When people hear “Minor League Baseball,” they typically think of smaller, fan-friendly atmospheres to take in a baseball game. Some will also turn towards the sport's players who are deemed as budding stars at the major league level.
But there is one aspect that will always resonate with minor league baseball and it is the wild and wacky nicknames some of these teams possess. The Detroit Tigers' minor league affiliates happen to have some of the best collection of minor league monikers. Perhaps none are more recognizable and popular than the Toledo Mud Hens, one of the oldest minor league franchises in baseball.
It's also one of the most classic nicknames ever. Lately, however, teams are opting for re-branding their organizations to make the team more fan-friendly and marketable. There has been a big parade of name changes lately. In fact, four of the five wackiest names in minor league baseball (that we're about to reveal) played under a new nickname just this past season.
Akron was one of the few pioneers of this “fan-friendly” re-branding of minor league baseball teams when they renamed themselves the RubberDucks beginning in the 2014 season.
Now this franchise has been in existence since 1980 but they have been based in Akron since 1997. After being dubbed the Aeros for 17 seasons, the team ultimately decided it was time for a switch.
The Eastern League (Double-A) affiliate of the Cleveland Indians opted for the RubberDucks, as a way of paying homage to Akron's city nickname of “The Rubber Capital of the World.” Team owner Ken Babby said the organization wanted to do “something that was fun and entertaining while honoring the heritage of this great community.”
BINGHAMTON RUMBLE PONIES
This is a name change that was not received rather positively when the announcement was made. And it wasn't so much the changing of something traditional and generic (Mets), but that they missed a golden opportunity in the selection process.
Founded in 1987, the Binghamton minor league baseball franchise originated in Williamsport, Pennsylvania before relocating. They've been an Eastern League affiliate of the New York Mets since 1992. And like many other minor league organizations, the team's name took after its parent big league club.
After 25 years of being called the Mets, they too went down the path of changing names to appeal to fans and honor some tradition. This new name recognize's the area's rich heritage of carousel rides.
While the name will (hopefully) eventually catch on, it would have been intriguing to see a baseball team called the Stud Muffins, which was one of the candidates.
JACKSONVILLE JUMBO SHRIMP
Now like the Rumble Ponies and the two that will follow this, the Jumbo Shrimp were new names to minor league baseball this past season. And if you thought the Ponies were met with criticism, this name change makes Binghamton look like heroes.
Formerly the Jacksonville Suns, one of the more simple and recognizable names in minor league baseball, the switch to Jumbo Shrimp was heavily scrutinized during the announcement. So much so, that there was a petition made to have it changed immediately and a Florida-based newspaper outlet called it a “Dumbo” nickname.
You know that old adage, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it?” Well, that one seems to apply to a lot of fans on this one. Ultimately, a money-grab mindset triumphed in this situation. Oh, and remember that Ken Babby fellow, owner of the RubberDucks? Yeah, he owns this club and spear-headed this re-branding move as well.
NEW ORLEANS BABY CAKES
Here's an “oldie but a goody” franchise. The Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) based in New Orleans (since we throw geography out the window these days) dates all the way to 1901. From 54 years in Kansas City, to 38 years in Denver, the Baby Cakes have been settled in the Big Easy since 1993.
Well, the ‘Baby Cakes' moniker was new this past season. The team carried over the nickname Zephyrs from their time in Denver. And to a degree, it actually worked given there was a wooden roller coaster at the old Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park in NOLA called the Zephyr.
Enter the Baby Cakes. Anyone who has been down to New Orleans and devoured king cakes is likely familiar with the small, collectible figurines that are often associated with the treatment and the city's annual Mardi Gras celebrations.
Like many of these names in this list, there was a number of other good options for this particular team, such as the Cajun Crawfish and the Po'boys.
FLORIDA FIRE FROGS
Talk about some serious alliteration here. This name features two things that don't go together whatsoever, but I think that's what makes it wacky and memorable.
Another “name the team” contest from fans led to this gem of a nickname, a combination of fire (energy, heat, etc.) and an amphibian native to Puerto Rico. The Fire Frogs are based in Kissimmee, which has a heavy Puerto Rican contingent in the community. So I guess that makes sense.
This is another relocated franchise. The team was founded in Viera in 1994, named the Brevard County Manatees, before making the hour drive across Florida to set up shop in Kissimmee. While in Viera, the Manatees were affiliated with three different major league clubs. With the relocation came a new affiliate, the Atlanta Braves.
Fun fact, the Fire Frogs are now the first and only Braves' minor league affiliate to not share their name with the parent club. Also, if anyone ever comes across a fire-breathing frog ever, please do alert me as soon as possible.