Results tagged ‘ Logos ’
Among this year’s crop of new Minor League logos, surely the most striking was the Lexington Legends’ away cap. It features a mustache, and nothing else. Or, if you prefer images to words, it features this:
By adopting such a look, the Legends were clearly aiming to make an impact outside of their market. Ty Cobb, the team’s graphic designer, acknowledged as much when I spoke with him at the time of the logo’s unveiling.
“Minor League Baseball is all about the ‘wow’ factor, and we wanted to go beyond the normal stuff you’d see at the ballpark,” said Cobb, whose name is totally unremarkable. “And we wanted to be the team to do this first, to have a mustache on a hat. Our mascot, he actually has a mustache, so we’re not just hopping on a fad. … We’re going to be easily recognizable when on the road. Fans can just look at the mustache.”
As the Legends hoped, many fans have done more than just look at the mustache. They’ve gone out and bought it. As of today, the team has sold the hat in 45 out of 50 states en route to their goal of “mustache domination.” Or, if you prefer images to words:
For the most part, this is a simple matter of demographics as Alaska, Montana, Maine and Vermont are among the ten least-populated states. But Arkansas? What’s up with that? Nearly three million people live there — including those who are fans of fellow Royals affiliates the Northwest Arkansas Naturals — and yet none have sprung for a hat.
(Perhaps because headwear would only sully their beauty? As I learned last season, Arkansans are nothing if not beautiful. Just scroll through this blog post for proof!)
All of this begs the question — has any team ever sold a particular piece of headwear in all 50 states? Or will the Legends be the first?
Once again it is I, cold and alone, who asks the questions that no one else dares to.
Moving on to other matters, let this be your thrice-monthly reminder that my Promo Preview column runs every Tuesday on MiLB.com. Click HERE to read the latest edition, which is virtually hot off of the virtual presses.
Included within this week’s column is a write-up on Thursday’s “Manager Cell Phone Night” in Omaha, which pays tribute to emerging dugout-to-bullpen communication technologies. Since the column went to (virtual) press, promotions manager Ben Hemmen (the second-best Ben H. working in Minor League Baseball, after
yours truly New York-Penn League president Ben Hayes), sent the following supplemental information. I, for one, love it:
— In honor of all Major League Baseball “Calls to the Bullpen” happening on cell phones this season, the Omaha Storm Chasers are offering anyone who brings in a rotary phone or old cell phone for donation a “buy one box seat, get one box seat for FREE” ticket special.
— All “Calls to the Bullpen” will come with a special surprise from Jirsch [Manager Mike Jirschele]. We will also unveil never before heard or seen manager to manager phone calls, voicemails and texts on the videoboard.
And since you can do everything on a cell phone these days, other exciting offers, deals, competitions, and games will take place at Thursday’s game:
— There will be a Facebook challenge that night for a FREE night at a future game in the Safeco Insurance/ Manager Mike Jirschele Dugout suite.
— If you e-mail the Team Store at the game that night (email@example.com), you will receive a coupon for a special offer.
— A few lucky fans who use twitter on Thirsty Thursday and hashtag #BudLight or #Pepsi to @omastormchasers at the right time will have enjoy a beverage on the house.
— The person who posts the best picture of Manager Mike Jirschele to Instagram will win an autographed Mike Jirschele cell phone.
I was going to end this post with a picture of Mr. Jirschele, but in my quest to find a photo of him I inadvertently stumbled upon this shot of Alice Cooper and Mike Moustakas. Love it to death:
I’m posting this on a Friday afternoon, and on a Friday afternoon there’s only one way to do things: Bouillabaisse style!
So let’s do it! I’ve got lots to share with you, starting with a new logo straight from the heart of Appalachia.
Greeneville’s new look is a response to similar changes made by the parent club and in this regard they are the Bluefield and Dunedin of 2012. (That reference is apropos, but I’m not going to take the time to contextualize it. I have a press release to quote!)
Sez the team:
The new Astros identity features a full star logo with a block letter ‘G’ in the middle of the star. The Astros home caps will feature this logo on a solid blue cap while the road caps will be solid orange.
