On Monday evening, Biloxi’s new Southern League franchise announced that it will go by the name of “Shuckers.” This is nothing to do with an action that is often performed in tandem with jivin’; rather it is an homage to the Mississippi Gulf Coast city’s thriving seafood industry. Oysters, which must be shucked by, yes, shuckers, are a big part of this industry.
My MiLB.com story on the new name was published on Monday evening, in conjunction with the team’s official announcement. The story includes a cornucopia of quotes from Shuckers general manager Buck Rogers, who held the same position in the team’s previous home of Huntsville, Alabama.
If you’ve ever spoken with Buck, you know that he’s never at a loss for words. In fact, I would go so far as to dub him “the most loquacious dude in the industry.” This was certainly the case when I spoke with him for my MiLB.com story. In fact, I ended up with a veritable novella’s worth of surplus verbiage. Being a conservationist at heart, I figured that I’d now share some of this surplus with you, the presumably interested and undeniably attractive reader.
On capitalizing on the Shuckers’ name:
Milwaukee, our parent club, has the sausage race. In Huntsville we did a superhero race. Here in Biloxi, we can do a seafood race. The sky’s the limit! (Note: Buck said “the sky’s the limit” a half-dozen times during our conversation.)
Maybe we can call up Smuckers — get a mascot that’s a jar of strawberry jam. The sky’s the limit….I guarantee you, if we take our staff to a beachside bar, get a pizza and some barley sodas and start brainstorming, we’ll come up with a big list of ideas.
I’d love to get Blue Oyster Cult out here to play a post-game concert. They’re my favorite rock band of all time.
On the potential negative of naming the team “Shuckers”:
You can take any name and turn it into something perverse. This is a local name with a local logo, and it’s reflective of the Gulf Coast. We didn’t have Willie-Off-the-Pickleboat design this. It’s professionally done, and we’re really proud of it. This whole thing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. New team, new name, new stadium. Everything’s brand new. This is Christmas, New Year’s, Mardi Gras and your birthday all rolled into one.
On the Shuckers’ ownership group, which is headed by Ovations Food Services president Ken Young (whose portfolio also includes the Albuquerque Isotopes and Norfolk Tides):
This isn’t their first rodeo. We’ve had members of the Albuquerque staff out here, and they’ve helped tremendously. It’s been a great team effort. Ken owns Ovations, so you know the food here is going to be first class. We had Ovations when I was working in Brevard County [Buck was GM of the Manatees] and I’m happy to be back in that family. We have to think that the sky’s the limit. I’m not gonna tell them “Serve this, serve that.” They know what they’re doing. I expect shrimp po’ boys, oysters, all that kind of stuff. The concession stands will reflect the flavor of the Gulf Coast.
On keeping the Shuckers name a secret:
The Albuquerque staff took the lead on ordering the merchandise. Thank God, because we’ve had so much to do. So a lot of the merchandise was shipped there first, because we didn’t want a box showing up here that said “Shuckers” on it. But we worked really hard to keep the name off of any boxes or labels; we needed the whole thing kept under wraps. All you want to do is reward the locals. If you reveal the name, then you took the prize away, you took the present away. It’s like showing a kid his Christmas presents two days early. You took the joy away. We’ve had people from all over trying to find out the name. I just told everyone “I don’t know. I don’t know.” Lie, deny and counter-accuse. It’s the military way. [Buck is a former airborne infantryman, who took part in the 1989 mission to apprehend Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.]
On the perks of operating in Biloxi:
We’re right across from the beach, and the team hotel is 100 steps away. We’ve got night life, gambling, clubs, concerts, shows and everything else. This is a good destination. Teams are going to like coming here. We’re going to have the best home record in the league, because the guys on the visiting team, they’ll all have sunburn and will be tired from having spent the night at the casinos.
So what do you think of the “Shuckers” name? Your feedback is always welcome, via whichever medium you might choose to deliver it.
