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Startup named Moniker Madness champion04/11/2008 10:18 AM ET
By Benjamin Hill
In a perfect world, the winner of MiLB.com's annual Minors Moniker Madness contest would be given the opportunity to deliver an acceptance speech in front of a nationwide television audience.
If that were the case, Padres pitching prospect Will Startup would stand at the podium and give heartfelt thanks to his hometown of Cartersville, Ga.
Thanks to a massive and unrelenting wave of local support, Startup emerged victorious in this year's Minors Moniker Madness contest. As the proud recipient of the 2008 Wonderful Terrific Monds III Award, he is able to officially claim that he has the best name in all of Minor League Baseball.
Startup, a left-handed reliever with the Pacific Coast League's Portland Beavers, defeated six opponents en route to the championship. In the Finals, he received 56 percent of the votes in a hard-fought and hotly contested victory over 21-year-old Oakland A's prospect Dusty Napoleon. Over 100,000 votes were cast in this year's tournament, including more than 27,000 in the final round.
This year marked the second time in a row that Startup made it to the finals. In 2007, however, he went down in defeat to Diamondbacks catching prospect Houston Summers. The people of Cartersville, Ga., weren't about to let that happen again.
"I think the amount of support Houston Summers got from his hometown last year caught us all by surprise," said Startup during a congratulatory phone call. "This year, that was definitely the case with me. I got a lot of help from the people back home."
One person in particular led the charge.
"My mom is the head nurse at Reinhardt College and she was contacting everyone she could think of," said Startup. "I think there might have been a few campus-wide emails that were sent out."
While Startup was unwavering in his desire to win it all this year, he emerged from the contest with a deep respect for many of his fellow Minors Moniker Madness contestants.
"My favorite name in the contest was Benito Beato," he said. "And I also thought Cirilo Cumberbatch was great. I had the opportunity to play with Brooks Dunn in Spring Training, and Callix Crabbe is with the Padres as well."
"When I went up against Winter Polo [in the third round], I really thought that he would have a shot. And [Final Four opponent] Rowdy Hardy was a good one, too, although I was upset to find out that Rowdy wasn't his given name."
Despite the magnitude of his accomplishment, Startup doesn't have any grandiose victory plans.
"I don't think any celebrations are in order," he said. "But it would be funny to get a plaque or something like that. Then maybe I could slip it in the team trophy cabinet, right next to 'Coach of the Year' and 'Minor League Player of the Year.'"
But, of course, the real business at hand for Startup is to make sure that he's ready for the 2008 season. He is currently on the disabled list due to elbow inflammation, but is slated to be activated shortly. When he's called on to make his season debut in Portland, a familiar ditty by the Rolling Stones will accompany his entrance.
"'Start Me Up' is my come-out song," he said. "It's certainly appropriate, and I have to admit it really gets the adrenaline going."
"What can I say? I'm proud of my name."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.