ARTICLE OF THE DAY
by Coach Gary Overton
Gone are the days when
all minor league teams take the same name as the parent club. Unlike
major league baseball, the minors can’t sell tickets chiefly using
on-the-field talent as players are too transient. Instead they sell the
pizazz and sizzle, which includes community spirit and the fun of a
minor league night out without high ticket prices.
For decades, minor league teams relied on Major League Baseball for
much of their funding. Each minor-league team was associated with a
parent club, such as the Boston Red Sox, and provided a home for its
young prospects. In return, the big league clubs paid for bats, balls,
uniforms and other expenses.
That changed in the early 1990’s. Under an agreement between the majors
and the minors, the minor-league clubs had to share more of their costs
and had to start paying a ticket tax to Major League Baseball.
Partially in response to this change, the minor leagues turned to
Many got rid of team names that were the same as those of their parent
club. In their place cartoonish characters were brought in. There are
two dolphins named Splish and Splash in Myrtle Beach, a menacing beaver
in Portland, Ore. and in Hickory, NC , a big red crawdad by the name of
Some nicknames are easy to figure out, as you don’t have to be a golf
fan to understand why the Augusta (GA) team is the GreenJackets or a
racing fan to know the Kannapolis (NC) team partly owned by the estate
of the late Dale Earnhardt is named the Intimidators. The Knoxville,
Tennessee team in the Southern League is called the Smokies and Cal
Ripken Jr.’s team in Aberdeen, Md. is appropriately referred to as the
Ironbirds. Other names are just catchy phrases like the Durham Bulls,
Carolina Mudcats or the Tidewater Tides. Meanwhile, others hold
onto their parent names like the Richmond Braves or the Kinston Indians.
Logos and team names play a huge role in a sport that has a gross
revenue approaching $500 million and draws 39 million fans per year.
Introducing a nickname and a logo means this is major business, and
along with business comes entertainment for the customer.
Whether it’s fireworks displays, themed playgrounds, crazy
between-innings antics, lovable mascots, kiddie-sized concessions,
speed-pitch zones, inflatables or swimming pools, toddlers to teens
find plenty to do and enjoy during a typical game at any one of the
minor-league ballparks nearby. For the more mature audience the
entertainment appeal is broad too as there is something for everyone.
This includes comfortable picnic areas, modern concessions,
deck-lounges and fantastic seating venues.
Unlike major-league games where it might be a challenge for children to
sit for long uninterrupted periods of time, minor league baseball is
designed to allow little spectators to move around and enjoy the
ballpark’s many kid-friendly distractions. And what could be more kid
friendly than a giant walking, talking furry mascot inviting the kids
to come out to the field or to play in the stands. With mascots
becoming very popular as an essential ingredient to any minor league
game there have evolved mascot fan clubs, mascot appearances in the
community and mascot-inspired educational programs
And let's not forget baseball itself, as minor league teams may not win
spectators based on the names of their ever-changing rosters but they
can still market the baseball experience. With that being said, you may
be seeing one of ECU’s baseball alumni or possibly someone who played
against the Pirates at Clark-Leclair Stadium.
In the last 10 years minor-league baseball has turned itself into a
family entertaining and marketing success. So, if you haven’t
visited a park lately, please do so and you’ll be glad you did. After
all, you’ll be “seeing tomorrow’s stars today” and enjoying every
Coach Gary Overton