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New season, new looks for some teams

Rebranding efforts, relocations mean big changes across Minors in '15
March 6, 2015

The 2014-15 Minor League rebranding season was a four-month affair, during which 11 teams announced new identities and/or logos. The Tennessee Smokies kicked things off in late October, and it all came to a conclusion when the Frisco RoughRiders unveiled their new Teddy Roosevelt-inspired logo set on Feb. 26. In between, a dizzying array of oft-cartoonish flora and fauna was unleashed unto the world.

With the dust settled and the merchandise on the team-store shelves, now is a good time to offer a recap of the myriad changes that took place on the Minor League landscape. What follows is a brief overview of each team that will be sporting a new logo, look or location in 2015.

Date: Oct. 22, 2014
Team: Tennessee Smokies
Occurrence: New logos and uniforms
Designer: Studio Simon
The Smokies kicked off the 2014-15 rebranding season in late October, when the Chicago Cubs' Double-A affiliate ushered in the era of the bear. Though the team's previous logo featured a silhouette of the Great Smoky Mountain range, the new marks emphasized a blue bat-wielding, somewhat perturbed-looking bear.
He said it: "The partnership with the Cubs is important to us. It made sense to go to their colors, as the Cubs are one of the biggest brands in the country and we wanted to make a long-term commitment." -- Smokies general manager Brian Cox

Date: Nov. 20, 2014
Team: San Antonio Missions
Occurrence: New logos and uniforms
Designer: Brandiose
Whenever a Minor League team hires Brandiose, it's a good bet that one of their new logos will feature a team mascot in the act of swinging, or at the very least, brandishing a bat. The honors here go to iconic Missions mascot Ballapeno, who does so while wearing a Davy Crockett-style coonskin cap. The Texas references don't stop there; the "M" in the primary logo features a mission bell ringing, while the baseball blazing through the "since 1888" wordmark is meant to symbolize cannon fire from the Alamo.
He said it: "We just thought it was time to freshen things up and come up with a new look. We changed logos back when we moved into our current home [of Wolff Stadium] in 1994, so it had been 21 years." -- Missions president Burl Yarbrough.

Date: Nov. 24, 2014
Team: Biloxi Shuckers
Occurrence: Name and identity of new franchise revealed
Designer: Brandiose
The Biloxi Shuckers are playing their first season in 2015, having relocated from Huntsville, Alabama. (The team's stadium may not open until June however.) "Shuckers," a reference to Biloxi's seafood industry, was chosen over Beacon, Blackjacks, Mullets, Schooners and Shrimpers in a "Name the Team" contest. Coastal imagery predominates, from the scowling oyster in the primary logo to an alternate mark featuring a lighthouse.
He said it: "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." -- Shuckers general manager Buck Rogers.

Date: Dec. 3, 2014
Team: Oklahoma City Dodgers
Occurrence: New team name and identity
Designer: Los Angeles Dodgers' graphic design department
In September, the Pacific Coast League team known as the Oklahoma City Redhawks was purchased by a group headed by Los Angeles Dodgers minority owner Peter Gruber; an affiliation between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles was part of the purchase agreement. This new reality was made known via the December announcement that the RedHawks would buck prevailing operating strategies and revert to the name of the parent club.
He said it: "We did a deep dive into all of our options, and after extensive brainstorming, we came to the conclusion that the Dodgers are one of the best brands in baseball. To connect with that brand made the most sense to all of us." -- Oklahoma City Dodgers president and general manager Michael Byrnes.

Date: Dec. 4, 2014
Team: South Bend Cubs
Occurrence: New team name and logos
Designer: Studio Simon
Oklahoma City wasn't the only team this offseason to change from a unique moniker to that of the parent club. The South Bend Silver Hawks announced a new affiliation with the Chicago Cubs in September, and upon doing so, also announced they would now be known as the South Bend Cubs. Three months later, the team unveiled new Cubs logos that incorporate typeset reminiscent of those used by the Sound Bend-based Studebaker car company.
He said it: "We're going to make sure that [Cubs] players and also the fans in this region see the connection very clearly. This is a Cubs team -- South Bend Cubs to be sure -- but Cubs, no question about it." -- South Bend Cubs owner Andrew Berlin.

