From Muckdogs to RockHounds, RiverDogs to Sea Dogs, Minor League Baseball is home to a wide variety of canine entities. But in 2014, a brand new breed is set to appear on the scene.
El Paso's new Pacific Coast League franchise announced Tuesday that, yes, they will be known as "The Chihuahuas" in 2014 and beyond. The smallest of the world's dog breeds was chosen over four other finalists in a "Name The Team" contest that garnered over 5,000 submissions, triumphing over Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Desert Gators and Sun Dogs.
The Chihuahuas, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, will compete in a downtown stadium currently under construction. The team is moving to El Paso after three seasons in Tucson, where they were simply known as the Padres, marking affiliated baseball's first appearance in the city since the Double-A Diablos departed following the 2004 campaign.
El Paso general manager Brad Taylor said Chihuahuas was chosen as the team name because they "represent fun and are fiercely loyal." The region's fans were able to submit names through the team's website. The list was narrowed based on creativity, marketability, fun, relevance to El Paso's unique character and the ability to trademark the name.
"El Pasoans played a significant role in identifying our new team name -- they attended focus groups, suggested several hundred different names, and voted in record numbers for all the names," said Alan Ledford, president of MountainStar Sports Group.
Though fan voting played a significant part in determining the club's new name, it was not the sole factor in the selection process.
"Through the entire [branding] process, our focus was on fun and on finding something that could appeal to kids," added Taylor. "You have to believe in the brand, and stand by it, because the brand isn't just something that people hear -- it's something they see."
And what people will see is a variety of "Chihuahua" imagery, with the primary logo featuring the team name emblazoned in front of the snarling titular canine. The road cap features a stylized upwards-tilting "EP" upon a red background, while a more whimsical alternate logo depicts a Chihuahua swinging a bone as though it was a baseball bat.
The logos were designed by Casey White and Jason Klein of Brandiose (formerly Plan B Branding), the company behind attention-grabbing efforts such as the Richmond Flying Squirrels, Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Omaha Storm Chasers. Chihuahuas is an equally flashy choice for team name, and as such, Taylor is aware it may take some time for the community to fully embrace it.
"If everyone liked the logo, then it'd probably be something very boring. This is something that you can't take too seriously; imagine seeing it through the eyes of a child because, again, it's all about fun," he said. "It might take some time to warm up to it, but we know people will grow to love the brand once they see how we do things."
"Through the entire process, our focus was on fun," said El Paso general manager Brad Taylor.
Taylor should know, as he's been down this road before. Prior to taking the job with El Paso, he was the first employee of the Midwest League's Bowling Green Hot Rods and played a significant role in shaping that franchise's identity. With the unveiling out of the way, now he'll begin a media blitz with the intent of spreading the Chihuahua gospel.
"I'm sure I'm going to be hearing all sorts of views, but we're standing by this," he said. "We have friends in a lot of other places, like the Iron Pigs or the [Fort Wayne] Tin Caps, who stepped outside of their comfort zone to create a brand. That's what we're doing here."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.