In Biloxi, the shuck dynasty is ready to begin.
During an event held on Monday evening, Biloxi's new Southern League team announced that it will henceforth be known as the Shuckers. This name, a reference to Biloxi's thriving seafood industry, triumphed over Beacon, Blackjacks, Mullets, Schooners and Shrimpers in an online "Name the Team" contest that garnered nearly 60,000 votes.
The Shuckers, Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, will compete in MGM Park. This facility, located on a 15-acre piece of land in the Mississippi Gulf Coast city, is currently under construction, and an opening date has not yet been announced. The Shuckers are moving to Biloxi after spending the past three decades in Huntsville, Alabama, where they were known as the Stars. The arrival of the Shuckers marks the first time since 1908 that Biloxi has been home to a Minor League team, when the city was home to the Gulfport-Biloxi Sand Crabs of the long-defunct Cotton States League.
"We think that the best name rose to the top after 60,000 votes," said Shuckers general manager Buck Rogers, who held the same position with the Huntsville Stars. "People here are really passionate, especially because they haven't had baseball for such a long time. There is so much to do here -- white sand beaches, casinos -- but the seafood industry rules, and a lot of the names we received reflected that.
"A lot of upstanding and proud blue-collar people came up with these names," he continued. "And as they came in -- Schooners, Shuckers, Shrimpers -- we started understanding more and more why this is so important to them. Madison Avenue-types might say 'They named the team what?' But we're not worried about that -- this is a team for the community and we wanted the locals to have a hand in developing the brand."
The Shuckers logos were designed by Brandiose, a design firm headed by Casey White and Jason Klein. The primary logo depicts the Biloxi Shuckers name sandwiched within an oyster shell, placed atop a pair of pearl-shaped eyes. Other marks include a stylized interlocking "BS" as well as a lighthouse emblem featuring the "B" overlaid atop it.
"The Brandiose guys came to town and really got a feel for the flavors, culture and colors that are reflective of the Gulf Coast region," said Rogers. "It's a clean, crisp logo but this is just step one of the process. I can't wait until we have a mascot, and, when it comes to decorating the ballpark, the sky's the limit."
Of course, the most pressing question facing the Shuckers is just when, exactly, the team will play its first game in Biloxi. Funding for MGM Park wasn't approved by Biloxi city council until July, with construction beginning in August. The Shuckers will likely begin the 2015 campaign in Huntsville, a situation similar to that faced by the El Paso Chihuahuas last season, when they played their first homestand of the season in their old home of Tucson, Arizona.
"Will [the ballpark] be ready by Opening Day? Probably not," said Rogers. "From where I'm sitting, I'd say we'll be ready in late April or early to mid-May. We left our groundskeeper back in Huntsville, so if we have to play a homestand or two there, then the field will be ready to go. Around February 1, we'll make that decision. But I'll tell you what -- if you're going to build something in this country and you want it done fast, then this is the place to be. People here will roll their sleeves up and get things done, especially if someone says that they can't do it."
Once the Shuckers make their Biloxi debut, they will join the Mississippi Braves as the only Minor League Baseball teams operating in the state of Mississippi. The Braves, coincidentally enough, play in the town of Pearl.
"I think we'll have a nice rivalry with those guys up in Pearl," said Rogers. "Who knows? Our mascot -- maybe he won't be an oyster, maybe he'll be a pearl. The sky's the limit. I think we have a name and logo that is reflective of the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast region."