The G-Stros (does anyone call them that?) change is permanent, so now let’s move on to something of a “one night only” variety. On July 12th, the Erie SeaWolves will be donning these nautical duds:
I realize that this explanation raises more questions than it does answers. In brief: Lake Erie was the site of key 19th-century naval battles, and the Tall Ships festival (which does indeed feature tall ships) commemorates this history. Read more HERE.
Now we must proceed from theme jerseys to alternate ones, as the Mississippi Braves have somehow managed to fit “Mississippi” across the chest of this navy blue number:
I’d link to a press release with more info, but there doesn’t seem to be one. All I can tell you is you can buy these jerseys for $175 at the M-Braves team store. I guess in this case the “M” in “M-Braves” stands for “mum’s the word.”
Transitioning from the occasional to the regular, the new-look Buffalo Bisons recently unveiled their 2013 uniforms.
In the creation of their new uniforms, the Bisons paid special attention to popular team jerseys from the past. The use of a ‘Scarlet Red’ lettering and ‘Reflex Blue’ numbers on the front of the ‘Ice White’ home and gray road uniforms was taken from the jerseys worn by the team in the early years of Coca-Cola Field. A ‘Hitting Buster’ has also returned to the team’s official on-field cap, a look Bisons fans have long enjoyed from those first seasons at the ballpark.
Meanwhile, one of the rarest of logo creatures was released into our midst this past week. A ballpark logo, this one for the Birmingham Barons’ currently under-construction Regions Field. I will refrain from editorializing, because words only get in the way of images.
I’ll close, as I often do, with something out of left-field (not literally, in most cases).
How’s THIS for a staff bio pic?
According to the GreenJackets, Kyle’s shiner was obtained while playing in a staff basketball game. Reminder to all: never play basketball with the staff of the Augusta GreenJackets.
Okay, this post isn’t quite over yet due to my desire to do some ponderous professional pontificating.
And what I have been pondering lately is whether or not to make some changes to this blog in regards to the frequency with which I post. These days I average about three entries a week, with each post (allegedly) having some substance in that it is at least 400 words long and often covers multiple topics.
But perhaps more timely “Quick Hit” or “Short Hop” or “Biz Quick” posts would be a good strategy to utilize as well? The idea here is that whenever some particularly news/buzz-worthy content appears, I would immediately generate a short post. The plus side is timely and engaging material and more of it, but the potential negative is that this approach would cheapen the product and make this blog just another cheap cranker-outer of disposable content.
Does this debate exist strictly in my own head? Probably. Am I talking to myself as I write this? Definitely. I guess the takeaway here is that after 5+ years and 900+ posts I care about this blog more than I’d like to admit, especially in regard to how the content is packaged and presented. So, if you have opinions on this (or any other pertinent matter), please get in touch. If you don’t have any opinions on this, that’s okay too. If I was you then I wouldn’t either.
The Year in Blogging 2013 now commences, with post #899 in Ben’s Biz history. This post shall begin, as they all do, with a far shorter introduction than the over-the-top soul searching that was initially written and then mercifully deleted.
Let’s begin by looking at some new logos that may or may not have slipped through the cracks of your radar (btw, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to employ more mixed metaphors). New logos such as that which will be sported by the St. Lucie Mets in 2013 and beyond:
The above picture is taken from the team’s Facebook page, as a supposed “new uniforms” article on the team’s website simply links to a blank promotion schedule. Fortunately the local TC Palm is there to fill in the information void, as their article included the following quotes from Mets director of Florida operations Paul Taglieiri.
“We wanted to stay with what the big club was doing and also add our own touches to it,” he told the paper. “I love the orange. We moved the black away from the uniform, and it really has a Florida look to it. And I love Florida Mr. Met — it gives us our own identity as our own team.”
Taglieiri also noted that the Mets considered a total identity overhaul, but decided that a continued alignment with the parent club would be a more prudent course of action.
“We thought about getting away from the Mets and every time we considered something new like the St. Lucie Squid or the Salamanders or the Sand Sharks, we just coming back to the Mets,” Taglieri said. “That’s what Port St. Lucie is. We felt it would have done us an injustice. It made sense to stay with the Mets and change up the look a little bit.
So there you have it.
