With Tarpons, Tampa throws back to the future

Yankees-owned affiliate assumes unique upright aquatic identity

After 24 seasons as the Yankees, Tampa's Florida State League entry has changed its name to that of a formidable fish: the Tarpons.

By Benjamin Hill / MiLB.com | December 11, 2017 10:00 AM

Tampa's Florida State League club announced a new name and logos Monday, a throwback moniker in honor of a throwback fish: the Tarpons have returned.

The rechristened Tampa Tarpons spent the past 24 seasons -- all of their existence -- as the Yankees. The Class A Advanced Florida State League club is owned by the New York Yankees and plays at the Yankees' Spring Training home of George M. Steinbrenner Field. Its strong connection to the Yankees franchise remains; the rebranding announced Monday represents an attempt to differentiate Tampa from its parent club while celebrating the city's long baseball history.

From 1957-87, Tampa fielded an FSL team named the Tarpons. Tarpons are a favorite of Florida fishermen due to their large size -- upward of eight feet long -- but usually are released back into the water as they are difficult to clean and cook. The previous incarnation of the Tarpons was a Cincinnati Reds affiliate for most of its 31 seasons, and notable alumni include many members of the fabled Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s.


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"We wanted to establish our own identity that connected us with the Tampa community and its baseball history," said general manager Vance Smith.

The Tarpons logo unveiled Monday, designed by Louisville-based Studio Simon, was inspired in part by a 1970s-era Tampa Tarpons logo. The fish is depicted in an upright position, resting a baseball bat on its right shoulder in front of a pinstriped background that recalls the iconic look of the Yankees.

"The goals were to connect with the fans and the community and also the rich history of baseball in Tampa," said Dan Simon, head of Studio Simon. "[The new logo] was very much based on previous iterations, but if the artwork does that while bringing something new, then you're hitting on all cylinders."

"We chose to work with Studio Simon because he was familiar with our league -- he's recently worked with Daytona and Bradenton, among others," said Smith. "He understood our organization and what we wanted to achieve in creating our new identity. He made the relationship feel more like a partnership instead of a just directing us on what our identity should be."

One of the nicknames for the tarpon is "bucketmouth," a reference to their broad mouths. When this formidable feature is in a closed position, the lower jaw protrudes outward from the rest of the face. Simon said he tried to depict these physical characteristics in his rendering, although some aspects had to be compromised.

"In previous iterations of the Tarpons logo, all of its scales were drawn in," Simon added. "But how do you make that embroiderable? So that was the question: How do you render him in a manner that works in the world of sports today? Not just the embroidery but with so many different applications. On smartphones, sometimes the logo is the size of a dime. So, you need to simplify."

The Tarpons' typography is done in what Simon referred to as the "dog bone effect." The letters are wider on the ends than they are in the middle; the three middle letters are laid atop the vertical depiction of the tarpon.

"It's the tail that lets you know this is a fish, especially when it's standing upright," Simon said. "It was necessary to cover as little of its body as possible."

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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