremost, and eye-catching family-friendly logos distinct from the parent club lead to innumerable branding opportunities and generate far more merchandising revenue.

It was just one year ago, for example, that the Richmond Flying Squirrels were gettingrfs.jpg battered mercilessly for their “bush league” name and logo. But once fans saw how the re-branding fit into a larger entertainment context they hopped right on board, and the club currently leads all of Minor League Baseball in merch sales.

Whether a similar story plays out in Omaha remains to be seen, and of course everyone is entitled to their opinion regarding “weather” or not this is a good idea. But recent history (not just in Richmond, but across the Minor League landscape) is on the side of the Storm Chasers.

What do you think?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

A Break In the Action

skyhole.jpgAs the previous two posts would indicate, it’s been a big week for logos here in the world of Minor League Baseball. And there’s more where that came from — the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are unveiling new marks tomorrow, and the Omaha Royals are announcing the results of their “Name That Team” contest on Monday evening.

So, before getting swept away in yet another logo deluge, let me dedicate this post to other news and notes from the world of the Minors.

I’ll start by talking about — Me! The latest MLBlogs rankings were announced yesterday, and “Ben’s Biz” is at #12 in the “Pro” category. Thanks for your support! Also on the list is my colleague Jonathan Mayo, an expert when it comes to prospects, the MLB draft, and player development in general. Check out his “Big, Bald, and Beautiful” blog, and follow him on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3). Together we represent the yin and yang of the Minor League experience.

Jeez, this paragraph marks four straight without a new logo. I’ll rectify that right now, as the aforementioned Omaha Royals announced today that their still-under-construction Sarpy County home will go by the name of Werner Park.

Werner Park logo.jpg

As the logo would imply, Werner is a “global logistics company”. But they’re based in Omaha, hence their naming rights deal with the Royals.

Moving on from “that which has just been given a name” to “that which still needs a name”, I would like to note that the Jackson Generals mascot is in search of an appropriate moniker.

jaxmaz.jpg

I’d make a few of my own suggestions, if I wasn’t so entranced by his hourglass figure and copious jowls.

But nothing entrances like the soothing glow of the small screen. On Saturday the MLB Network is airing a program that was filmed at Alliant Energy Field, home of the Clinton LumberKings. It’s called “Triumph and Tragedy: the 1919 Chicago White Sox”.

clinton.jpg

And, hey, remember last week when I wrote about the Toledo Mud Hens customized Firefox browser? I thought it might have been a Minor League first, but as is so often the case I was wrong. The Durham Bulls had one first.

bullbrowz.jpg

Anyone want to send me an email letting me know that they did this before the Bulls? I’ll correct myself until the cows come home.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com
twitter.com/bensbiz

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