Why are some MiLB teams so eager to lose their own identity?

In the fifties, sixties, and seventies it was a common thing to name a minor league club after the parent club. Slowly things changed and nowadays most of the minor league clubs have a moniker other than the parent club.

But since the start of the 2010s, there is an ongoing trend. A trend regarding the looks of several minor league clubs. Instead of keeping their won identity, they are eager to adopt the looks of the parent club.

A good example are the farm teams of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I am not talking about their farm teams in the Arizona League and in the Dominican Summer League because all teams in those leagues have the same look as the parent club. No, I am talking about advanced rookie or higher. The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes for example used to sport fantastic sleeveless jerseys with black undershirts and black caps. At one point when the Dodgers became their parent club, the team got rid of the sleeveless jerseys and adopted jerseys that look similar to those of the Dodgers, especially with the numbering. The script is still the old one. Also, the team slowly got rid of the black caps as they introduced a Dodger blue alternate that now has taken over as regular home and road cap. The same with the Tulsa Drillers, the Ogden Raptors, and the OKC Dodgers, even though the OKC Dodgers did not even bother to look or sound different. The only club in the Dodgers farm system that is wise enough not to alienate its fans is the Great Lake Loons. This club stays with the original team colors of maroon, green and black. It must be said that the Drillers adopted these colours before the Dodgers became their parent club. But… they now sport an alternate jersey that says Drillers in exactly the same script as on the Dodgers’ jerseys.

Quakes current look

In the recent past when the Chattanooga Lookouts were the Dodgers’ AA farm team, they had a great look. White jerseys with red lettering and red caps. As soon as the Dodgers came to town, they adopted Dodger blue as their main color. Luckily after the Dodgers left, the team returned to its original colours again.

But the same can be said about the farm teams of the Braves. The Braves and most of their farm teams are owned by Liberty Media. So in a certain way it makes sense to name those teams after the parent club if you own them. The only team that is not owned by Liberty Media is the Florida FireFrogs. And as a result the team has its own identity. Still last year, the Braves’ AAA team, the Gwinnett Braves, decided to change its name as they did not attract that many fans. As a result, the team name changed into Stripers. With a fresh look, the team now tries to attract more fans and tries to sell more merchandise.

Then there are the Chicago Cubs and their farm teams. Of the five farm teams higher than rookie ball, two of them have adopted the name Cubs and one of them adopted the colours of the Cubs despite keeping their own name (Tennessee Smokies). The South Bend franchise for example. When the Arizona Diamondbacks were the parent club, the team was named South Bend SilverHawks. But as soon as the Cubs set foot on South Bend soil, the club changed its name into South Bend Cubs.

Also the Orioles’ farm teams, which are mostly located near and around Baltimore have adopted their looks although it must be said that it is not as clear as the farm teams of the Dodgers, the Braves, and the Cubs. The only team that doesn’t play in black/orange is the Norfolk Tides, who changed its colors into green a few years ago.

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And look to these Albuquerque Isotopes jerseys  These are alternates but that’s how it starts

In my humble opinion, it is a good thing if minor league clubs adopt an own identity linked to the area they are playing at. It creates a bond with the fans. By choosing to look like the parent club it may alienate the fans from you.

In cases of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and the Orioles farm teams, the choice to look like the parent clubs is logical. In both cases, the teams are located in the backyard of the parent club so there will be plenty of fans of the parent club. So in those cases, the clubs will not alienate their fans. But in the case of teams like the Tulsa Drillers, that is no way near its parent club, it remains a riddle why they opt to look like the parent club.

Unfortunately, it is still beyond my comprehension why some MiLB teams are so eager to lose their own identity.

 

 

One Reply to “Why are some MiLB teams so eager to lose their own identity?”

  1. Where do you come up with these little gems?

    Posts like this are what, to me, make your blog fun. You do provoke thought; I’ve been scratching my head for an hour over how to answer this one.

    I think the dividing line was actually the mid-late 1950s. Local minor-league teams had strong community identities before then. And the clubs made a LOT of money from gate receipts and concessions. So much that AAA Pacific Coast League teams hired their own young stars and veterans, as well as taking players from the MLB affiliate. It was said that the top half of the PCL was as good as the lower half of MLB. All 3 DiMaggio brothers signed with the San Francisco Seals and Ted Williams began his career with the hometown San Diego Padres. No MLB affiliations played a role.

    Then they began broadcasting MLB games on TV, and the minors were crushed. They really weren’t financial successes again until the 1990s.

    Now, minor-league teams are big money, relying on renewed attendance, concessions, and local promotions. Even Class A teams have $10 million stadiums, and AA or AAA teams may play in $50-$100 million parks. Though facilities are locally owned, the clubs now have no influence on the field. The MLB affiliate supplies and pays players & coaches, buys uniforms and exclusively decides how the team competes.

    The end result, I think, is that there’s little deep passion for the local team. People go to minor-league games because they are cheap, fun entertainment. (It can cost 8-10 times as much to take a family of 4 to an MLB game than to a minor-league game.) The minor-league clubs work very hard to provide fans fun contests and promotions between innings. Fans are also much closer to the field of play, so can feel more “involved” than at Big League games.

    The primary interest in the team is the experience of watching a few future major-leaguers than any attachment to those players. It’s now well understood that minor league players are just passing through (on their way to a higher level, or on their way out of the game).

    I imagine Dutch fans’ attachments to the Unicorns or Pioneers or Pirates is far greater than a US AA or AAA fan’s attachment to the local team or roster members. Even with your much smaller fan bases, I would guess the players’ involvement with youth baseball, for instance, is about equal to the minor-league teams’.

    Is tying the minor-league club’s image to the MLB affiliate poor marketing? I suppose there could be local marketing advantage, if the franchise name has been a landmark for many decades (as in the Lookouts or the Albuquerque Isotopes). In almost every market, though, there is a local college or pro mascot which commands much more loyalty. In Chattanooga, for example, the University of Tennessee Volunteers engenders much more intensity. Even the inept University of New Mexico Lobos stir more blood than the Isotopes.

    I can’t think of a single minor-league mascot that commands intense local loyalty.
    I don’t think there are any today. Anybody have a different thought?

    Local fans, I think, like their small contribution to the MLB franchise; they’re “part of it” in that regard. If a franchise changes affiliation, local fans are probably ready for a change and the new colors/mascot signal a new beginning. So I doubt the MLB mascot and colors really diminish the minor-league club’s brand.

    Liked by 1 person

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