If you haven’t heard the news, the Minor League Baseball AAA International League Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees of Pennsylvania are now hosting a name the team contest. The voting ends on August 24th, so in the words of Puff Daddy…Vote or Die!
Before the Yankees were around, Lackawanna County was home to the AAA affiliate of the Phillies, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. A long-winded moniker, no doubt, but they were a respectable organization. Then came the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The ‘Pigs built shiny new Coca Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the Phils licked their chops and sliced off a hunk of IronPork. Now Lehigh Valley is the top ticket-seller in all of MiLB, and the vacuum in Moosic was filled with the new Yankees affiliate, cleverly named: The Yankees.
Flash forward to 2012. The S/W-B Yankees will be moving back into their newly-renovated stadium and found it an opportune time for brand new brand. A new name, new logo, new uniforms…in short: a new identity.
Evaluation of the Brand
This is an interesting situation. You’d think that a team would be plenty proud to not only be the AAA affiliate of the most storied franchise in sports, but to share the same name. The Yanks have two other affiliates with the Yankees handle, in Tampa and Staten Island. If you read my previous post on Minor League brands, you’ll know my stance on “chip off the old block” nicknames. I think it’s fine, but if a team chooses to go down that path a little, they should go all out: have all of their affiliates with the parent club name. In the Yankees’ case, the Tampa team is easy to ignore since they play in the advanced-A Florida State League, which is something of a joke of a league consisting of teams playing in spring training facilities and drawing meager crowds for the most part. The Staten Island Yankees, on the other hand, are a very popular club in the short-season New York-Penn League. They will remain the Yankees, while Scranton/Wilkes-Barre changes. No big deal.
While the team is changing their nickname, they should absolutely change their place name. It’s ridiculous. No problem that Wilkes-Barre is a hyphenated town. If it we’re just the Wilkes-Barre Yankees, it would be comparable to the Winston-Salem Dash. Of course, with the largest city in the market attached, it gives us Scranton Slash Wilkes Dash Barre. The “Slash and Dash” has got to go. To make matters goofier, the stadium isn’t located in Scranton or Wilkes-Barre. It’s in a suburb called Moosic, which is a great name for a town, incidentally.
The Sport Change suggestions for a new place name:
1. Scranton. It’s not the most pleasant word in the world, but this is the major city in the area. The NFL’s New York Giants play in the Meadowlands, but there’s no need to call them the East Rutherford Giants or the New York/New Jersey Giants. Scranton’s the predominate city, and everybody knows the name from the antics at Dunder Mifflin.
2. Lackawanna County. There are plenty of “county” names in the minors, including the Brevard County Manatees, Kane County Cougars, and Lake County Captains. The IronPigs prove that a broader geographic name can work. Lackawanna just so happens to have one of those names that is fun to say.
3. Moosic. Speaking of fun names to say, if the team is grasping at straws they could just go with the the town that hosts PNC Field. Of course, that may not command the level of respect that AAA should have as the level one step below the majors.
In order to help the team select a new nickname, Scranton has opted for the time-honored, democratically-minded sports tradition: the name-the-team contest. The list is narrowed down to six. The descriptions are copied from the team’s website:
The Blast combines the over-the-top fun of MiLB with the tough miners who unearth coal to fuel America’s industrial revolution. It’s also the sound of the Yankees of tomorrow blasting home runs in front of a packed house at PNC Field.
Black Diamond Bears
Paying homage of the rich coal mining history of the SWB area combined with the ferociousness of the black bear, no one will want to mess with them on the field. The natural setting of PNC Field will be the perfect den for the Black Diamond Bears.
Watch the Fireflies light up the night sky at PNC Field in 2013. The state insect of Pennsylvania is a sure sign of summer time in NEPA. Families will have a glowing good time at the ballpark!
All aboard! We’re not just blowing steam with this one. The SWB express isn’t your ordinary ride on the rails. We’ll be charting our own course as we speed our way into the minds and hearts of NEPA baseball fans. Kids can join the Lil’ Conductors Club or you can shop for your favorite team gear at the Station.
