Minor League Baseball is a unique business. It is affordable family fun, there is plenty of entertainment that isn’t revolved around baseball, crazy concessions and you may run into your favorite obscure celebrity or former big leaguer during one of their scheduled appearances. One of the most intriguing parts of Minor League Baseball is the team nicknames, which have gotten a little stranger every year since teams started re-branding, moving and steering away from their parent’s club name. I decided I wanted to compile a list of some of the best team names and tell a little bit about each team. Seeing Minor League Baseball first hand, I feel it is one of the best forms of family entertainment out there, and if you’re lucky, through all of the excitement you may just see the next Major League Baseball superstar. So here is my list of some of the best Minor League Baseball team names starting with my five honorable mentions. Enjoy.
Honorable Mentions: Quad Cities River Bandits (Single A, Houston Astros), El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple A, San Diego Padres), Fort Wayne TinCaps (Single A, San Diego Padres), Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple A, Colorado Rockies), and Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Triple A, Philadelphia Phillies).
Yes, those are just the honorable mentions. The River Bandits are a raccoon, the Chihuahuas hats are so cool they were voted best in the MiLB the first season they played, the TinCaps’ logo is an apple with a metal pot on his head to honor the great Johnny Appleseed, the Isotopes are named after the ficticious Springfield Isotopes that made an appearance in "The Simpsons" and the IronPigs have a strip of a bacon on their alternate caps. How can it get any crazier from here? You’re about to find out.
10. Hillsboro Hops, Northwest League, Single A-Short Season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, From Hillsboro, Oregon
The Hillsboro Hops were founded in 2013, after previously being the Yakima Bears from Yakima, Washington. They are named the Hops because Oregon is the second-largest hop-producing state by volume, and baseball uses terms like “short hop”, “bad hop” and “crow hop”. Since coming into the league, the Hops have won two championships and their most famous player to come through the system has been current Braves infielder and 2015 first overall pick Dansby Swanson. Their manager is former Major Leaguer Shelley Duncan.
9. Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Southern League, Double A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, From Pensacola, Florida
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos were founded in 2012 after being the first version of the Carolina Mudcats. The nickname was picked by the fans in a name the team contest. They play at Blue Wahoos Stadium, which has been voted by many publications as one of the best ballparks in the Minor Leagues. They have had a little bit of history, as they were one of the teams current Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton played for during the season when he broke the all-time professional baseball stolen base record. They were also named the Southern League Organization of the Year after their first season. In 2015, professional golfer Bubba Watson became a co-owner of the team.
8. Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Single A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, From Lansing, Michigan
The Lansing Lugnuts were established in 1996 after moving from Springfield, Illinois where they were known as the Springfield Sultans. The team name was picked by the front office after almost naming the team the River Dragons. The reasoning behind the name is because of the strong auto industry presence in Lansing. At the time, 90% of fans who were questioned hated the name. That hasn’t stopped the team from staying branded that way over 20 years later. Former Lugnuts include: Carlos Beltran, Rich Hill, Carlos Zambrano, Noah Syndergaard, and Mark Prior (Who may have needed some lugnuts for that arm of his. No? Bad joke? Sorry.) Lugnuts have won two league titles, but haven’t won one since 2003.
7. Florida Fire Frogs, Florida State League, A-Advanced Affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, From Kissimmee, Florida
The Florida Fire Frogs are one of three teams that were re-branded in preparation for the 2017 season on this list (it’s been a good year for re-branding). The Fire Frogs were originally the Brevard County Manatees from 1994-2016 and they played in Viera, Florida. The new Fire Frogs name was picked in a name the team contest over such names as: Dragonflies, Mud Kickers, Rodeo Clowns, Sorcerers and Toucans. The bull frog logo is supposed to be an obscure nod to the rodeo heritage of the town, which the only way that works is because the frog is of the bull variety (should’ve went with Rodeo Clowns). The Fire Frogs will start their history this coming April.
6. Akron RubberDucks, Eastern League, Double A Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, From Akron, Ohio
The Akron RubberDucks were established in 1989 as the Canton-Akron Indians, then became the Akron Aeros in 1997 and re-branded to their current name and logo in 2014. The nickname was picked to represent Akron’s history in the rubber industry (Goodyear and Firestone were founded there, hence the tire tread on the duck’s head in the logo).The Aeros won four championships in their time and the RubberDucks won their first championship this past season. Former players to play for the Ducks (I will refrain from naming former Aeros, as there are too many to count) include: Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin and Michael Brantley (rehab assignment). The RubberDucks have sold out their beautiful ballpark many times and have a great marketing mix that has helped them thrive and make baseball in Akron great again.
5. Modesto Nuts, California League, A-Advanced Affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, From Modesto, California
The Modesto franchise has been around since 1946 and has been known as the Reds, Colts and A’s. In 2005, they became the Modesto Nuts. They were the Colorado Rockies2005-2016, and this off season switched to the Seattle organization. The Nuts name was chosen because there are several types of nuts grown in the area. The Nuts have never won a title and have only one division title to show for their efforts. Former players include: Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Ubaldo Jimenez.
4. Hartford Yard Goats, Eastern League, Double A Affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, From Hartford, Connecticut
The Hartford Yard Goats were established in 2016, after moving from New Britain (where they spent nearly twenty seasons as the New Britain Rock Cats). Yard Goats was the name chosen in a name the team contest. The term “yard goat” is in reference to switch engines that shuttle train cars between locomotives, although their logo is clearly a goat. The colors were picked in homage to the former NHL franchise, the Hartford Whalers. There are no championships to the Yard Goats name just yet, but they will start play in a brand new ballpark called Dunkin’ Donuts Park next season.
3. Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Eastern League, Double A Affiliate of the New York Mets, From Binghamton, New York
The Rumble Ponies are one of the great nicknames that has come out of the Great Re-branding of 2017. Formerly the Binghamton Mets (boring), they changed their nameto the Rumble Ponies (a reference to Binghamton being the Carousel Capital of the World). The name was picked ahead of names such as the Bullheads, Gobblers, Rocking Horses, Stud Muffins and Timber Jockeys. There are no notable Rumble Ponies alumni since this will be their first season, but just imagine if you could’ve seen David Wright, Jose Reyes or Preston Wilson wearing Rumble Ponies across their chest. I’m just patiently waiting for a Yard Goats and Rumble Ponies showdown in 2017.
2. Montgomery Biscuits, Southern League, Double A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, From Montgomery, Alabama
The Biscuits have been around since 2004, after previously being known as the Orlando Rays from 1997-2003. With leaving a great place like Orlando and going to a place like Montgomery, comes a great nickname and endless marketing opportunities. They have used catchphrases such as “Hey butter, butter” (Get it? Isn’t that hilarious?), naming their team store the Biscuit Basket and shooting biscuits into the stands with an air gun. Not only that, but they have some good baseball too. They have won two league titles and have had the likes of David Price, James Shields and Evan Longoria put the Biscuits uniform on. The Biscuits would have been my number one choice, had it not been for a development last week that brought us the best MiLB team name of all (in my opinion).
1. Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Southern League, Double A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, From Jacksonville, Florida
That’s right. There is a team named the Jumbo Shrimp. They became the Jumbo Shrimp recently, after being named the Jacksonville Suns since 1991. The rebrand has made two things possible. The first being there is a Minor League Baseball owner (Ken Babby) that owns both the RubberDucks and the Jumbo Shrimp. The second being there will be a matchup between the Montgomery Biscuits and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp to see which is the superior food of the southern United States. A Jumbo Shrimp versus Biscuits showdown is a match made in heaven (and in southern restaurants) and is sure to be a promotions extravaganza. The Jumbo Shrimp will also be doing marketing and promotions revolving around their new identity, mostly with their concessions menu. You can only hope the menu is put together by the ghost of Bubba from Forrest Gump.
One team I'm sure would make the list, but hasn't picked a team name yet is the soon to be former Staten Island Yankees, the Short-Season A affiliate of the New York Yankees. They are currently in the middle of a rebrand and have wrapped up their name the team contest. The finalists to be the next name are the Bridge Trolls, Pizza Rats, Killer Bees, Heroes or Rock Pigeons. If the Staten Island team uses Bridge Trolls, Pizza Rats or Rock Pigeons, it would be safe to say they deserve a spot on this list (with Pizza Rats competing for the number one spot).
Minor League Baseball has some whacky team names and logos, but all points aside the industry is fantastic. If you haven’t been to a Minor League Baseball game before, check it out. It will be worth the ticket price (usually $12 or less) and you will have fun doing more than just watch baseball. The marketing, promotions and other entertaining things going on during the game make it a true experience. Not to mention, the people who work to make the games go round are some of the hardest working people in the sports industry. Remember that when you checkout the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp take on the Montgomery Biscuits or the Akron RubberDucks face off against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.