The city of Hillsboro, Ore., will field its first-ever Northwest League team in 2013, and as of Tuesday that team has a name: the Hops.
This alliterative moniker, short but potent, references Oregon's status as one of the country's leading producers of hops. The name was announced via the team's social media platforms on Tuesday morning, along with a primary logo designed by Louisville-based Studio Simon that features -- what else? -- a cap-wearing anthropomorphic hop. General manager K.L. Wombacher, who relocated with the franchise from its previous home of Yakima, said that "Hops" was selected from among 400-500 unique entries that were submitted as part of a "name the team" contest.
"[Choosing a name] was a lot harder than anticipated. A lot of the names and themes that were considered didn't feel very unique and we wanted something that had never been done before," he continued. "We feel that Hops is a different avenue, in that it's regional and ties into crops and agriculture. ... We also liked the script "H" which we can use to brand both 'Hillsboro' and 'Hops,' and the hop plant as a character makes for a logo that will hopefully sell very well. Plus, it'll be fun to market in that the word 'hop' has a lot of baseball connotations, like bad hop, funny hop, and crow hop."
Hops are useful in many ways, often used as ingredients in natural pharmaceutical products such as face cream and deodorants. But, of course, they have been and will continue to be best known as one of beer's crucial ingredients. Wombacher noted that "it's no secret that the Portland metro area is one of the best producers of craft beer in the country," and went on to say that the team hopes to "work with local breweries to showcase beer as a big part of our concessions."
But the strong beer connotation is a potential liability as well, as a strong emphasis on alcoholic beverages doesn't necessarily correlate with the family-friendly atmosphere that is so crucial to the Minor League Baseball experience.
"No question, there was some apprehension about that," said Wombacher. "But ultimately it's up to us in terms of how we display the logo, build our identity and market the team. ... Just because the team's name is Hops doesn't mean that we have a direct tie-in to beer. It will be sold at the ballpark, yes, but the No. 1 priority is to provide a great, family-friendly fan experience."
Though Tuesday's name announcement was strictly an online affair, the Hops are planning a "fashion show" party next month to celebrate the unveiling of the team uniforms. Also on the agenda is a contest to create the team mascot, which is being staged in conjunction with the local schools ("It may come out as a hop, it may be a kangaroo. Who knows?" said Wombacher). But, for now, the team will simply be content to gauge the reaction to the "Hops" name.
"Not everyone is going to like it, but you can say that about just about every team name," said Wombacher. "We really feel like we nailed it. It accomplished the goals we wanted to accomplish."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog.