When my city finally got a Triple-A baseball team last year, after jumping through all the usual hoops from bonds to sponsorships, it was time to pick a mascot suitable for West Texas. There were plenty of options, such as Desert Dawgs or Vaqueros, all worthy of a border town with a Wild West history.
Eventually, the powers that be decided the best mascot to serve our city was The El Paso… Chihuahuas.
This was met with some wonderful tweets to our local news media from area residents and ball lovers including… “Yo Queiro no thanks,” and “Oh well, at least the beer is cheap.”
Apparently, a shaky little bug-eyed dog didn’t go over with the masses at first. That was, until the first home game. After seeing the ballpark and how much kids loved “Chico” the mascot, the team’s first season was a huge success. The home games were wonderful experiences for the “dog days” of summer, including a few “Bark in the Park” bring-your-pooch nights, and the souvenir dog bowls in which they served the nachos! Yes, the little Golem of a mascot soon won over the skeptics.
One of the best things for me, however, is we got to play a nearby team with one of the best names in the game, the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Isotopes name is perfect for its New Mexico home, with the state’s contribution to the atomic and nuclear ages from Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories, the Trinity test site at the White Sands Missile Range, and the often-debated WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Project).
The name’s origin, however, comes from much different source, The Simpsons, and the fictional town of Springfield’s home team, the Isotopes. Albuquerque’s name was inspired by a famous Simpsons episode where Homer protests his beloved team’s potential move to none other than Albuquerque. There’s no “official” affiliation of the team to the series, but fans will find statues of Marge and Homer at the ballpark.
With baseball season in full swing (no pun intended), now is a fun time to take a look at a few of the other minor league teams around the county with some particularly geeky or clever team names.
Official MiLB (Minor League Baseball) teams include:
Akron RubberDucks. The name doesn’t just refer to a lovable bathtub buddy. It celebrates Akron, Ohio, as the birthplace of tire companies like Goodyear, Firestone, and other big wheels in the rubber industry.
Cedar Rapids Kernels. This is not a type for Colonels, this Iowa team’s corny name likely refers to Cedar Rapids being one of the world’s largest corn processors.
Great Falls Voyagers. The name may not sound too geeky at first, but area residents know it refers to the Mariana UFO Incident of 1950 that took place in the Montana town. This incident produced what is said to be one of the first images of a UFO sighting captured on film.
Hillsboro Hops. Oregon is the nation’s second-largest producer by volume of hop, the little green plant used to brew beer. Why not? “Brewers” is a popular name in the major leagues, and I’m pretty sure there are some sports fans happy to support this industry.
Lansing Lug Nuts. Lansing plays an important part in Michigan’s auto industry, and lug nuts are to cars and tires what hops is to beer. Small, powerful, and necessary. The team even plays in what once was called Oldsmobile Park, after the now defunct automaker.
Las Vegas 51s. Those with a true knack for the nerdier destinations know this number refers to the nearby “super-secret” Air Force Base, Area 51, in nearby Rachel, Nevada. Even those who don’t know about the site will soon figure it out, upon seeing the Roswell-style grey alien head on the team logo, one of the legendary “residents” who is said to live on the base.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Based in Springdale, the name can be attributed to the not-so-geeky designation to Arkansas as the “Natural State,” but the team is also named after the feel-good Robert Redford baseball movie, The Natural. Fans should be thankful for the name, as it beat out the second place mascot suggestion, “Thunder Chickens,” in a fan poll. The team did take on the name of this boisterous fowl for a publicity stunt one night.
Omaha Storm Chasers. Some of the coolest weather-geeks in the world are the adrenaline junkies known as storm chasers. Nebraska, where the Storm Chasers’ home field in Papillion is located, is part of one of the United States’ two major tornado alleys. According to data recorded at University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Applied Climate Sciences department, the state sees around 50 tornadoes a year. Now, its official minor league team is ready to join the hunt as well. Sure, there are teams named for storms, tornadoes, quakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes, but these are the guys who track them down with high-tech gear.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos. This name actually sounds weirder than it is. A wahoo is a fish found in the tropical and subtropical waters, including around the Florida coast. There are many teams named after regional animals (Chuckars, Bees, Flying Squirrels), but none as fun to say as “Wahoo!”
Vermont Lake Monsters. This Burlington-based team name is a tribute the American version of the Loch Ness Monster, the legendary monster of Lake Champlain, which sits on the border of Vermont and New York. The team’s mascot is also named after the monster: “Champ.”
There are also several great, geeky team names from the smaller Independent Professional Baseball Federation and other independent leagues such as the Roswell (New Mexico) Invaders (named for the Roswell, N.M. UFO crash site) and the Traverse City Beach Bums (from Michigan’s popular lakefront resort town).
Then there’s the Laredo Lemurs, named for an animal that seems to have no connection to Texas at all—at least not today. According to an article on sportslogo.net, team owners wanted a name that was kid-friendly, that no other team in the league would have, and that had something to do with Laredo. Apparently, during an archaeological dig in nearby Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, fossils of “lemur-like” creatures were found to inhabit the area about 42 million years ago. Close enough. Laredo had lemurs… and now they do once more.
I guess Chihuahuas isn’t that weird, after all.