This past October, Bowling Green Baseball announced that the name of the region's brand-new South Atlantic League team would be -- drumroll, please -- the Hot Rods.
This unique moniker, which alludes to Bowling Green's automotive industry, was chosen by the fans as part of a "Name the Team" contest. The name was selected from a bevy of other options, including Sparkplugs, Mammoths and (my personal favorite) Cave Shrimp.
For the Bowling Green front office, choosing a name was the easy part. The real difficulty lies in establishing the team's identity, and marketing it to a fan base that is largely unfamiliar with the atmosphere and culture of Minor League Baseball. To that end, general manager Brad Taylor (formerly of the Trenton Thunder) and his staff are in the process of implementing a wide range of automotive-themed innovations at the Hot Rods' yet-to-be-completed downtown ballpark. In order to do this most effectively, they need your help.
When the Hot Rods' team gift shop opens for business April 17, they want the walls to be decorated with license plates representing all 50 states as well as countries throughout the world.
"This has never been done in a Minor League ballpark, as far as we know," Taylor said. "But it's a perfect fit for us. There are a lot of automotive clubs in the region, and people are always visiting in order to buy Corvettes or go to the Raceway.
"The idea for this came from Chase Elliott, our stadium operations assistant. He collects license plates, and he said 'How about we decorate the store with them?' It was an easy idea to say yes to, so we put a message on our Web site asking people to send us their plates."
The Hot Rods were met with an enthusiastic response, and the club has already collected more than 25 plates from altruistic car lovers. Their work is far from done, however.
"It will be tough to get Alaska and Hawaii, and we're also hoping to get plates that have messages that are funny or maybe even baseball-related," said Taylor. "Eventually, whenever we have celebrity guests at the ballpark, it would be great to get them to autograph a license plate from whatever state that they're from."
Of course, once the Hot Rods are up and running, the license-plate themed gift shop will be just one of many ways in which the team celebrates car culture. The club's still-unannounced mascot will most likely be automotive in nature and Taylor envisions a regular "Hot Rod of the Night" promotion, in which classic cars will be displayed at the ballpark. In fact, the playing field has been designed with an extra-wide warning track, so that cars of all kinds may be driven around the perimeter of the field without damaging the playing surface.
While it goes without saying that crafting a coherent and easily marketable identity is integral to a team's success, an equally big priority for Taylor and his staff is simply to educate the region's residents on what can be expected from the Minor League Baseball experience.
"This is an area that hasn't had Minor League Baseball in the modern era, so a lot of people don't really know what we're all about," Taylor said. "The Hot Rods will be more than just about a baseball game. We're a place to hang out with the family or to have a company outing. There will be promotions, scout sleepovers, fireworks shows ... you name it. We're aiming to be a dynamic and fun entity."
If you have a license plate that you would like to contribute to the Hot Rods, call the team's office at 270-901-2121 or email Chase Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org.