Here on the blog, the recent content theme has been “covering in-season topics that I didn’t get around to covering during the season itself.” But out there in the real world, the biggest news on the MiLB front has been a topic near and dear to many of you: branding.
Over the past week, there has been one team launch (the El Paso Chihuahuas), one new identity (the Akron RubberDucks), and three sets of new logos (Arkansas Travelers, Charlotte Knights, and Rochester Red Wings). This post, number #999 in Ben’s Biz Blog history, attempts to make sense of it all in a crisp and concise fashion.
October 22: El Paso Chihuahuas (read my MiLB.com story HERE)
In my nearly eight years of covering Minor League branding efforts, none elicited as strong a reaction as October 22’s announcement that El Paso’s new Triple-A team would be called “The Chihuahuas.” The comment section of the MiLB.com article linked to above serves as a pretty good summation of the initial reaction, about 1/3 incredulous, 1/3 angry and embarrassed, and 1/3 delighted.
“Chihuahuas” is aggressively kid-friendly and completely independent of any overt reference to the parent club (in this case, the Padres), which is a trend that should be familiar to anyone who follows this industry. In recent years Brandiose has been behind IronPigs, Flying Squirrels, Storm Chasers, and RailRiders, so why not Chihuahuas? Why not anything?
My Take: While I like the color scheme and logo, the “Chihuahuas” name leans just a bit too ridiculous for my taste and was in fact my least favorite of the five “finalists” in the “Name the Team” contest (Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Desert Gators, Sun Dogs). Yes, the players come and go, but it’s a little off putting to me that men competing at Minor League Baseball’s highest level have to take the field with “Chihuahuas” emblazoned across the chest.
That said, the team did a phenomenal job in regard to creating a buzz not just in the community but nationally, and now they have the opportunity to build an entire brand around something very unique. As is so often the case, I feel that once people get used to the name they’ll not just tolerate it but embrace it. Myself as well, probably.
Also, as an aside: Holding a Name the Team “contest” in advance of announcing a new name is a great way to generate publicity. But these contests are disingenuous in that they rarely, if ever, actually take fan opinion into account. Is this advance buzz worth the ill will generated when the name chosen doesn’t reflect public consensus in any way, shape or form? It won’t happen, but I’d love it if a team came right out and explained the paternalistic mindset that informs these decisions: “You fans mean well, but since you live in a market that was heretofore without Minor League Baseball you have no idea how the industry operates and therefore no real idea what would truly make for a good team name. Feel free to argue impotently amongst yourselves while us professionals do our jobs, as in the end everything will turn out alright. We guarantee it.”
October 23: Arkansas Travelers (Read my MiLB.com story HERE).
The Travelers’ motivation for creating a new set of logos (designed, once again, by Brandiose) was two-fold. Firstly, the team wanted to streamline and simplify an identity that had become a bit of an unwieldy hodgepodge in recent years. Second, new logos represented a good way to generate buzz and momentum as the Travs enter a 2014 season in which they will serve as hosts of the Texas League All-Star Game.
My take: I like it. The Travs’ have a history in Little Rock that goes back over 100 years, and that’s something that they’re understandably proud of. The new logos are correspondingly sleek, simple and traditional (the horse references the “Arkansas Traveler” folktale that resulted in the team name in the first place), and rumor has it that there may be more to unveil later in the offseason.
10/24: Charlotte Knights (read my MiLB.com piece HERE)
The Knights are moving into a brand-new downtown ballpark in 2014, and with the new digs comes this new set of logos. Here’s what general manager Scott Brown told me:
“Charlotte is nicknamed ‘The Queen City’ after Queen Charlotte, so, moving forward, we wanted to capture royalty as our theme. The time was ripe to do this, because even though we’re only two miles away [from the previous home of Knights Stadium] we’re now inside the city limits. The Knights are defending the Queen City.”
My Take: Similar to the Travs, I like this sleek and relatively simple re-brand as it serves as a great way to kickstart what is a truly exciting new era for the Knights. And while I’m ignorant of pretty much everything beyond the world of baseball, several people on Twitter pointed out that it is somewhat similar to the logos of the collegiate UCF Knights and Army Black Knights. This could be seen as a negative, as well as the fact that the logo on the far right seems to depict a seahorse in the midst of suicide. But, again: I’m a fan.
