Daytona said goodbye to more than two decades of tradition and a familiar logo last winter when it unveiled a new design, name and color scheme as the Tortugas. Loyal local Cubs fans weren't completely sold on leaving behind the team they knew and grew up with.
But after weeks of voting, the Tortugas' logo and cap stand above the rest, especially among the die-hard fans in sunny Daytona Beach, Florida.
"Even some of the fans that didn't care for the name itself have come around on it locally," Daytona general manager Josh Lawther said. "They love the color scheme and the logo itself."
Tortugas fans joined with voters across the country this summer to help the Class A Advanced Reds affiliate claim victory in Clash of the Caps, a contest that let fans choose their preference in an endless succession of fun cap matchups. Riding a wave of buzz around their new cap, logo and look, the Tortugas beat out fellow Cincinnati affilate Pensacola for the top spot -- the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Nashville Sounds and Biloxi Shuckers rounded out the top-five finishers when voting wrapped up Tuesday evening.
"Definitely a tremendous honor to win such a fan-favorite vote like this through all of Minor League Baseball," Lawther said. "It's a testament to a job well done by our staff and [designer] Studio Simon when this was designed back in the fall, a testament to the support it received in local media and the local community. We're extremely honored and excited for the championship."
The team had long been known as the Daytona Cubs and sported a look similar to their parent club, with white and blue pinstriped uniforms and a blue and red cap. But when Chicago shuffled its affiliation tree over the winter, Daytona was left without an affiliate until the Reds rolled into town. The organization revealed its new look, going in a completely opposite direction without any nods to the Reds' logos, name or color scheme.
The Tortugas cap, in fact, is one of only a handful of green hats in the Minors, perhaps something that drew fans to it.
"I think a couple things are, one, the color scheme is unique in Minor League Baseball and just in the sports genre in general," said Lawther.
Lawther also said the newness of the name and logo may have helped create more excitment and interest in the logo, as was the case last year when the El Paso Chihuauas won the contest. Other clubs with new logos also fared well, including Nashville (No. 4), Biloxi (No. 5), West Virginia Black Bears (No. 16) and Frisco (No. 21).
"I think it was that -- the Chihuahuas won last year, they were new and created a buzz with their name choosing, but I'm a big fan of their logo as well," said Lawther of El Paso, which nominated an alternate cap for this year's edition. "They did pretty well themselves -- they're top 10. But we're ecstatic beyond belief."
More traditonal caps and logos also finished near the top, like Chattanooga (No. 6), Durham (No. 14), Carolina (No. 17) and Montgomery (No. 19).
The top finishers all had a southeastern theme, too, with five of the top eight coming from the Southern League, not to mention Daytona, Nashville and El Paso in the top nine. Pensacola, a relatively new Minor League club in Florida, finished second after winning MiLB.com's Best Seat in the House contest earlier in the year. The Blue Wahoos are also a Reds affiliate.
"It's definitely exciting for the Reds organizational as whole to finish No. 1 and 2 in this contest -- definitely a big fan base they have, especially in the Southeast from what we've found out after the fact," Lawther said, "When we had the affiliation change from the Cubs to the Reds -- it's definitely exciting to finish one and two."
Lawther said the club encouraged fans to vote on social media, even asking Daytona players to promote the cap and voting contest to their followers on Twitter.
"The power of social media rang true. We got a lot of our players behind it. They would retweet a picture of themselves in the cap to their audience or hometown fans," said Lawther. "We got some of our local sponsors and partners on board to promote on social media and within their employees. We have some local radio stations, we've been on the radio morning shows promoting it to the local community. So having the players involved and their fan bases being a pretty big deal, it kind of helped spread it nationwide."
The voting, by design, randomized all 160 Minor League caps and aimed to allow fans to see the different logos and looks from outside their local markets. But the Daytona logo was, in fairness, brand new. No one really knew what to expect when it was thrown into a group with logos that are widely recognized in baseball.
"We didn't know what to expect -- we had been a Cubs affiliate for 22 years and didn't know what to expect going independent of our parent franchise, starting from a complete rebrand," Lawther said. "Our merchandise sales exceeded even our expectations. Online orders, people buying the merchandize all throughout the country and supporting it that way -- it's exceeded expectations here. This will put us back in the forefront and generate some more sales opportunities and excitement for the brand."
View the final results on MiLB.com.