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.
I’m a fan of ESPN’s Rob Neyer, one of the most astute baseball writers working today. But after reading his recent blog post, not-so-subtly titled “Omaha Joins Ranks of the Embarrassing”, it’s clear that he doesn’t have a strong grasp of Minor League Baseball operating principles.
The post is inspired by Omaha’s recent name switch from “Royals” to “Storm Chasers”, and draws heavily from my MiLB.com article on the subject.
There are some truly awful minor-league team names out there. An abbreviated list: IronBirds, Doubledays, Baysox, RiverDogs, LumberKings, TinCaps, Intimidators, BlueClaws, JetHawks, BayBears, SeaDogs, River Bandits, SilverHawks, ValleyCats. Call it the “IronRule”: If you’ve got two capital letters in your name, you’ve done something wrong.
The latest and greatest case in point: the Omaha Storm Chasers.
Should teams be denied the right to develop their own unique identities? Is homogeneity across the Minor League landscape really a better option?
The following is (the bulk of) my reply to Mr. Neyer:
With no control over the product on the field, Minor League teams are first and foremost about entertainment. While in a perfect world the fans would be keeping score while studiously analyzing MLB’s future stars, the reality is that teams surround the game with as many goofy distractions as possible in order to reach the broadest demographic (those who might not care about sports, in other words, but are looking for an evening of affordable family-friendly recreation).
And regarding the Storm Chasers, this has little, if anything, to do with the Royals name falling into “disrepute.” After four decades in beloved but oversized and impersonal Rosenblatt Stadium, the team is moving to a new ballpark and finally has a chance to create a far more vibrant entertainment destination. The Storm Chasers name offers innumerable branding opportunities within the facility, and gives the team the chance to establish a far-reaching identity within the community completely distinct from the parent club.
And, yes, the new name will greatly increase merchandise sales. This is a business, after all, and profit can and should take precedence over a masochistic adherence to tradition.
Recent entrants to the “ranks of the embarrassing” that are currently thriving include the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Both provide a case study of how and, most likely, why the Storm Chasers name will succeed in the long-term. In a nutshell (pun intended, in the case of the Flying Squirrels): Fun is the name of the game, and should be exemplified in all aspects of the operation. If it takes three mascots to accomplish this, then all the better.
I’m not saying that the Storm Chasers, or Minor League Baseball in general, is beyond reproach. Some fans may find it hard to embrace such a cartoonish and defiantly unserious persona, and “Name the Team” contests that seem to give short shrift to the popular vote are bound to alienate sections of the fan base.
But criticisms of the industry that don’t take into account key operating principles (and the recent success thereof) are hard to take seriously, especially when stated in such an obstinate and close-minded fashion. You have to be able to understand something before you can effectively rip it apart.
I’d love to get your thoughts on all of this, whoever you may be. Feel free to dust off the always-underutilized comments section, and of course opinions can be always be expressed through email and Twitter.
To quote the immortal Mr. Sparkle: Can you see that I am serious?