– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

It’s that time of year! Baseball Spring Training is here! In honor of this, I’m looking at the fun names in Minor League Baseball. Some of them demonstrate the key principles of name development!

Minor League Baseball team names can be dull and boring. For example, there are some that just reflect the name of the parent Major League Team (e.g., Oklahoma City Dodgers, Syracuse Mets, Springfield Cardinals or Iowa Cubs). Yawn.

Or maybe they use a traditional animal such as the Burlington Bees or the classic Durham Bulls. These are a little more interesting, but not especially engaging.

Some teams are “swinging for the fences” with their names. When you think about what is important in naming your minor league team, you should focus on 3 things. Team names should be fun, relevant to the local population, and quirky enough to be memorable.

Here are some examples of team names that are “hitting it out of the park.”

  1. The Madison, Alabama, Rocket City Trash Pandas – Yes, there is a large NASA facility nearby (that includes Space Camp) in Huntsville so the “Rocket City” moniker is no surprise. The Trash Pandas came from a consumer contest and won the public vote by a large margin. The previous team name was the uninspiring Mobile BayBears. For the record, the other finalists were space-animal combinations: Moon Possums, ThunderSharks, Space Chimps, and Comet Jockeys.

    Even though the Trash Pandas won’t start playing until 2020, they broke the three-month sales record for merchandise sold by a rebranded Minor League Baseball team with over $500,000 in merchandise moved in nearly 3,500 online orders.
  2. The El Paso Chihuahuas – When the former Tuscon Padres moved to El Paso in 2013 the team ran a naming contest and fans chose between these finalists: Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators, and Sun Dogs. While Team Management was initially a little apprehensive about the name, their focus on fun drove sales of Chihuahuas merchandise to record setting levels.
  3. The New Orleans Baby Cakes – According to a team PR release, the Baby Cakes name is “A tribute to the Mardi Gras king cakes where small plastic babies are sought after.” In the 2017 rebranding, the former New Orleans Zephyrs held a name-the-team contest and the finalists were Baby Cakes, Crawfish, King Cakes, Night Owls, Po’boys, Red Eyes, and Tailgators.

    Although the Baby Cakes name was initially met with mixed reactions, the team reported increased merchandise sales after the announcement and the rebrand set a record for online merchandise orders. Of note, the team awarded a free lifetime pass to any baby born in the state of Louisiana during 2017 and was entered into a raffle to win a full four-year tuition to a state college in Louisiana upon their 18th birthday in 2035.
  4. In 2019 the Amarillo Sod Poodles begin play – Per the team, Sod Poodles is a “pioneer’s nickname for ‘Prairie Dogs.'” This name emerged victorious in a “Name the Team” contest, triumphing over other selections rooted in Amarillo’s Texas Panhandle location: Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky and Long Haulers.
  5. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp – Previous renditions of teams in Jacksonville included the Jacksonville Expos (referencing the parent Montreal Expos) and the Jacksonville Suns. You’ve got to admit that the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp is an upgrade, even if it is an oxymoron.

    And speaking of oxymoron, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp was an answer on Jeopardy earlier this year!Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp✔@JaxShrimp

    Hey @thereal4smo – we loved your work on @Jeopardy tonight. Can we interest you in to coming to Jacksonville for a ballgame this season? Follow back and message us if you’re interested!

 

If you want to check out the bible of the weird team names of Minor League Baseball, check out this book: Root for the Home Team: Minor League Baseball’s Most Off-the-Wall Team Names and the Stories Behind Them.

Someday I’d like to work in the “Funnest” brand name category in America–Minor League Baseball Teams!

– 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!