Another team that changed up their look a little bit was the Peoria Chiefs, a move precipitated by their affiliation switch from Chicago to St. Louis.
The team has issued a press release detailing the triumvirate of new hats and jerseys that shall be sported in 2013. Read it HERE, and check out corresponding PDFs that show both the hats and the jerseys.
And, finally, how about a good old-fashioned anniversary logo? The Frederick Keys would like you to know that they are now old enough to rent a car:
I’ll end this post with one of many videos I somehow didn’t get around to posting during the season. This one, in which a locomotive confirms its Montgomery baseball allegiances, is a 23-second classic that I will have to link to since I am having some embed problems at the moment.
Watch it HERE. I command you.
Prior to the Winter Meetings, I made it be known that I would be willing to conduct an “instant interview” with any attendee interested in doing one. A whopping two people ended up taking me up on it, the first of whom shall be featured today: Dan Simon.
While you may not recognize his name, Simon’s work is familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in Minor League Baseball. He’s the man behind Studio Simon, the Louisville-based design firm responsible for dozens of logos throughout the MiLB landscape (including recent efforts such as the Erie SeaWolves and Aberdeen IronBirds.) He’s also the man behind this, the official logo of the Winter Meetings themselves:
In this brief Q and A, Dan sheds a little light on the history of the Winter Meetings logo and the philosophies and strategies that guide the process.
Ben’s Biz (aka: “The Guy Typing This”): How long have you been designing the Winter Meetings logo?
Dan Simon: The first one was 2003, New Orleans. The reason for it was because Brian Earle, who at the time was director of licensing for Minor League Baseball, saw that [offseason] events like the NFL Draft and, later, the Combine, were now branded. Similarly, Brian wanted to brand the Winter Meetings as what they are: one of the biggest, if not the biggest, offseason events in all of sports.
And it wasn’t just about what the Winter Meetings were, but what they should be. We certainly can’t take all of the credit for it, but the growth of the Meetings to where they are today started to happen when they were branded as an important event. That was Brian’s vision, and that was the result.
Ben’s Biz: So what are the key elements of a good Winter Meetings logo?
Dan Simon: I had already done two Super Bowl logos — XXXVI in New Orleans and XXXVII in San Diego. Both of those events were branded to be city-specific and we wanted to brand the Winter Meetings similarly. People are coming from all over the United States, to this one place, and we wanted the identity to reflect the destination. The first one we did, in New Orleans, had a jazz musician in it. 2004, in Anaheim, represented southern California’s car culture and Dallas 2005 had steer horns and barbed wire.
In the future, maybe we won’t be site specific. We’ve already done two in Orlando [site of the 2013 Meetings], so maybe we’ve already covered the appropriate visual references…Now we may be looking to do a logo that is more about baseball and the Winter Meetings than it is the destination. I don’t know if we’ll necessarily go that way, but it’s something that we’ve discussed.
Ben’s Biz: What was the thought process behind this year’s logo?
Dan Simon: Nashville is the Music City, of course, and 2007’s logo had a music theme as well….There are other things about Nashville, but that’s what people really know about it and so we wanted to re-visit that theme.
There’s also the Trade Show and Job Fair. Those are secondary logos, the children of the Winter Meetings logo, which is the main logo. They’re not meant to look exactly alike, but the Trade Show and Job Fair should look like they were born out of the primary Winter Meetings logo. We used a record-containing shape for the Trade Show and a guitar pick for the Job Fair, so it’s all music related. But it all starts with the jukebox.
The primary logo and its two “children”:
Thanks, Dan, for taking the time to speak with me. If you’d like to share something related to your experiences within the world of Minor League Baseball, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. (Seriously — if you hesitate I will be offended.)
As this will be the last post of November, I may as well lead it off with the topic that always dominates this soon-to-be-expired stretch of the calendar: new logos. It was helpfully pointed out to me earlier this week that I had neglected this recent entry to the alternate logo canon. And what an entry it is:
This one’s courtesy of the Stockton Ports, who will sport this character on their cap during each and every Friday home game next season. The team explains thusly:
The Ports new logos honor Stockton’s heritage as the largest in-land port in California and the Asparagus Capital of the World. A new character, 5 O’clock Dock, is the centerpiece of the identity, brandishing his baseball tattoos and asparagus club.
