The main goal of any minor league team, no matter the sport, is to train its young professional athletes and prepare them for the next level. This is what the managers, coaches, training staff and GM really focus on.
As well as these on-field product managers, there are members of the front office whose job is to get fans excited to see the future of that sport. The quality of the product (read: how well the team performs) contributes a lot to this, but keep in mind the turnover these teams face throughout a season.
Good players move up, bad players move down – unless they’re already at the bottom of the system – and the same is happening to all the teams they’ll play. A team can’t necessarily rely on big name players to bring the fans in throughout the season– unless it’s Tim Tebow.
Let’s talk Minor League Baseball.
Teams are typically comprised mostly of players that won’t make it to the Major Leagues in small towns that nobody knows about unless they live there. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it works. Same with how most fans have a single favorite team and, therefore, a rival team.
With affiliates not necessarily located in the same area as their parent teams you could have a minor league team in the middle of rival fan territory. For example, the State College Spikes, single-A short-season affiliate of the Cardinals, play in the middle of Pennsylvania where many fans support the rival Pirates – or might dislike St. Louis for other reasons. There are also summer ball leagues that aren’t a part of the MiLB, made up of college players from around the country.
How do you go about bringing in fans to a baseball game where the home players might be rivals later down the line?
A ridiculous team name.
Weird names are everything
Most of us have spent time looking through all of the names across the country. Don’t lie, you do it too.
It’s almost hypnotizing, trying to wrap your head around the thought process it took to come up with the New Orleans Baby Cakes and then the genius it takes to commit to it. It almost makes me feel like a lesser person for not having that gift.
You could say that teams like the Akron RubberDucks or Binghamton Rumble Ponies devalue the professionalism and athletic prowess these athletes possess.
You’d be wrong, though.
The product fans receive, between the quality of play and atmosphere of the stadium, relies on getting them there in the first place. Incredible names like the Savannah Bananas (of the Coastal Plain League) catch the eye of possible fans.
What team is the major league affiliate of the Hartford Yard Goats? No idea, but you bet your last dollar I want a Yard Goats hat – and have you heard the theme song? It’s up there with Africa by Toto and Bohemian Rhapsody as masterpieces of composition and performance.
Turns out they’re the double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies – but it doesn’t matter. I think the point of a great name should not only be to grab the attention of passers-by but to separate the team from the Major League club just enough that they don’t drive off rival fans.
My family raised me to be a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan (feel free to comment telling me how you think this makes my opinion worthless, but I already know that it is).
If I ended up living in an area with a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees called the Townsville Yankees I wouldn’t go – except to cheer for the opposing team. That’s not to mention how boring and unoriginal that name is.
Now, if they choose to be the Townsville Nerf Herders I’m suddenly a season ticket holder, along with many of my soon-to-be best friends.
At the end of the day
I’m not using this article to encourage Minor League Baseball teams to bring me on as a business advisor, I have no real numbers to prove that teams with silly names bring in more people. I would love to see them if you have them, but I digress.
My main point is that I think the opportunity to really embrace the creative aspect of starting a new lower-level team is one that would be a shame to miss. Who wants to watch three different levels of Yankees play three different levels of Braves?
It’s more fun to go to a game between two wacky mascots and imagine a group of nine Bananas in the field pitching to strips of Macon Bacon, like you could see during collegiate summer ball.
If a weird name or logo helps make it more fun to be at the ballpark than inside playing Fortnite, I think it’s a worthwhile cause. Who doesn’t want to know what a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp game is like?
This is the first article in a series (read: rant in several installments) on my love for and strong opinions about Minor League team names. Following articles will be linked below.
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