Since 1967, the Florida State League franchise had gone by the name of "Tigers," a simple reference to its parent club. On Saturday, the team unveiled their new name and new logo as part of a Veterans Day celebration at Tigertown USA, Detroit's Spring Training facility.
The name "Flying Tigers" refers to Tigertown's roots as a World War II training site for American and British pilots. Between 1940 and 1945, the Lakeland School of Aeronautics graduated more 8,000 aspiring airmen, many of whom went on to complete dangerous missions in the skies of Europe and Asia.
Specifically, the name "Flying Tigers" refers to a group of American fighter pilots who fought against the Japanese in Burma and China in 1942. This elite group of flyers painted red shark teeth on the noses of their aircraft, which even today are symbolic of the United States' success during World War II.
Accordingly, the team's new logo features the head of a fang-baring Tiger surrounded by a pilot's wings. The uniforms include a patch featuring a P-40 fighter jet and the words "Tigertown USA," and the color of the road uniform has been switched from the traditional gray to a military tan.
Additionally, new Manager Kevin Bradshaw will wear a special cap designating his status as "commander," while the club's pitchers will have a star added to their cap for each win they accumulate.
Lakeland's new emphasis on its aviation and World War II roots will extend to the fan experience as well. The Flying Tigers' Joker Marchant Stadium will be decorated with images of Flying Tiger planes, and the club will play big band music and honor military personnel during games. Opening Day 2007 should be one to remember, as pre-game festivities will include a dogfight over Joker Marchant Stadium featuring P-40 fighter planes.
The Flying Tigers' image makeover was the work of Plan B Branding, a San Diego-based "ideas company" which also helped overhaul the look of the FSL's Clearwater franchise prior to the 2004 season.
"Tigertown is one of the most unique destinations in all of Minor League Baseball," said Plan B's Jason Klein. "When visiting there, it really feels like you're going back in time. Focusing on World War II and the golden age of flight is a great way to connect with the team's fan base while letting everyone know about the history of Tigertown."<
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.