My favorite line in the press release, however, is the one that notes that the Ports have become “the first professional sports team to use Asparagus green.” Congrats on that accomplishment, guys, but considering the team name and asparagus theme I am disappointed by the failure to incorporate an aromatic “P.”
In other California League headwear news, the Lake Elsinore Storm announced last month that they are now selling 20th anniversary throwback hats that commemorate the team’s original look.
The Storm’s current “eye” logo has long been one of the most popular marks in Minor League Baseball, and that logo can be traced back to designs such as the above. (The eyes used to be part of a larger “Storm” motif, see?) Perhaps that’s a lesson for other clubs — take a particularly striking element of your current logo, then isolate and amplify. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work wonders.
I’ve been posting less videos on this blog than I have in the past, partially because Twitter has become a good forum for that and partially because watching too many of them makes me feel as if my life is slipping away in slow motion right before my eyes.
But, that said, I wanted to single out this recent Fresno Grizzlies production because it is one of the best videos I have seen in quite some time. For one, it highlights a simple and memorable trick that should be part of every mascot playbook. For two, the production is great. (That is certainly not a given when it comes to team-released offseason videos.)
Was the fan who got his hat stolen planted there by the team? Almost certainly. Does it matter? Not at all.
And since I’m posting videos, how ’bout this? In Pensacola, the Blue Wahoos have transformed their ballpark into a so-called “Winter Wonderland.” That’s not easy to do in the Florida panhandle!
Skating rink, toboggan slide, jumbo board games, Santa Claus, and more:
Finally, I’ll close with the following: the basketball trick shot dudes of Dude Perfect visited Frisco’s Dr Pepper Ballpark because of course they did. All of human history has led us to this moment.
And that’s all I’ve got for today. I’ll see you in Nashville next week, should you be in Nashville next week.
In 2010, prior to moving into their new home of PK Park, the Eugene Emeralds updated their nature-themed logo so that it looked like this:
But minor tweaks to an inherently conservative look were clearly not enough for the Emeralds, who, under the leadership of GM Allan Benavides, have become one of the Pacific Northwest’s more irreverent and forward-thinking operations (Remember when I visited there?) On Tuesday evening the team held a public event at Eugene’s Ninkasi Brewery Company in order to unveil this mythical monstrosity as their new primary logo.
Yep, that’s a rampaging Sasquatch brandishing a tree in a somewhat threatening manner. Of course it is. In an email, Benavides took the time to explain how this all came to be.
Branding a team around a color (Emerald) was a tough hurdle for us at first. A number of different options were considered including themes that involved the forests, trees and various woodland creatures. However, once we started digging more into the name, the answer became pretty clear.
We’re the Emeralds because of the lush emerald green environment that is Eugene and what lives in the Northwest forest? Ultimately, we felt Sasquatch was the best fit to represent the mystique of the Northwest.
The logo, designed by the seemingly ubiquitous duo that is Brandiose, is unique: the Ems became the first team to use a Sasquatch as their primary logo, as well as the first team to use neon green as their primary color. From the press release:
Sasquatch biting the tree will be the emblem on the home hat while the foot-shaped “E” will serve as an alternate. The road uniforms will feature the “Eugene” script with feet on each end. Home, away and alternate uniforms will be released in the spring.
Biting the tree:
Anyone who wears this alternate cap is going to end up footing the bill:
Eugene is a weird place, as I learned when I visited this summer, and now the team has a suitably weird logo. In the press release, Jason Klein of Brandiose acknowledged the city’s effect on the design process:
“Eugene is a hotbed of countercultural ideas,” said Klein. “From Sasquatch sightings to hippy culture, the Ems are honoring Eugene’s eccentricities with a few of their own.”
