Eastern North Carolina baseball fans are in high clover. The region has two new Class A Carolina League teams – one playing in Kinston and another playing temporarily in Buies Creek and moving to Fayetteville in 2019. Two clubs from the California League shifted east.
Fans get to choose both team names, in the form of a fan vote.
The Kinston team isn’t the Kinston team, even though they play there. They are known as “Down East” and they have a name – “Wood Ducks” – which was chosen in a fan poll last fall.
One can hear the quacks in the stands now.
Letting fans pick the team name can be dicey. The Down East finalist names, in addition to Wood Ducks, were Eagles, HamHawks, Hogzillas and Shaggers.
Note the two foodie names lost: “HamHawks” was a tribute to North Carolina ham and “Hogzillas” was a nod to barbecue. Shaggers was for dancers. Or for shagging fly balls. Hard to tell. Eagles? Too normal. On balance, Wood Ducks is fine.
Fayetteville will get its team in 2019 after a new stadium is built. Currently they’re playing as the “Buies Creek Astros” (if ever a team needed a naming contest, it’s these guys).
The Fayetteville Team-to-Be recently announced the five finalists for the team name, with the winner to be announced this week:
- Fatbacks. Yet another pork-inspired food name.
- Fly Traps. Who needs a fly trap from Venus when you can have one from Fayetteville? Kind of a play on catching a fly ball, too.
- Jumpers. Local interest here. Fort Bragg is nearby, home of the 82nd Airborne.
- Wood Dogs. Really confusing, especially given the new name of the Down East team. Note that it’s not “dogwoods” in honor of the trees.
- Woodpeckers. Apparently these endangered birds are native to the area.
Good luck with that, Fayetteville.
Possibly the best result from a fan naming poll occurred in Baltimore, when the NFL’s Cleveland Browns moved to Charm City in the 1990s and became the Ravens. The name “Ravens,” with its kitschy Edgar Allan Poe tie-in, was a runaway winner over Americans, Bulldogs, Marauders, Mustangs and Railers.
In Richmond, we have the “Flying Squirrels,” the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. And if the fans’ choice, Flying Squirrels, is a borderline goofy name, just look at the options it beat: Flatheads, Hambones, Rockhoppers and Rhinos.
“Hambones” was a tribute to Virginia ham. Food names clearly don’t have a good track record.
Maybe the best, or least worst, food name is the single-A Montgomery Biscuits. Their mascot/cap logo, “Monty,” has a pat of butter in his mouth. Look it up.
The worst? Ah, the perils of the fan vote. Last fall the New Orleans Zephyrs (now there’s a great minor league moniker), the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, renamed the team through a fan vote.
The choices included several that were food related: Crawfish, Po’Boys, Baby Cakes, King Cakes, Night Owls, Red Eyes and Tailgators.
Maybe there was a split vote with so many choices, but “Baby Cakes” inexplicably won. Geaux Cakes?
The marketing team compounded the problem by designing a mascot that is a baby crawling out of a Mardi Gras king cake.
He’s angry. Or has a full diaper. Maybe both.
Fan reaction in the Big Easy was not kind – close to 90 percent of the people who voted in a NOLA.com poll didn’t like the name.
One guy tweeted, “This is the worst mascot in the history of mascots. Baby Cakes sounds like a trailer park pet name.”
Another comment: “Definitely sounds like a softball team, a cheer squad, or some Jazzercise group.”
And finally, another tweet: “Please tell me you April Fools’d early. I want to meet the person who thought this was a good idea.”
– Paul Fletcher