This tough as “Quills” animal is a renegade native to Northeast Pennsylvania. The fighting, resilient spirit of the porcupine is the same spirit indicative to our area. With Pulled Porky-Pine Sandwiches, fans are sure enjoy the fun, creative nature that only Minor League Baseball can bring to the community.
Known as the “Electric City,” Scranton is home of America’s very first electric trolley car. A trolley frog is not only a mechanical part of a trolley, it takes us into a creative world of frogs, lily pads and snapping tongues.
The Sport Change Reaction
Wow, that is quite the spectrum of names. All of them sound like they would fit in with other nicknames in the minors, but there is certainly a spectrum of quality. Here are a few qualities that Sport Change likes in a nickname:
-Regional relevance. Many of the best brands in the minors someway reflect their city or region, whether historically, geographically, or otherwise. The Modesto Nuts, for instance, can get away with their name because the Modesto area grows a ridiculous amount of nuts.
-Appropriate respectability. In pro sports, nicknames should be broad and respectable. Tigers is a good pro name whereas Bengals is terrible. In the minors, there is a great deal more freedom. However, too much freedom has led to dozens and dozens of terrible MiLB nicknames. For AAA, some goofiness is OK, but a team like the Columbus Clippers has good respectability.
-Alliteration. Columbus Clippers is a good example of how a name can roll off the tongue and be fun to say. This a moot point in this exercise as all three of our place names have no corresponding alliterative nickname.
-Fun. It’s the minors. Be goofy and make kids smile.
Let’s examine each:
Blast. A terrible idea. Non-pluralable/non-singularable nicknames are the worst, and this one reminds me too much of the Bakersfield Blaze. If this name gets picked, somebody should be fired for suggesting it. If it is picked, Sport Change will write an article blasting the Blast.
Black Diamond Bears. Excuse me, I have to puke. No. Where to start? O.K., if you want to honor coal, how about just Black Diamonds? It’s not a bad name, especially considering the baseball-diamond connection. But Bears? Why try to get two nicknames in one? The Yakima Bears are moving, so that name will soon be unused, but just Bears would be boring. There’s already the Mobile BayBears and Fresno Grizzlies. Black Diamond Bears. Seriously?
Fireflies. I like it. That’s a fun fact that fireflies are the state insect of Pennsylvania. This would be a good nickname, comparable to wildly successful Greensboro Grasshoppers. I could see black uniforms with reflective/glow-in-the-dark lettering and a fun cartoonish logo. The only disadvantage is that you would have to hear that Owl City song at every game
RailRiders. That is about as mediocre of a nickname that they could come up with. You can’t fling a jockstrap in America without it hitting a MiLB team with a similar name. In PA, there’s already a railroad nickname: the Altoona Curve. RailRiders reminds me of a mashup of two Rangers affiliates: the RoughRiders and the Round Rock Express.
Porcupines. I love animal names, but meh…this just doesn’t seem that exciting to me. Kind of like naming your team the Raccoons. The Pulled Porky Pine sandwiches sound pretty good, though.
Trolley Frogs. Brilliant. A great reference to something that makes Scranton unique. A trolley frog is apparently part of the overhead wire trolley switching system, but more importantly: it’s fun. The Everett Aquasox have a frog on their caps, but amphibians in general rarely crawl their way out of small leagues and into the light. One step below a Yankee is a Trolley Frog? It may take some getting used to, but if the Las Vegas 51s can exist, then let’s get slimy.
1. Trolley Frogs
6. Black Diamond Bears
On the website of the contest, you can vote for your top three. I would be pleased to see either Trolley Frogs or Fireflies win. Porcupines would be OK, and maybe they would do it right. RailRiders is a snoozer. Blast is terrible and would be last if not for the head-scratching, puke-inducing, coal dust-coated, furry monstrosity that is the Black Diamond Bears. Though now I feel like listening to the Bob Dylan song Black Diamond Bay. A good song. Wait! Bay + Bears = the Mobile BayBears. Now that is strange.
The BayBears will be part of an upcoming minor league rebranding post–one of many more baseball posts to expect during our two-week “Boys of Summer” baseball blast. I shouldn’t use the term “blast.” Ugh.
So get to that website and give Scranton (or Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) a new nickname. The voting ends Friday with the results announced this fall. Stay posted.