It’s currently logo season here in the world of MiLB. For more blog posts on recent re-brandings, kindly check out the following:
The Aberdeen IronBirds must have been well-rested after the holiday weekend, because this morning they set (what I believe) is the record for the earliest new logo unveiling in the history of Minor League Baseball. Beginning at 6:15 a.m., noted baseball bros Cal and Bill Ripken (of IronBirds’ ownership group Ripken Baseball) embarked on a whirlwind early morning tour of local television stations in order to debut the team’s new logo for 2013 and beyond:
As any seasoned MiLB logo observer will be able to tell, the above mark is a Studio Simon creation. (The team relayed to me via Twitter that “the main design idea” came courtesy of Bill Ripken.) The bird seen above replaces the more overtly cartoonish anthropomorphic plane that previously served as the team’s primary logo.
The IronBird featured in the primary logo is even more prominently featured on the hat:
In a press release put out by the team, Bill Ripken employed three verbs over a five-word stretch in an attempt to explain the reason for the new logo. That’s no easy feat!
“The IronBirds are evolving to continue to remain on baseball’s leading edge,” said Bill Ripken, co-founder and executive vice president of Ripken Baseball. “This is why we wanted a fresh new look and feel to connect with families, and resonate with fans of all ages.”
Another team to have recently jumped aboard the new logo train are the Buffalo Bisons. The team’s previous blue-tinged logo made an overt attempt to highlight their affiliation with the New York Mets, but with the dissolution of that relationship the Bisons have instead chosen to assume an identity distinct of the parent club (which is now the Toronto Blue Jays).
This logo isn’t “new” so much as it is a callback to a look employed by Buffalo during the years 1988-97. Sez the team:
“It was important for us to reestablish our own team identity with our new logo. Our fans have continued to express their fondness of the red, white and blue logo from the late ’80s and early ’90s at the ballpark. We feel this new logo not only pays tribute to that history but gives the team an exciting new look for the future,” said Mike Buczkowski, Vice President/General Manager of the Bisons.
And far be it for me to gratuitously point out press release typos, but this one is really funny:
For the past four seasons, the Bisons adopted a blue and orange theme with a more atomically correct bison charging out of the city landscape.
And, finally, there are the West Michigan Whitecaps. The club has unveiled an array of supplemental looks in advance of their upcoming 20th anniversary campaign.
The “Olde English” logo will now serve as the team’s official road cap. And, wow, that alternate logo on the far right is certainly one of the more ridiculous to come down the pike this offseason. It takes the team’s long-standing primary logo and combines it with a tiger because, you know, the Detroit Tigers are the Whitecaps’ parent club. Here’s one more cut-and-paste job for you, before I end my blogging day:
“I’m excited about these new logos,” said Whitecaps president Scott Lane. “They strengthen the Whitecaps’ identity with the Detroit Tigers in a very literal way for our fans, who are also Tigers fans. I think the logos are a little more edgy and youthful and will appeal to the younger generation of fans.”
Thanks, as always, for your Ben’s Biz Blog patronage. I am evolving to continue to remain your #1 Minor League Baseball news source.
So, a proper article on all of this appeared on MiLB.com yesterday evening, but in the interest of redundancy and poor time management let me reiterate: the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre International League entity formerly known as the Yankees (and, prior to that, the Red Barons) are now known as the RailRiders.
That image seen above is, of course, a porcupine straddling streetcar tracks. To explain why, let me quote liberally from an up-and-coming young writer by the name of Benjamin Hill:
The name-the-team contest was conducted online and fans were able to choose their top three candidates. While RailRiders received the most first-place votes, the name that appeared on the most ballots was Porcupines. That helps explain the team’s primary logo, designed by San Diego-based Brandiose, which features a porcupine straddling trolley tracks atop the word “RailRiders” in a stylized cardinal red and gold font.
The team announced the name at a gala open-to-public event that they dubbed “The Big Reveal.” And here’s how they revealed it:
As a staunch advocate for the increased deployment of Black Sabbath in public situations, I love that the team chose “Iron Man” as the soundtrack to their unveiling video. However, this comment on the RailRiders Facebook page showed that there was, in fact, a better option.
Why would you use ironman instead of crazy train for this promo?
The RailRiders have since posted a plethora of “Big Reveal” photos on their Facebook page (which, as of this writing, still lists them as the Yankees). As you can see, the citizenry turned out in big numbers for the announcement:
Here’s SWB president Rob Crain (formerly of the Omaha Royals-turned-Storm Chasers) tossing t-shirts into the crowd after the announcement. When it comes to Minor League Baseball executives looking like hip-hop performers, this is about as close as you’re ever gonna get.
