The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees threw a big party on Wednesday evening that they dubbed "The Big Reveal." And what was revealed was this: Effectively immediately, the International League franchise will be known as the RailRiders.
The new moniker, which references Scranton's claim to fame as the birthplace of the electric streetcar, beat five other finalists in a name-the-team contest that took place over the summer: Blast, Black Diamond Bears, Fireflies, Porcupines and Trolley Frogs. RailRiders is the third name in the history of the franchise, following Red Barons (from 1989-2006, when the team was a Phillies affiliate) and, of course, Yankees.
"We have a big trolley barn on our property in left field, and fans can take the trolley in to the game," said Scranton/Wilkes-Barre president Rob Crain, who joined the team's front office in July. "RailRiders ties right in with that and I think that the fans found that very appealing."
The name-the-team contest was conducted online and fans were able to choose their top three candidates. RailRiders received the most first-place votes, but the name that appeared on the most ballots was Porcupines. That helps explain why the team's primary logo, designed by San Diego-based Brandiose, features a porcupine straddling trolley tracks atop the word "RailRiders" in a stylized cardinal red and gold font.
The RailRiders will feature two yet-to-be named porcupine mascots in 2013, one of many ways Crain and his staff plan on "extending the brand" throughout the ballpark.
Crain is a veteran of the rebranding process. Prior to coming to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he was the assistant general manager for an Omaha team that changed its name from Royals to Storm Chasers prior to the 2011 season. One similarity between the rebranding efforts was the desire to make a clean break with the past, signaling a totally new era for each franchise.
"When we narrowed the [name-the-team] finalists to six, there was the conscious decision not to include Yankees or Red Barons. And we did that because we wanted to focus on the future and where this franchise is heading," Crain explained. "We wanted to remove the notion, right from the start, that we would keep the same name or revert to the past. Going forward, we have a new story to tell."
Indeed, they do.
PNC Field, which the franchise has called home since its inaugural 1989 season, is in the midst of a near-total overhaul that forced the team to spend all of the 2012 season on the road (they were unofficially known as the Empire State Yankees since New York was where they played most of their "home games"). In conjunction with the almost totally new ballpark environs, Crain said that fans can expect an operating style far different from what they may have been used to.
"We're starting anew and in many ways it's going to be a complete 180," he added. "And [The Big Reveal] is the start of it. ... We're kicking off a new way of Minor League life here in Northeast Pennsylvania."
Yet there are elements of the RailRiders' look that reference past identities. The black pinstripes on the home jerseys are an overt nod to the ongoing Yankees' affiliation, while the interlocking "SWB" on the maroon road cap harkens back to a similar design that the team sported during its Red Barons days.
"We're confident with this," said Crain, summing up his take on the rebranding effort. "There's something for everyone."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com.