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VISALIA, Calif. -- Tulare County's only professional sports franchise unveiled a brand new look today, as the ballclub officially became "The Visalia Rawhide."
The name change, along with a sweeping rebranding of club logos, colors, mascot and uniforms, and the renovation of Recreation Ballpark, represents the start of a new era for the 63-year-old ballclub.
"Minor League Baseball has become the most popular form of family entertainment in the country," said club president Tom Seidler. "The new golden age of the true national pastime has been spearheaded by modern facilities and a heightened level of family entertainment. The ballclub identity plays a critical role in our goal of becoming the premier summer entertainment option in Visalia and the surrounding communities."
The club spent more than two years soliciting input from fans, players, and others in the industry for ideas on everything from the name to the colors to the mascot. Hundreds of names were discussed, but ultimately "Rawhide" was chosen for several reasons:
Original (the first sports team to use the nickname)
"We wanted to create a whole new identity that the people of this city could rally around and be proud of," Seidler said. And in "Rawhide," he feels they have found such a moniker. "We really feel that this name gives us a greater range of themes and tie-ins with the local community," he said. "It invokes the agriculture and dairy industries' prominence in Tulare County, it's fun and family-oriented, and it even comes with a ready-made theme song. Not to mention that 'Rawhide' has always been a slang word in baseball; both baseballs and baseball gloves are made of rawhide. We also like the way it gives a nod of respect to another local sports institution -- the historic Cowhide football rivalry. We believe it all ties in very nicely, and we think it's going to be great fun for everyone involved. And that's the bottom line."
The new name continues a growing team trend of celebrating the dairy industry at Recreation Park. Dairy Day has become a top annual event, and has attracted articles and attention from ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated. The new Land O' Lakes Cowbell Section, (a group of 30 seats that each includes a free cowbell with ticket purchase) has been featured on Minor League Baseball's Business Blog. And when the current renovation project is completed by the end of the calendar year, a large red barn will sit beyond the right-center field fence, serving both as a groundskeeper's shed and a salute to the industry that provides the lifeblood of Tulare County.
After receiving national attention for their promotions over the last two years, the Rawhide are poised to capture even more eyeballs with their bold new look. The club worked closely with Dan Simon, the most prolific creator of Minor League identities in the country. "Dan has created dozens of identities for professional sports teams, California League Class A Advanced affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as Superbowl logos, but we think his creative designs here are among his best work," said Seidler. "The Rawhide script and Branded-V logos accomplish what we intended: a strong look for both the players on the field, a proud representation of Visalia, and a fun look for the ballclub."
The re-branding coincides with the opening of the newly renovated Recreation Ballpark next season, which will feature a new Hall of Fame Club: an air-conditioned banquet center in which the team plans to create displays to pay tribute to past players and coaches who came through Visalia, as well as local players who made their way to stardom by way of baseball. The Visalia ballclub is one of the oldest members of the Class A Advanced California League, with its origins dating to 1946. The club often bore the name of its Major League affiliate before settling on "Oaks," which led to eight names over six decades of baseball (Cubs, Stars, Redlegs, Athletics, White Sox, Mets, Rockies, and Oaks). The common element throughout the different nicknames has been the geographic name of the club -- Visalia has been the club name listed in the Cal League standings for all but two of those years.
Meanwhile, construction on the ballpark renovations began in April and is scheduled for completion in advance of Opening Day (April 16, 2009). Other additions include new concessions and a new merchandise store. A grass berm seating space, where families can spread out a beach blanket and watch a ballgame, will also debut, as well as a kids' play area that will include a whiffle ball field, speed pitch, picnic table seating and a host of inflatable games. Renovated skyboxes, new team dugouts, and a re-laid playing surface will round out the myriad of positive changes at the ballpark by Opening Day.
Armed with a buzz of both tradition and novelty, the Rawhide are poised to enjoy one of the most exciting and eagerly anticipated seasons in their six-decade history.
History of Visalia ballclub names
1910-1911: Visalia Pirates