Of course, a lot of the online chatter regarding the new name has been negative. No opinion is illegitimate when it comes to personal taste, of course (unless it involves a continued affinity for so-called “Nu-metal”), but with team re-branding efforts it’s not so much a case of the name itself as it is how you use it. I’ve known Rob Crain since his days with Omaha, and he’s poised to bring an energetic and innovative operating style to a moribund and disconnected-seeming franchise that really needed an injection of personality. Combine that with the massive renovation to PNC Field taking place, and it seems apparent to me that the 2013 season will be one of the most successful in franchise history. More power to you, online commenters threatening to cancel their season ticket plans, but that to me is like breaking up with a beautiful and intelligent woman because you don’t like her new haircut.
As for RailRiders — if it’s good enough for Greg Legg it’s good enough for me! Legg, second from left in the below pic, is a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre baseball legend who suited up for the Red Barons from 1989-94. I was a fan of his throughout, as during that time I regularly attended SWB Red Barons games while visiting my grandparents in nearby Gouldsboro.
If only Jeff Grotewold and Steve Scarsone could have been there to join him!
Legg and his crony on the far left there are sporting the team’s road cap, which references the team’s Red Barons past. It’s probably my personal favorite aspect of the re-brand.
Anyhow, to sum it up, there are a stew of competing forces at work whenever a team unveils a new look and regardless of your opinion, my opinion or anyone else’s opinion it will take several years before one can say whether RailRiders has been a success or failure. Instead of repeating myself more than I already have, I’ll close by referring you to a point-counterpoint I engaged in back in 2010 when the Omaha Royals became the “Storm Chasers.”
Rob Neyer (then with ESPN): the Storm Chasers have joined “the ranks of the embarrassing.”
Rob Neyer never acknowledged this “debate,” and maybe he never even knew it was taking place (he was probably too busy counting his baseball writing-derived fortune in some Scrooge McDuck-like lair), but nonetheless the phrase “ranks of the embarrassing” has since become part of my everyday lexicon and for that I thank him.
And, jeez, I got so caught up in the RailRiders that I forgot to mention this: in celebration of their upcoming 20th anniversary season, the Hudson Valley Renegades have unveiled a new set of logos!
The new home uniforms will consist of a solid white jersey, with Dutchess blue piping and the new Renegades script logo across the chest. The uniform number will also be Dutchess blue, with a white outline both on the front and back of the jersey. The home uniform pants will be white with Dutchess blue piping down each pant leg. The home cap will feature the Renegades mask logo on a solid black cap. The mask logo will be embroidered on the cap adding a raised element to the overall appearance.
Careful, Hudson Valley: a glowering blue-tinted raccoon is watching your every move!
And, oh, hey: since I’m rambling on and on about logos and seem to have a NYPL fixation, here’s one more for you before I go. The 2013 New York-Penn League All-Star mark, courtesy of the Connecticut Tigers.
Okay, that anchor should keep me from drifting any further. I’m quitting while I’m still ahead, even if I don’t know what it is I feel that I might be still ahead of.
For those familiar with Minor League Baseball’s offseason news cycle, the month of November holds special meaning in that it is prime time for teams to announce their re-branding efforts for the next season and beyond. Recent news on that front has included the unveiling of the Hillsboro Hops name and logo, the Lexington Legends’ heavily-mustachioed new look and Erie’s enhanced commitment to marauding wolves.
But this week is gonna be a doozy, with three re-branding efforts of escalating intrigue being unveiled over the course of the next five days. The Hudson Valley Renegades will debut their new logos on Wednesday afternoon, and later that evening the (relatively) nearby Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees will announce their new name. (This effort is in conjunction with the team playing in what will essentially be a “new” ballpark next season, as PNC Field is in the midst of a thorough renovation that forced the team to spend the entirety of 2012 on the road.)
