IronBirds soaring into 2022 with updated look
The Aberdeen IronBirds are going back to the future. Entering their 20th season, the High-A IronBirds unveiled a new look for 2022 that takes a page from the franchise’s original identity while creating a fresh image for the next generation of Aberdeen baseball. “We call him Ace the Jet, and
The Aberdeen IronBirds are going back to the future.
Entering their 20th season, the High-A IronBirds unveiled a new look for 2022 that takes a page from the franchise’s original identity while creating a fresh image for the next generation of Aberdeen baseball.
“We call him Ace the Jet, and he is fairly reminiscent of our first logo from back in 2002,” IronBirds general manager Jack Graham said. “A big component of why we’re doing this now is because 2022 is going to not only be the 20th anniversary of our first season, but because we missed a year in 2020, it’ll be the 20th season. We can get sort of a two-for-one there.”
Ordinarily season totals and anniversary celebrations are a year apart, but with the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, the IronBirds sought to take advantage of a unique moment in their franchise history. The redesign of their visual suite didn’t start just last year, though. It began with the addition of in-house graphic designer Kevin Jimenez from the Brooklyn Cyclones.
“KJ is probably the single most talented graphic designer in Minor League Baseball,” Graham said. “I’d put him up against any team employee or any agency. We’re lucky we were able to do that.”
Shortly after Jimenez joined the IronBirds in 2018, he was tasked with revamping the team’s brand.
“He took inspiration from the original logo,” Graham explained. “He took inspiration from the Orioles’ script that runs across the front of their jerseys. He took inspiration from the trends that have been happening in Minor League Baseball with really fun, friendly looking logos like the [Rocket City] Trash Pandas and [Montgomery] Biscuits and [Akron] RubberDucks and [Jacksonville] Jumbo Shrimp, all of those brands that are making a splash across the country in terms of merchandise and awareness and brand recognition, but he made it our own.”
The result is a new anthropomorphic fighter jet that looks as at home as a Minor League logo as it would in a Pixar movie. Streaking through a script “A,” the plane also features an “A” on its tail. That's a nod not only to the city it calls home but also the franchise’s original logo, which sported an “8” in the same spot in honor of owner Cal Ripken Jr.
“Ace the Jet came out of an offhand logo that [Jimenez] created looking at the old logo,” Graham said. “He said, ‘You know what? I want to create a new version of that old logo and start using him.’ We created Ace the Jet without that necessarily being the original plan for our future primary logo. We put him on some staff polo shirts, put him on some promotional material, and fans responded well to it.”
The mood of the IronBirds’ color scheme has been lightened, too. Charcoal is out. Light blue, royal blue and the orange of the team’s parent club are in.
In contrast to a longstanding trend across sports of logos looking meaner and more aggressive, Minor League teams have begun creating logo identities that project a more fun, friendly image befitting the product they put out night after night in spring and summer months at ballparks across the country.
“We’re not trying to be intimidating,” Graham said. “We’re not trying to have our logo be something that stands up against other logos in terms of ‘We’re angrier than you, we’re stronger than you.’ We’re trying to be family-friendly, and we’re trying to draw a new generation of fans. I think that people will be much more willing -- men, women or children -- to put this logo who’s friendly and approachable and generally representative of our community on a shirt or a hat or something like that, rather than having it be something that needs to be worn to a sporting event where you’re going to win.”
Aberdeen last changed logos ahead of the 2013 campaign, opting for a more menacing, futuristic bird as its centerpiece. This past season, the IronBirds moved up from the short-season ranks for the first time to become Baltimore’s High-A affiliate.
Owned by one of the greatest Orioles of all time and located just 35 miles northeast of Camden Yards, the IronBirds aimed to keep their franchise ties evident for the landmark season.
“We wanted to remain something that’s identifiable to Orioles fans and to Birdland, but have it be our own fresh identity and not lean on the black and the gray and the orange as much as we have in the past,” Graham said. “We’re just excited for what this will bring for us in terms of the 20th anniversary because there will be a special 20th anniversary logo as well that will appear on merchandise and giveaways.”
The IronBirds worked in conjunction with the Orioles to nail their new script wordmark, evoking that of their parent club with everything from the proper angle of the script’s tilt to the thickness of its font to the kerning of its letters.
“[The Orioles] are such great partners on the field, it only made sense to engage them off the field with our branding and make sure that we’re still letting people know that we love them, they love us, and we’re all one big bird family,” Graham said.
Tyler Maun is a reporter for MiLB.com and co-host of “The Show Before The Show” podcast. You can find him on Twitter @tylermaun.