Unique team names lead to customer confusion

Throughout Minor Leagues, instances of mistaken identity abound

The West Virginia Power, Asheville Tourists and Harrisburg Senators are often mistaken for entities which they are most decidedly not.

By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com | December 21, 2017 10:00 AM

"Sorry, wrong number."

Throughout the Minor Leagues, teams are regularly contacted by individuals who are looking for completely different entities. The Lowell Spinners receive calls regarding the tour dates of veteran R&B group the Spinners; the Omaha Storm Chasers are contacted by people who are interested in literally chasing storms; the Salt Lake Bees report "we get calls about once a month from people looking to purchase bees for their own hive."

There are many more examples of this phenomenon (dozens of which are compiled in this accompanying Ben's Biz Blog post). But perhaps no team has endured more cases of mistaken identity than Pittsburgh's Class A affiliate, the West Virginia Power. Yes, they are named the Power. And, yes, they play at Appalachian Power Park. But, no, they will be unable to restore power to your house or process your electric bill.

Tweet from @wv_power: Our staff trivia name is ���Not the Power company, West Virginia Power Baseball��� for a reason!

"Good Lord, I wouldn't be able to give an accurate number on the average number of calls we get," said Power general manager Tim Mueller. "I'm sure we take one at least every day, usually multiple. Especially any time a significant storm comes through where there might be power outages, it's like 'Get ready! Here come the calls.'

"Everyone [in the front office] keeps the power company's phone number on hand, and we try to be as nice as we can be. Some people just don't understand. We have to keep saying, 'That's not us, we're a baseball team.' Now if we could figure out how to turn these phone calls into ticket packages, then we'd be in real good shape."

For Mueller, the frequent confusion is a small price to pay.

"Appalachian Power, they're a great partner of ours. I think they get a chuckle out of it, and I imagine they get a few calls meant for us at their call center," he said. "I tell them, 'You should hire us on at your call center. We're already fielding a bunch of your calls.'"

Tweet from @GoTourists: FYI- we are not the place to get tourism information for when visiting Asheville, we are not the Asheville Visitor Center, or a group for people who have visited or are visiting Asheville. Though we can recommend an affordable, family-friendly activity. 😉 https://t.co/wx5LC2Umr

Asheville, North Carolina boasts an appealing combination of scenic outdoor beauty and cultural and culinary destinations. But if you're looking to plan a visit there, don't call the Asheville Tourists.

"Next to every phone in our office, we have the number for the Asheville Visitors Center," said Tourists president Brian DeWine. "That right there tells you how many of those calls we get. In the summer, during times of peak travel, we usually get a few a day. ... Our sales reps will go straight into talking about premium seats and box seats, total sales mode. Then they'll hear 'Well, what else is there to do besides baseball?' Then its 'Oh, you want the Visitors Center. ... But we do have a game tonight!'"

"We're not named the 'Tourists' because we're a tourist destination," added DeWine of the team name that dates back to 1915. "It was because we had non-Ashevillians playing on the baseball team." 

Nonetheless, DeWine said that the Tourists, the Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, don't mind fielding calls from potential Asheville tourists.

"It gives us one minute to do a sales pitch," he said. "Obviously, they're coming to Asheville and don't know what they're going to do. So, bring it on. We wish we got more. This has been a blessing in disguise."

Tweet from @HbgSenators: Oh, Ben. We could talk for days. We are not actual Senators, we make no laws. You do not vote us into office. Also, when "bank" was in our park name, we got lots of calls about bank balances

Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania. Thus, the Harrisburg Senators' name references their city's status as the epicenter of Keystone State governance. But don't expect the Double-A Washington Nationals affiliate to be able to respond to constituent concerns.

"It happens a lot and a lot more than it used to because of Facebook," said Senators general manager Randy Whitaker. "We get all sorts of comments and questions, people needing help with various things."

Over the years, confused citizens have consulted the Senators on topics that fall way outside the expertise of an Eastern League baseball team. These include immigration issues, and in one memorable instance, a direct plea for freedom.

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"In the mail, I received a letter from a guy in prison who needed some help getting out," said Whitaker. "Somebody had told him to talk to his senators."

The Senators do their best to explain that they are simply a baseball team and play no role in the legislative process. Even so, some angry constituents are not easily dissuaded.

"Some of them still don't get it. They think we're trying to duck them, just trying to be evasive like a good politician," said Whitaker. "They don't understand why we don't want to talk. Like, 'We're the ones that elected you. You should be able to help.'"

And unlike the Tourists, the Senators don't necessarily see this persistent case of mistaken identity as a blessing in disguise.

"We'll keep taking the calls," said Whitaker. "But it's not the best way to start a sales relationship, with people who think they're talking to a politician."  

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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