The six finalists in the SWB Yanks’ re-branding are a largely unserious lot: Blast, Black Diamond Bears, Fireflies, Porcupines, RailRiders and Trolley Frogs. After being known as the Yankees (and, before that, the relatively conservative-sounding Red Barons), there is sure to be some backlash in the Scranton area from fans unhappy with their home team’s more flamboyant new direction. Such controversy is par for the course, really, and SWB president Rob Crain should be well-equipped to handle it given that he was an assistant general manager in Omaha when that team changed its name from the Royals to the Storm Chasers. (That change was not at all popular in the early-going, though fans have by and large come around to it).
But whatever the reaction is in Scranton, it will be a mere prelude to the third and most fascinating re-branding effort being unveiled this week. On Saturday, after 46 years of being known as the “Phillies,” Reading’s Eastern League club is announcing a new name and to say that the local reaction to this change has been negative would be an understatement. Just check out the comments on this web site press release, or the reaction to virtually any post on their Facebook page, or this online petition against the change, or, finally, this 2800-member strong “Save the Reading Phillies” Facebook page. To add gasoline to the flames, iconic PA announcer Dave “Frenchy” Bauman has publicly declared that he will resign from his position if the R-Phils change their name and, in response, the team has announced that PA announcer tryouts will be part of Saturday’s re-branding festivities. (For those interested, Bauman has commented frequently on the aforementioned “Save the Reading Phillies” Facebook page).
In general I am supportive of team re-branding efforts, even when they aren’t initially embraced by the community. Negative reactions to irreverent team names and identities are often motivated by the fear of the unknown and a general ignorance of how Minor League teams operate, and a common pattern has been observable in recent years in markets such as Lehigh Valley (IronPigs), Richmond (Flying Squirrels) and, of course, Omaha: Anger gives way to acceptance once the season begins and fans are able to witness first-hand how the new identity is incorporated into the overall entertainment experience. (Because, like it or not, Minor League teams are in the entertainment business first and foremost. Affiliation agreements can be short-lived, and the product on the field is 100% dictated by the parent club. Therefore, it makes sense for Minor League teams to focus on what they can control: their identity and the multi-faceted entertainment options that complement the game itself).
But Reading is unique case in that the franchise already seemed to be enjoying a best-of-both-worlds scenario. The city has been nicknamed Baseballtown, after all, and the fan base has a justifiable sense of pride in both their classic ballpark and a long-running Phillies connection (alumni include icons such as Mike Schmidt and Greg Luzinski to more recent luminaries such as Ryan Howard). The “Phillies” name has a powerful resonance in Reading, perhaps more powerful than that of any other Minor League team that still retains the moniker of its parent club.
But, meanwhile, Reading’s deeply-embedded front office (led by GM Scott Hunsicker) has worked hard to create a thoroughly unique Minor League atmosphere at the ballpark, and the fan base has embraced this side of the game experience as well. Vegetable racing, the mascot band and dancing super-fan “Disco Briscoe” are all part of the FirstEnergy Stadium atmosphere, which, of course, also includes the ostrich-riding Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. (I have been fortunate enough to visit dozens of Minor League stadiums over the past several years, and never have I seen a ballpark character with the level of popularity enjoyed by the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor — read all about it HERE).
Given that the R-Phils already do an excellent job walking this distinctly Minor League tightrope, the imminent re-branding represents a huge risk and brings to mind the old “If it ain’t broke…” cliche. For even if fans eventually embrace the new name, the public relations fallout from this decision will reverberate for a long time to come. Quite frankly, the strongest partisans on either side aren’t looking particularly good right now: the R-Phils front office is rather cavalierly flying in the face of deeply-ingrained fan sentiment within an admirably supportive market, while the most vocal contingent of fans against the change are engaging in online histrionics that are rather out of proportion to what is actually taking place. (Passion for the hometown team is a wonderful thing, but it’s not like the team is relocating. They will remain a Phillies affiliate, regardless). And say what you will about Hunsicker and company, but they’re not a bunch of Johnny-come-latelies to the Reading baseball scene. Shouldn’t their success in running the club thus far be taken into consideration? Shouldn’t the tone of this discussion be a bit more diplomatic?
There’s a lot more to explore when it comes to this story, and I’ll do my best to follow up with different viewpoints throughout the offseason. In the meantime, I’d like to know your opinion: Brilliant? Suicidal? Both? Let me know.