Not everyone gets to live in or near a major league city but sometimes if you’re lucky enough, you get to at least experience the joys that come with having a minor league team in your backyard. I am currently one of those blessed many. I drive past Cashman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s, every day on my commute to and from work. Sure, the stadium seats fewer than 10,000 fans and the play can be charitably described as “less than crisp”, but I can park at the stadium for $5 and sit on top of the home dugout for $16 all while staring at the terrifying spacespawn that is Cosmo. It’s a good life.
What makes things even better is that something truly magical has been happening over the past decade or so in the minors: team names are getting so much better. The past year alone introduced us to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies and the New Orleans Baby Cakes. The incredibly boring and old-fashioned system of having the minor league affiliates share a team name with the parent club is dying out. The Omaha Royals became the Storm Chasers. The aforementioned Rumble Ponies were once mere Mets. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre went from Yankees to RailRiders. These are all tremendous improvements that take advantage of delightful regional quirks instead of ham-fistedly shoving the almighty brand somewhere it need not be.
With all these exciting changes being made, I am slightly worried about the White Sox falling behind in the ridiculously and wonderfully named farm team race. With the teams finally becoming worth watching due to the White Sox ultimately accepting the need to rebuild after years of denial, how do their names stand up against those of their junior varsity rivals?
Triple-A: Charlotte Knights
Well, it’s not a bad name. I’m of the opinion that the only truly bad minor league team names are ones that just copy the parent club or are a mild derivative of it. And while having your team be Knights in a place who claims “the Queen City” as a nickname is pretty clever, points are lost due to the fact that 34 other US cities claim the same nickname. The International League has some great names (Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Norfolk Tides, SWB RailRiders, Louisville Bats, Toledo Mud Hens) as well as some painfully bland ones (Indianapolis Indians, Pawtucket Red Sox, Gwinnet Braves). This leaves the Knights sitting comfortably in the middle.
Double-A: Birmingham Barons
Alliteration is always worth bonus points, so the Barons start strong straight out of the gate. And other than a brief nine year stretch as the Birmingham A’s, they’ve been the Barons as long as Birmingham has had a team (there was no team from 1976-1980). Throw in the fact that Birmingham’s Negro League franchise was the Black Barons (and the current Barons pay tribute with the annual Rickwood Classic) and you have a perfect team name despite feeling a bit out of date. That being said, the Southern League has an amazing trio of team names in the Biloxi Shuckers, the Montgomery Biscuits, and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
High A: Winston-Salem Dash
On one hand, you want to give the team all possible credit for making their name based on a punctuation mark pun. It’s incredibly nerdy and wonderful until you realize that it’s a hyphen in Winston-Salem. But the Winston-Salem Hyphens would just sound utterly ridiculous and lacks a secondary sports meaning. Personally, I preferred the Winston-Salem Warthogs but I am a simple man of simple porcine tastes. Much like the Knights, the Dash have a second division name. They aren’t the Salem Red Sox, Buies Creek Astros or Potomac Nationals but they can’t even hold a candle to the majesty of the Down East Wood Ducks.
Low A: Kannapolis Intimidators
Kannapolis’ baseball team was once the Piedmont Boll Weevils, which is one of the greatest team names I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. They remained the Boll Weevils for a mere five year stretch, becoming the Intimidators after Dale Earnhardt bought an ownership share and the team renamed itself after him. It’s original and specific to the team, so that’s good enough for me though they could use a much better logo than a hungry upper-case K. I’d even go as far as the call the Intimidators a top three South Atlantic League team name, right up there with the Asheville Tourists (aliens!) and the Augusta GreenJackets (combining the Masters and Georgia Tech into one wonderful abomination).
Advanced Rookie: Great Falls Voyagers
The Voyagers are named after a UFO incident in which 16 seconds of amateur footage was captured at Legion Park, home of the team. That’s perfect. It’s weird, it’s unique, and it’s incredibly team specific. It’s everything you could want out of your advanced rookie league team’s name. It’s right up there with the Idaho Falls Chukars and the Orem Owlz.
Lead Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports (c) 2007 Marvin Gentry