Last week, Minor League Baseball unveiled the alter-egos of the 33 teams participating in the “Copa de la Diversión” (aka the “Fun Cup”). The Copa de la Diversión is a season-long event that aims to celebrate the diversity that defines MiLB, and to engage with hispanic fans in particular. For each designated “Copa de la Diversión” game, opposing teams will wear special jerseys and caps befitting their alternate personas. Some of these team names are extraordinarily creative. There’s the Chesapeake Cangrejos Fantasmas (ghost crabs), the New Mexico Mariachis, Corpus Christi Snow Cones, and the San Bernardino Cucuys (Cucuy loosely translates to “boogeyman”).
This event made me think of all the terrific names of Minor League baseball teams that exist in affiliated baseball and beyond. Below are my top 15 Minor League baseball team names. If you have your own personal favourites, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
1. Montgomery Biscuits
While most sports teams try to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents with intimidating names such as Giants or Warriors or Thrashers, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays decided to go against the grain. When I first heard that the logo for a Minor League baseball team was a buttered biscuit, I knew it would forever be my favourite team name. The Montgomery Biscuits were the first team to sell biscuits at their ballpark, and they average approximately 30,000 biscuits sold per season. Biscuits are even launched into the crowd between innings. There’s even a documentary feature on the team’s mascot, Monty the Biscuit.
2. New Orleans Baby Cakes
Formerly the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Baby Cakes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Following a “name the team” contest in 2016, Baby Cakes was chosen as the new team name and a full re-brand was implemented for the 2017 season. To promote the re-brand, it was announced that any child born in the state of Louisiana in 2017 was eligible for a free lifetime pass to Baby Cakes games. Although the Baby Cakes are an affiliate of the Marlins, they have an exquisite alternate jersey that pays tribute to the late-70s jersey of the Houston Astros.
3. Hartford Yard Goats
Goats have a special place in my heart. As the New York Times says, “goats are hot these days.” Capitalizing on the goat zeitgeist, the New Britain Rock Cats relocated to Hartford, Connecticut and re-branded themselves the “Yard Goats.” The Yard Goats finished second in the league in total attendance in only their first season. Well played, Yard Goats. The Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, the Yard Goats play in the sparkling new Dunkin Donuts ballpark – a jewel in downtown Hartford. Like the Baby Cakes before them, Hartford came to be the Yard Goats through a “name the team” contest. It just goes to show, you can’t go wrong when it comes to letting fans decide on the name of your franchise.
4. Bakersfield Train Robbers
The little-known Bakersfield Train Robbers are a team in the Pecos League, an independent baseball league not affiliated with Major League Baseball. Formerly the Bakersfield Blaze of the Cal League, the Train Robbers moved to the Pecos League and began play in 2017. The Train Robbers’ home ballpark is the only ballpark in professional baseball that faces west; as a result of this abnormal configuration, games can only be played after the sun sets. Otherwise the sun would be directly in the eyes of hitters. Why is Bakersfield named the Train Robbers? The team was actually founded in Las Vegas, New Mexico (not the one in Nevada) which was said to be the most crime-ridden of the old wild west towns.
5. Albuquerque Isotopes
As a fan of the television show The Simpsons, the Albuquerque Isotopes will always hold a special place in my heart. The ‘Topes feature prominently in two memorable Simpsons episodes: Dancin’ Homer and Hungry, Hungry Homer. Like most Simpsons episodes, these two are extremely quotable and have been burned deep within my psyche. The real-life Isotopes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies and came to be thanks to a vote administered by the Albuquerque Tribune. The Isotopes took 67% of the 120,000 votes cast. While the name did come directly from The Simpsons series, New Mexico is home to a number of nuclear technology facilities. Go ‘Topes!
Simpsons screencap courtesy of the Frinkiac meme generator
6. Binghamton Rumble Ponies
What is a ‘Rumble Pony’? It’s actually a tribute to carousel horses. Binghamton, New York is known as the “Carousel Capital of the World.” Of the 170 antique carousels remaining in the world, the city of Binghamton lays claim to six. The Rumble Ponies are the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets and were once managed by former Met (and current Toronto Blue Jay) John Gibbons, who guided the team to a second place finish in 1998.
7. Akron Rubber Ducks
Have you ever seen a rubber duck look so fierce? The Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, the Akron Rubber Ducks received their moniker for Akron’s rich history in the rubber industry. Akron is the birthplace of tire companies Firestone, Goodrich, General Tire, and Goodyear.
8. Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
Formerly the Jacksonville Suns, the team followed the trend of gimmicky Minor League re-brands in 2017 by becoming the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. The re-brand wasn’t entirely well received – Jacksonville has a passionate fan base and a rich baseball history that dates back to 1904. Currently the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, Jacksonville was once the Double-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos and was home to the Jacksonville Red Caps of the Negro Leagues. The current franchise was originally founded in 1962 as the Havana Cuba Sugar Kings before becoming the Jacksonville Suns (with a brief stop in Jersey City). In regard to the team logo itself, team owner Ken Babby describes it as “a gritty, tough, hard-working shrimp. The word that probably best describes it is tenacious.”
9. Richmond Flying Squirrels
The Richmond Flying Squirrels are yet another example of what happens when Minor League teams run “name the team” contests. Following the 2009 season, the Connecticut Defenders relocated to Richmond, Virginia and were re-branded the Flying Squirrels – a name which beat out competing entries, including the Hambones, Hush Puppies, Rock Hoppers, Flatheads, and Rhinos. The team’s logo was named logo of the year by Ballpark Digest in 2010 and the best Minor League logo by Baseball America in 2015. The Blue Jays’ Joe Biagini is a former Flying Squirrel. Also, flying squirrels actually do call Virginia home.
10. Columbia Fireflies
Who doesn’t love fireflies? On hot summer nights in June, July, and August, I enjoy sitting on my back deck and watch as my backyard fills with these captivating insects. Based in Columbia, South Carolina, the Fireflies are the single-A affiliate of the New York Mets. Formerly the Savannah Sand Gnats (another great name!) the team has been playing in Columbia since the 2016 season. Yet another public contest was used to determine the team name. Parts of the Fireflies’ uniform actually glow in the dark!
11. Hickory Crawdads
The Hickory Crawdads are the Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Reminiscent of the Cancun Lobstermen before them, this crustacean-themed team has two mascots: Conrad and Candy Crawdad, who also happen to be romantically involved. The ponds, rivers, and streams of Hickory, North Carolina have been home to crawdads – a freshwater crayfish – for thousands of years. When baseball season is over, crayfish have been known to burrow up to three meters deep into the sandy riverbeds – much like I do when there is no more baseball. Formerly the Gastonia Rangers, Hickory became the Crawdads due to year another “name that team” contest. The Crawdads moniker beat out the Rivercats, Hound Dogs, Woodchucks, and Valleycats. Notable alumni include former Toronto Blue Jays José Bautista and Rajai Davis.
12. Traverse City Beach Bums
The Traverse City Beach Bums are a member of the independent Frontier League. Traverse City is located on the Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan’s most popular resort area and target of sun-seeking tourists during the summer months – hence the name “Beach Bums.” The official team colours of blue and gold represent the water and the summer’s rays of sunshine. Like the Crawdads, the Beach Bums have two official mascots: black bears named “Suntan” and “Sunburn.”
13. Brujos de los Tuxtlas
Playing in the low-level independent Veracruz Winter League in Mexico, the Los Tuxtlas Brujos are based in San Andrés Tuxtla, on the slope of a volcano. A brujo can be translated and interpreted in a myriad of ways; usually it means a sorcerer, wizard, shaman, or witchdoctor. Judging from the logo, it looks like Los Tuxtlas have embraced the witch in witchdoctor. For a team whose home ballpark lies on the slope of a volcano, it can’t hurt to curry favour with the supernatural. Karim Garcia, a Mop-Up Duty favourite, signed with the Brujos in 2015. There is no truth to the rumour that their uniform sleeves hang low like a wizard’s do.
14. Winnipeg Goldeyes
Now for a little Canadian content. Not to be confused with the ubiquitious PlayStation game of the late 1990s, the Winnipeg Goldeyes have played in the independent American Association since 2011. The Goldeyes are the reigning American Association champions, having won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017. A Winnipeg Goldeye is a freshwater fish commonly served as a smoky delicacy and can be found in Lake Winnipeg and surrounding slow-moving rivers. The most notable Winnipeg Goldeyes’ alumnus is Hall-of-Fame left-hander Steve Carlton.
