It's been an offseason of change for Scranton Wilkes-Barre's Triple-A franchise.
In September, the International League club announced that it had switched its Major League affiliation from the Philadelphia Phillies to the New York Yankees. To commemorate this momentous occurrence, the team announced on Tuesday that it would be changing its name from the Red Barons to -- what else? -- the Yankees.
The announcement, which took place at an evening reception held at Lackawanna County Stadium, put an end to months of speculation over what the new name of the franchise would be. Team officials considered many monikers, including "Highlanders," "Bombers" and "Clippers," before deciding that the most obvious choice was also the best.
"It's a rare opportunity to be able to use the most marketable name in all of professional sports," said Mike Cummings, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's director of media relations. "We're grateful that we had the chance to do so."
The choice of the name "Yankees" was certainly made easier by the region's enthusiastic response to the affiliation switch. The club has already sold a record number of season-ticket packages, virtually insuring that the 2007 season will see the highest attendance figures in the 18-year history of the franchise.
However, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area is also home to many fans of the Phillies and New York Mets, who may be less than enthused by the new name.
"Sure, some people may be buying tickets in order to root against us, but that's not necessarily a bad thing," said Cummings. "There's nothing wrong with a little rivalry."
The new name will also be accompanied by a new look. The team's uniforms will feature the iconic Yankee pinstripes, and the hat will include a stylized "SWB" modeled after the parent club's interlocking "NY."
Of course, it's no coincidence that the announcement of the franchise's new name occurred in the midst of the holiday season.
"Our team shop is fully stocked," said Cummings. "We expect Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees apparel to be at the top of many Christmas lists."
Tuesday's announcement also marked the first public appearance by New York Yankees officials at Lackawanna County Stadium, including President Randy Levine, General Manager Brian Cashman, General Partner Steve Swindal and COO Lonn Trost. Prior to the event, the four were treated to a private tour of the stadium, which is currently undergoing a conversion from artificial turf to natural grass.
Despite all the changes the franchise has undergone, one particular claim to fame will endure. Consisting of 26 letters, the team's name remains the longest in all of professional baseball.