Date: Dec. 4, 2014
Team: Daytona Tortugas
Occurrence: New team name and logos
Designer: Studio Simon
After the Chicago Cubs opted not to renew their 22-year affiliation, the Daytona Cubs were in need of a new name. The Florida State League franchise opted for Tortugas, (Spanish for "turtle"), in honor of the sea turtles that are prevalent in the region. The announcement of the new name was accompanied by a set of Studio Simon-designed logos featuring a sly conspiratorial bat-wielding turtle.
He said it: "Sea turtles are common here. You can find them up and down the beach line. Their nesting season runs parallel to the baseball season and that adds to the continuity of it." -- Tortugas general manager Josh Lawther.

Date: Dec. 5, 2015
Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Occurrence: New logos
Designer: Brandiose
The Pawtucket Red Sox have been the biggest story of the offseason, but for reasons that have nothing to do with their new logo (last month, the team was acquired by a new ownership group that includes the Boston Red Sox). Lost in the shuffle was a December rebranding featuring what the team calls a "celebratory polar bear." The same bear also appears on the home cap, albeit in "scarier fashion." Maybe he suffers from bi-polar disorder?
He said it: The Pawtucket Red Sox front office did not comment on the rebranding effort. But here's an instructive observation from's Sam Dykstra: "The Pawtucket Red Sox, commonly called the PawSox, have put the emphasis back on the Paw and less so on the Sox."

Date: Jan. 21, 2015
Team: Nashville Sounds
Occurrence: New logos
Designer: Brandiose
The Nashville Sounds are moving into a new stadium in 2015, and with the new stadium comes a new look. The Sounds are paying homage to Nashville's "Music City" legacy via a guitar pick primary logo, and one of the alternate logos references the team's famous guitar-shaped scoreboard. The color scheme was initially orange and black but changed to red after negative fan reaction to the new hues.
He said it: "I think people have gotten the idea that [company co-founder] Casey [White] and I go in to places and get messy with the paint bucket, coming up with wild and crazy names and being irreverent. But it depends on the vision of the club. I think that this is something that feels classic and Major League, yet still has its own unique story to tell." -- Brandiose co-founder Jason Klein

Date: Feb. 6, 2015
Team: Pulaski Yankees
Occurrence: New name, logos
After the Mariners organization left Pulaski, the Yankees swept in and assumed parent club status. Following Appalachian League protocol -- all of the teams are named after the parent club -- the Pulaski Yankees were born. The team's two new logos tweak those of their big league counterparts.
He said it: "These designs are significant to the Yankees organization and we're proud to be representing them at Calfee Park." -- Pulaski general manager Mike Fintel

Date: Feb. 18, 2015
Team: West Virginia Black Bears
Occurrence: New logos for a new team
Designer: Rickabaugh Graphics
The West Virginia Black Bears are entering their inaugural campaign, having relocated from Jamestown, New York, where they were known as the Jammers. The Morgantown-based New York-Penn League franchise announced its name in October; some four months later, they unveiled the logos that bring the identity to life. The black, gold and blue color scheme references the parent Pittsburgh Pirates, while the black bear and mountainous background is a nod to the West Virginia's natural resources and wildlife.
He said it: "[The logo] is symbolic of so many touchstones for this team. It was a daunting task, pulling it all together, coming up with a logo that represented all of those things." -- Jonathan Dandes, president of Rich Baseball operations. (Rich Baseball, based in Buffalo, owns the Black Bears as well as the Buffalo Bisons and Northwest Arkansas Naturals.)

Date: Feb. 26, 2015
Team: Frisco RoughRiders
Occurrence: New logos
Designer: Brandiose
A new ownership group headed by Chuck Greenberg (State College Spikes, Myrtle Beach Pelicans) officially assumed control of the RoughRiders in August 2014. One of their first orders of business was to give the team a makeover, via a Teddy Roosevelt-inspired logo set that makes explicit the origin of the team's RoughRiders name.
He said it: "We're all in on the 26th president of the United States. We're going to explore every single avenue we can and have a lot of fun with this new brand. That what's Minor League Baseball is all about and we're going to push the limits on that, no doubt." -- RoughRiders general manager Jason Dambach.

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.