10/29: Akron RubberDucks (read my MiLB.com story HERE)
After 17 seasons the Aeros are no more, as Akron’s Double-A franchise has scrapped that in favor of “RubberDucks.” This is all part of owner Ken Babby’s attempt to revitalize what had been an ailing franchise, and is sure to be accompanied by a veritable onslaught of duck-themed promotions in 2014 and beyond. The “Rubber” in the team’s name refers to Akron’s standing as “Rubber Capital of the World,” but even with this local tie-in the name generated a near-Chihuahuas level of internet commentary (best characterized as a mix of gentle snark and faux outrage).
My Take: When I first heard the “RubberDucks” name I winced a little bit, thinking it too cartoonish and child-like. It has grown on me somewhat, however, due to the aforementioned local tie-in, sharp and eye-catching logo set, and a general faith in the Akron front office. And just a thought, but might Akron’s “Rubber capital of the world” status have something to do with its steadily-declining birth rates?
November 1: Rochester Red Wings (read team press release HERE).
Less a re-brand than an update, this Studio Simon creation highlights mascot Spike’s ever-increasing commitment to the weight room. Pretty soon he’s going to using the #riseandgrind hashtag on Twitter.
My Take: While far less splashy than the four new logos talked about above, this is a nice re-imagining of an iconic brand (the Red Wings are the oldest team in all of Minor League Baseball). Studio Simon always does good work.
And thus concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #999. I still don’t know what I’m doing for 1000, so it might take a while to appear. Any suggestions?
This blog is rife with non-sequiturs, bizarre tangents and all manner of self-indulgent nonsense, so it’s likely that no one batted an eye at the intro to yesterday’s post.
But my motives, they were ulterior. The stylized and oversized “A” that began the post was no mere homage to the reading habits of my youth. Rather, it was the latest clue in an internet-wide scavenger hunt currently being staged by Jason Klein and Casey White, the duo behind logo design and “creative ideas” company Plan B Branding.
Or, rather, the company formerly known as Plan B Branding. In a move most meta, this branding company is currently re-branding itself, and the scavenger hunt is a creative way in which to unveil the new name. Here’s how Casey and Jason are explaining their current endeavor:
Over the last decade we’ve made a number of great partners and now they’re helping us celebrate the unveiling of our new company name.
Each day a letter from our new name will be posted on one of our partner’s Websites. Clues will be posted here daily at 10am Pacific Time, to help you find the website featuring the letter of the day. The first person to email us the website and letter of the day will be our daily winner. All daily winners will be entered into a grand price drawing: we’ll dream up the winner’s very own personal logo.
The “A” posted here yesterday was the second letter to be unveiled, and the new name is currently listed as:
What could it be? Flatwhale? Placate Me? Beastmode? Your guess is as good, and most likely better, than mine.
Regardless of what the name ends up being, it seems to me that Jason and Casey are setting a good template for other teams and companies who may wish to re-brand themselves. This is creative, interactive, and fun. And, best of all, it gave me something fresh to write about in November!
Finally, it’ll be interesting to what the winner’s “personal logo” ends up looking like. The options are limitless; personally, I’d insist on finding the middle ground between “lighthearted whimsy” and “crushing existentialist despair.”
And since we’re (somewhat) on the topic of design, let me bring your attention to an email I recently received from reader Jeremy Reiss. Reiss, a Louisville-based designer and art director, writes that he “recently completed a project I think you might find interesting. I took all the slang words and phrases surrounding the hitting aspect of baseball and illustrated them into a 12″ x 12″ letterpresses, 2-color print. For those interested, I’ve made a limited edition (50) available for purchase online.”
This is my kind of thing, aesthetically:
For more info, or to order a print, check out Reiss’ website. And, remember, if you have something that might be of interest to readers of this blog then never hesitate to get in touch.