15. Brevard Manatees
I’m cheating a little bit with this one, since the Brevard County Manatees are no longer in existence. Fortunately, real manatees – the gentle giants native to Florida’s Gulf Coast and Caribbean Sea – do still exist (and were removed from the endangered species list in 2017). Last season the Manatees moved from Brevard County to Kissimmee, Florida to become the Fire Frogs – a great Minor League team name in its own right. Before moving to Kissimmee, the Manatees were the single-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Actual manatees are genetically more similar to elephants than anything that lives in the ocean. Also known as sea cows, manatees feed on sea grass, mangrove leaves, and algae. Manatees have no known natural predators in the wild – alligators will actually get out of a manatee’s way when nudged by one – but half of all manatee deaths are caused by humans, mostly due to boat collisions. You can help manatees, if you are so inclined, by “adopting” one through the World Wildlife Federation. Real manatees don’t have the option of picking up and moving to Kissimmee when the going gets tough.
The best Copa de la Diversión team names
The Copa de la Diversión team names were specifically chosen to reflect aspects of hispanic culture and values that resonate most with baseball fans in American Latino communities. You’ll notice that more than a few team names are quite macabre – this is undoubtedly a nod to the Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Below are a selection of my favourites, with a short description of the significance of each team name (you’ll definitely want to know why a team named themselves the “flying sandals”).
Chesapeake Cangrejos Fantasmas (Ghost Crabs)
The Bowie Baysox adopted the Ghost Crabs moniker due to their proximity to Chesapeake Bay and its lucrative crab fishing industry. The Atlantic Ghost Crab is a sand coloured crab with bright white claws, making it stand out against all of the other lowly crabs. The team’s logo features a crab covered in a white sheet, befitting only the spookiest of crabs.
Corpus Christi Raspas (Snow Cones)
It can get hot in Corpus Christi, and the best way to beat the heat is with a snow cone. Only a two hour drive from the Mexican border, snow cones in Corpus Christi have been influenced by their southern neighbour, with popular flavours included horchata and dulce de leche.
El Paso Chihuahuas
If a dog exists that has more fierceness per pound of body weight than the Chihuahua, I haven’t heard of it.
Eugene Monarcas (Monarch Butterflies)
What a good looking logo! The Euguene Emeralds pay tribute to the spectacular annual migration of monarch butterflies from southern Canada and the United States to Mexico with their team name.
Everett Conquistadores (Conquerors)
The Everett Aquasox’s choice of “Conquistadores” is a strange one. The team states that it’s in reference to the exploration of the Pacific Northwest by Spanish explorer Juan Perez. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a Conquistador, I think of Hernán Cortés. Cortés was a Spanish explorer who was responsible for the death of countless Aztecs. At least they got one thing right: the logo features a serpentine head, befitting a cold-blooded, merciless Conquistador.
Las Vegas Reyes de Plata (Kings of Silver/Silver Miners)
The former Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays – the Las Vegas 51s – pay homage to the migrant silver miners that gave Nevada its “Silver State” nickname.
New Mexico Mariachis
There’s nothing quite like Mariachi music. Intimately woven into Mexico’s cultural fabric, Mariachi music instantly gets the party live. Mariachi music and baseball go together like beer and nachos, as I learned when I attended a Mexican League game. The sugar skull in the logo pays homage to the importance of Dia de los Muertos in Mexican culture. For more on Mariachis and Dia de los Muertos, the movie Coco is a good primer.
Round Rock Chupacabras
The mysterious Chupacabra (spanish for “goat sucker”) was apparently first spotted in Puerto Rico, and then the southern U.S. and Mexico. This canine-like, bloodsucking creature has always evaded capture due to the fact that it’s only an urban legend.
San Antonio Flying Chanclas (Flying Sandals)
On the surface, a flying sandal doesn’t seem to be that intimidating. Yet in Mexico, as well as the rest of Latin America and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries, a flying sandal strikes fear into the hearts of many. Why? Growing up, it was common for an abuela (grandmother) to discipline her grandchildren by removing her chancla (sandal) and throwing it with extreme precision. Abuelas in hispanic countries are known to be able to throw chanclas with the velocity of a Nolan Ryan fastball and the pinpoint accuracy of Greg Maddux. San Antonio chose this name to honour the traditional matriarch of the Latino family as a symbol of love, strength, and of course, discipline.
Team logo images courtesy of individual team sites associated with MiLB.com, unless otherwise indicated.