New Orleans 'Crawdaddy's' come to life

Baby Cakes change name in honor of Azaria's 'Brockmire'

The New Orleans' Baby Cakes suited up as the Crawdaddy's on Tuesday, inspiring at least one fan to dress up for the game.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | May 3, 2018 10:00 AM

In season two of IFC's Brockmire, the titular character (played by Hank Azaria) works as the home broadcaster for the New Orleans Crawdaddy's. The Crawdaddy's -- yes, the name features unaccountably incorrect apostrophe usage -- are a fictional entity. But earlier this week, they briefly became reality.

The New Orleans Baby Cakes -- Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins -- suited up as the Crawdaddy's for May 1's Brockmire Night, a celebration of the offbeat and oft-raunchy baseball-centric comedy. In this regard, it was similar to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans' 2016 Mermen promotion, with the Pelicans assuming the identity of the team that Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) played for in season three of HBO's Eastbound and Down.

The Baby Cakes' one-night-only rebranding had a clear New Orleans tie-in, as the second season takes place within the Crescent City. But the promotion began to take shape over a year ago, well before the New Orleans Crawdaddy's were a Brockmire plot point. As is so often the case these days, it all began with a tweet. 

"It was April 17 [2017]. I was sitting on the couch watching Brockmire," said Baby Cakes corporate sales executive Trevor Johnson, the driving force behind the promotion. "It was probably the third episode. I'm watching it, like, 'This show's hilarious!' So, I sent out a tweet, 'Hey, how can I get Hank Azaria, as Brockmire, to come PA a game?' I included Sazerac, because that's his drink of choice and Sazerac is from New Orleans.

"Hours after that, I got a response from Blake Callaway. 'IFC wants to help.' He's an executive vice president with IFC, so we went from there. We started sending emails back and forth. ... A couple months later, we emailed again. He had introduced me to other marketing people within IFC. It ramped up, and eventually he told us that Brockmire would be taking a job with the New Orleans Crawdaddy's." 

Johnson's initial tweet proved prescient, but there were still decisions to be made and hurdles to be cleared.

"My original thought was that we'd wear Brockmire jerseys," Johnson said. "He's known for his plaid jacket, so let's do a plaid-jacket jersey. I pitched the idea [to IFC], but they said it was more about bringing the show to life, so us actually being the Crawdaddy's. They sent us the logo, but then it was, 'OK, but the Hickory Crawdads exist.'"

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Indeed, the Hickory Crawdads are the Class A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Johnson and Baby Cakes assistant general manager Bob Moullette reached out to Minor League Baseball, based in St. Petersburg, Florida, and received approval to use the Crawdaddy's name so long as the Hickory Crawdads approved. The Crawdads' front office said that they were OK with it, but since the team had just been bought by the Texas Rangers, approval was needed from them as well.

"I'm thinking, 'Oh, man. All these hoops to jump through,'" Johnson said.

The negotiations continued on several fronts as the Baby Cakes worked with IFC and Minor League Baseball to establish both the specifics of the uniform and the overall parameters of the promotion. It wasn't always easy, but it all worked out in the end.

Tweet from @cakesbaseball: Don���t forget to watch the Season 2 premiere of @BrockmireIFC tonight on @IFC, and come out May 1st as the ���Cakes transform into the Crawdaddy���s for Brockmire Night! pic.twitter.com/o2qUSuJotJ

"We got permission from IFC to sell [Crawdaddy's] shirts. We put the shirts online, and during the presale we sold half of our inventory before the night of the game. Then we knew right away it was going to be a fun night," Johnson said.

While Azaria wasn't able to make it to the game, he sent along prerecorded baseball calls that the Baby Cakes were able to employ at appropriate moments in the ballgame. IFC contributed Brockmire tumblers that were distributed to fans, as well as several Hank Azaria autographed baseballs that the team used as raffle prizes. Despite Brockmire's penchant for off-color remarks and degenerate behavior, all of Azaria's contributions to the promotion were as family-friendly as anything associated with the show could be. 

Tweet from @cakesbaseball: Tonight is @BrockmireIFC night at the Shrine! The 'Cakes will be wearing these special Crawdaddy's jerseys which will be available for purchase via online auction starting tonight. Visit the link below at 7 PM to place your bid! Don't miss out! https://t.co/R41TH1h8eQ pic.twitter.com/vwSukmXAns

The Crawdaddy's jerseys that the Baby Cakes players wore on Tuesday night are currently being auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting New Orleans' American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. That auction won't end until the Crawdaddy's make a second on-field appearance, however. On June 15, it will be Crawdaddy's vs. Tacos, with both New Orleans and opposing Fresno assuming alter egos.

"It took over a year, and a lot of back and forth with email and phone calls, but we pulled it off," Johnson said. "It was a lot of fun to put together."

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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