Let’s go ahead and end today’s post with a video sure to make you feel old. Everett’s latest edition of “Meet the AquaSox” features players born in the late ’80s and early ’90s talking about music made before they were born.
I was in fifth grade when New Kids on the Block were at their peak, and at the time I was offended by their very existence.
It’s important to stay grounded, but nonetheless it’s become apparent to me that this blog is over-reliant on terrestrial perspectives. In order to shake things up, then, today’s post will feature some aerial views before returning to Earth.
We’ll start things off in flyover country, as the Indianapolis Indians recently staged a pre-game stunt that was (almost) out of this world. A squadron of Navy “Leap Frogs” parachuted into Victory Field prior to August 16’s ballgame, with Rear Admiral Scott T. Craig throwing out the first pitch. What follows is the video of their practice run that afternoon, giving us a bird’s eye view of the arduous journey from air to ground.
Not quite as high-flying, but airborne nonetheless, are our fine feathered friends the Great Lakes Loons. The team staged their annual “Raining Money” promotion on August 5, in which $2000 in one dollar bills was dropped onto the field from a helicopter. This year, the mad cash scramble was preceded by an excellently-produced short film entitled “The Sleepover,” which segued flawlessly into the promotion itself.
Seeking to retain this elevated position for as long as possible, we now travel to Lakewood, NJ. On August 20 the BlueClaws held their annual blood drive, an event preceded by an awareness-raising stint of roof-living by the appropriately-named “Roofman.”
“Roofman” is also known as “Ryan Ragan,” COO of the Central Jersey Blood Center. He spent five days on the roof prior to the drive, which resulted in a prolonged period of local radio and TV news attention. Here he is, in quieter times.
91 people ended up giving blood at the BlueClaws’ drive; meaning that the Roofman’s efforts were simultaneously not in vain and “in vein.” Life sure can be funny sometymes. And, yes, that was an intentional spelling error in the previous sentence. In the spirit of the blood drive I was attempting to be “typo positive.”
We’ll conclude by focusing on a team whose spacebound aspirations may soon come to an end: the Akron Aeros. This traditionally aerodynamic entity is currently staging an online “re-branding contest,” with voting continuing through September 1.
While the option remains to keep the “Aeros” name, other possibilities include Gum Dippers, RubberDucks, Tire Jacks, and Vulcans. All of these names allude to Akron’s industrial past, primarily its status as a leading producer of rubber.
While I generally like team names that incorporate local history, it is my opinion that the alliterative pizazz of Akron Aeros remains superior to the new contenders. Will the voting public agree? Do you?
For now, things remain up in the air.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked my vast cadre of loyal readers to assist me in a most important task — the creation of a new blog head shot.
The response to this request was robust, which I very much appreciate. Still, I have put off sharing the submissions because I am wary of seeming narcissistic. Usually, I hide this off-putting trait beneath a cloud of false modesty and groan-inducing wordplay.
But the moment for action is now. What follows are some of the new profile pics I now have at my disposal.
Boomer and Me — Spending some quality time with the Williamsport Crosscutters’ inimitable mascot:
A Classic Updated for Modern Times
On My Way to the Barber Pole Factory
It Was Just A Phase
You Can Do What You Wanna Do…
I plan on using all of these headshots — and more — throughout the season. But, starting tomorrow, my identity will be this:
What can I say? To see my face juxtaposed onto a Weird Al album cover is a dream come true.
Thanks to Chris McConney of the Reading Phillies for the Weird Al shot, also big thanks to:
Sarah Budd, Williamsport Cross
cutters (shots 1-2), Danny Wild, MiLB photo guru (3-5), Lauren Wombacher, Yakima Bears (6-7 and snowglobe), Cameron Wengrzyn, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (8-13), Jake Goldman, Astoria Astroplaneteers (14), Allison Moore, Greensboro Grasshoppers (15), and Robert Peters (16).
Feel free to keep sending ’em and thanks again. I really appreciate it.