– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

Summer is in full swing and that means baseball is top of mind for many of us. As a professional name developer, I continue to get a charge from the names of minor league baseball teams. Following up on my previous post on minor league baseball team names here are some controversial team names:

All of these names were controversial when they were introduced. Think about it…who wants to support the El Paso Chihuahuas? However, according to the brand name developer, Jason Klein of Brandiose, being controversial was the intent.

Today these franchises are successful examples of branding with great ticket sales and high merchandise sales.

Obviously, these are fun names and minor league baseball is all about fun. However, the genius in these names is not that they are just fun…the names leverage a bit of history and are familiar to the target audience.

Take the El Paso, TX Chihuahuas as an example. When the name was introduced there was an uproar in the local community about the derogatory nature of the name. Shortly thereafter, articles of support started appearing (such as this one) and the name became a rallying point.

The same thing was true with the Hartford, CT Yard Goats. Yard Goat is a relevant name in Hartford as “yard goat” is railyard slang for the switch engines or terminal tractors that shuttle train cars between different locomotives, and Hartford has a strong rail presence.

In the 19th century the leading industry in the Lehigh Valley was iron production, and therefore the IronPig name makes sense (“pig iron” is the term for the raw iron that gets melted down to make steel).

Using a “safe” name might seem like a good idea, but safe names are generally mainstream names that don’t stand out.

Finally, please recognize that I’m not advocating “alphabet soup” names that seem to be in vogue with startups. If a name has some relevance, but is different enough to be noticed, then it might be worth the risk in the long run!

– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

As a professional name developer, I regularly work on exciting projects such as, “I need to develop a name for a new lice medicine.” I try to have fun with every project I do, but that one was tough!

Someday I’d like to work in the “Funnest” brand name category in America–Minor League Baseball Teams! Most minor league baseball teams are named in one of two ways: either the owner develops the name or there is a fan contest. Normally those are not the two best options, but how can you argue with the results?

Here are my 5 favorites, along with a brief history of how the name was developed:

1. Washington Wild Things – A shout out to a local team in the Frontier League who have been playing to capacity crowds since 2001. According to the Director of Marketing & Communications, Chris Blaine, they were seeking a name with alliteration and when someone in a meeting suggested “Wild Things” based on the movie character played by Charlie Sheen in “Major League” the name stuck. Side Story: When the Wild Things entered the league, Frontier League officials gave them some flack about the name/logo because they had a naming policy that all teams in the Frontier League had to have names that sounded like they were from the frontier (e.g., Chillicothe Paints which honors a horse and not the local paint company).

 2. Modesto Nuts – The A League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. They were the “Modesto A’s” because they were affiliated with the Oakland Athletics, but when that changed, a “re-name the team” contest was held in 2005. The winner, “The Modesto Nuts” was chosen by 52% of the vote and is presumably a reflection on the region’s agricultural roots, not team management!

 3. Montgomery Biscuits – The AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. They love their biscuits in Montgomery, so when a native of Montgomery, Tripp Vickers, submitted the name, “We all fell in love with it!” said team general manager Marla Terranova-Vickers. “Not only was it representative of the region, but it was campy, quirky, and playful.” 

 4. The Las Vegas 51s – In 2001, the Las Vegas Stars announced a new player-development agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The team changed its nickname to the “51s” and unveiled a new alien-themed logo, based on the semi-secret government base known as “Area 51,” which is located 160 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Media reports of UFO sightings and alien activities have been rumored at the base. They are now the AAA Affiliate of the New York Mets. 

 5. Albuquerque Isotopes – The AAA affiliate of the LA Dodgers. Believe it or not, this name came from an episode of “The Simpsons.” In a 2001 episode titled “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” the mayor of Albuquerque tries to steal the Springfield Isotopes away, and Homer goes on a hunger strike to save the team. Ken Young, team president, said “We wanted to be something that was fun and playful,” and Isotopes fit the bill. To show its gratitude, the organization has since placed life-sized statues of Homer and Marge Simpson in Isotopes Park.

 Someday I hope to be involved in a minor league baseball naming project…I’ll even work for free!