Suns set in Jacksonville; Jumbo Shrimp rise
In Jacksonville, the Suns are no longer. In their place, rising from the briny deep, are the Jumbo Shrimp.
The Jumbo Shrimp name and logos were announced at a press conference in Jacksonville on Wednesday morning, officially ending the long-running "Suns" moniker. The Double-A Southern League franchise, which first used the Suns name in 1962, is currently the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
In a break from established Minor League Baseball rebranding protocol, Jacksonville's announcement was not preceded by any sort of "Name the Team" contest and subsequent fan vote. Ken Babby, who bought the team from Jacksonville baseball icon Pedro Bragan prior to the 2015 season, said the decision to rebrand was made after "quiet conversations with local officials and community leaders."
Babby has experience with this process. He purchased the Akron Aeros following the 2012 season and changed that team's name to the RubberDucks prior to the 2014 campaign. That rebranding, as with the Jumbo Shrimp, was done in concert with San Diego-based design firm Brandiose.
"We came into the process trying to learn about Jacksonville, building trust and trying to get a feel for what northeast Florida is all about," said Babby. "This is a town surrounded by water, with the ocean 30 minutes away and the St. John's River running through the middle. That's a huge part of the theme of this great community, and we started the process there. We brought Brandiose in, and the rest is history."
The primary Jumbo Shrimp logo features the oxymoronic crustacean contorting his muscular frame so that it resembles the letter "J." Alternate marks include the Jumbo Shrimp clutching the state of Florida and emerging determinedly from a boiling pot of water. The home jersey lettering features a rolling streak of blue through the city's name, representing the St. John's River, with a Jumbo Shrimp antennae emerging from the "J."
"As we roll out the brand, the uniforms and everything that goes with it, the community will see for the very first time what Jumbo Shrimp are all about," said Babby. "We have five different uniforms, and there are lots of subtleties. The colors are St. John's Navy, Patriotic Blue and All-American Red.... I think my favorite is the red cap we'll wear on Friday nights, which has two meanings. It's an homage to the history of the Negro Leagues in Jacksonville, the team here was the Jacksonville Red Caps. And then every Friday night is 'Red Shirt Friday,' honoring the military. So I'm excited about that, celebrating the community's military history."
The Jumbo Shrimp name will take some getting used to within this tradition-bound baseball community. Babby previously weathered the uproar that accompanied Akron's switch to RubberDucks, and he's prepared to see that process through in Jacksonville.
"We perfectly understand that change is hard. It's a journey, one we've seen play out before," he said. "We're not turning our back on the great history of this team. We're still proud of our great players, and the championships won. It's time to start a new chapter."
That chapter will involve the incorporation of "Jumbo Shrimp" into nearly all aspects of the fan experience, including, of course, the concessions.
"We'll have a whole range of culinary choices, and we'll certainly have shrimp boils," said Babby. "Where better than the ballpark to gather, enjoy a great meal and celebrate life? Our mission is great affordable family friendly entertainment. That's what we're about, and what could be more fun than what we're announcing today?"
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.