You may have heard that just after the Super Bowl next year, a new football league is starting called the “Alliance of American Football.” The league will own all the teams and I presume come up with the team names. You can expect those names to likely be a tribute to their geographical roots.
But, when it comes to team nicknames, there’s no competition for minor league baseball. Understand that going to a baseball game is one of the coolest things you can do and particularly if you are going to take a kid. Assuming the weather is nice, you can sit in the stands, relax and drink beer. You drink – not the kid of course. Well, maybe? Anyway, that’s a story for another time.
Major League Baseball is cool and there’s nothing like going to an MLB ballpark every once in a while. However, it’s cost prohibitive for a lot of families as a night out at the ballpark is going to set a family of four back close to $1,000.00 if not more. Nothing like the $12 Busch Stadium Hot Dog in St. Louis. By, the way if you got to St. Louis don’t be a wise ass and ask for a Miller Lite. Trust me, it doesn’t go over well.
Minor leagues on the other hand are affordably priced and in most cases family friendly. There’s always going to be the random jackass that can neither handle his alcohol or just being out of the house for a night, but it’s long been my opinion that your money is better spent at the local minor league park than battling the issues that come with the major leagues.
And whereas the majors have traditional nicknames like Dodgers, Yankees, Reds, Cubs and Cardinals, when you go to the minor leagues, you can see teams whose management has been creative and in many cases true to their geographical location.
In the Class AAA International League for example, you can watch Pennsylvania’s Leigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders and the Toledo Mud Hens, made famous by Jamie Farr in M*A*S*H. The Louisville Bats also patrol the International League (a tribute to the local Louisville Slugger Factory) and I for the life of me can’t figure out why the Gwinett, Ga. team is called the Stripers. Maybe it’s because you need a “Red Stripe” to handle the horrific Metro Atlanta traffic.
The Class AAA Pacific Coast League brings us the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Nashville Sounds (and somebody needs to explain to me how Nashville is on the Pacific Coast), the Albuquerque Isotopes, the El Paso Chihuahuas and the Las Vegas 51s, named for Nevada’s famed Area 51 nuclear test site. But, nothing beats the New Orleans Baby Cakes. I have no clue where that comes from but if you play there during your travels during the minors, I’m sure you’ll never forget it and if you do, your family will remind you that you were once a “Baby Cake”.
If the AA ranks, you can watch the Eastern League’s New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Hartford Yard Goats, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, the Akron Rubber Ducks (tires are big in Akron), and the Richmond Flying Squirrels. In the Southern League, you’ll find the Chattanooga Lookouts (named after the famous Lookout Mountain), the Biloxi Shuckers, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Then there’s the Southern League’s Montgomery Biscuits. First of all let’s remember that Montgomery is in Alabama and apparently they like biscuits there. Secondly, there isn’t a lame ass local sports anchor in a Southern League town that hasn’t said that someone has “baked the Biscuits” while reading the scores.
Down another level to Class A, and you get the Florida State League’s Dayton Tortugas (which means “Sea Turtle” and I know that because of the Tortuga Rum I got in Grand Cayman), The Lakeland Flying Tigers (that would be interesting to see), the Florida Fire Frogs (sounds painful), the Tampa Tarpons (which is too close to Tampon by the way), Jupiter Hammerheads, Bradenton Maurauders, and Charlotte Stone Crabs. Just to balance it out there’s also the creatively named Port St. Lucie Mets.
The Midwest League brings us the Lansing Lugnuts, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Great Lake Loons (honestly I thought they made up Lake Loon on the Andy Griffith Show), the Clinton Lumberkings and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Over in the South Atlantic League, you’ll find the Kannapolis Intimidators (named for native son NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt), the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Hickory Crawdads, and the Augusta Green Jackets, a tribute to the Masters although the mascot is a bee. You’ll also find the Columbia Fireflies (apparently a problem in mid-South Carolina along with why they are always working on the same damn road around Columbia), the Charleston Riverdogs (beautiful city by the way) and the Asheville Tourists which is one of the oldest organizations in baseball. I assume because Asheville (which is a cool town) attracts a lot of Tourists most of whom I’m certain don’t go to minor league baseball games.
The Carolina League brings us the Lynchburg Hillcats, named after the City of Seven Hills, the Carolina Mudcats (and oldie but a goodie), the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Winston-Salem dash I assume since there’s a “dash” between Winston and Salem and the Down East Wood Ducks. Now that’s just awesome.
If you go below the Class A ranks, the teams generally fielding short season A clubs or rookie clubs stick mostly to the major league names like Rays, Blue Jays, Cardinals and Astros, but some do get creative like the Northwest League’s Tri-City Dust Devils. I assume a Dust Devil is something they have in the Northwest or it could be that using the name “Dirt Devil” was a trademark infringement issue.
Regardless, there’s no limit to the creativity of the minor league owners. And if you think those are wild, there’s a summer wood-bat league called the Coastal Plain League in the Southeast. It’s a league for college players to play in during the summer with wood bats to improve their skills so that when they move up to the minors they are further ahead in their progression from those ridiculous aluminum bats colleges use (one of many reasons that college baseball sucks). In the Coastal Plains League, we have none other than the Lexington County Blow Fish, the Savannah Bananas and the Macon Bacon. I’ll have an order of Bacon with a side of Baby Cakes to go please and don’t forget the beer, which unlike a major league part is probably priced somewhere below $15 a cup. Play Ball.