I’m a big believer in keeping things weird. I think one of the best ways to make a city or region an interesting place to live or visit is to encourage, preserve, and promote what’s unique (read: weird) about a place, a people, a culture. The more people embrace local pride, local flair, local character — whether it’s in respect to language, history, music, cuisine, customs, or sports — the more it seems to produce a kind of positive feedback loop uplifting and enriching a community.
Anyway, one of the great ways that people experience local pride is through sports. And I love sports, y’all. I always have. But sometimes I feel like Americans take sports so seriously that they forget that it’s all just supposed to be about fun and friendship and local pride. Not only is sports fandom sometimes so extreme that it borders on the cultish, but it’s also such big business that sometimes the money gets in the way of sports fulfilling its basic positive communal functions of fun, friendship, local pride. Every time a major team moves cities, for example, you know it’s about the money. Is it naive to expect otherwise? I don’t know.
But you can often see how over-seriously we take pro-sports when you look at some of the names that get chosen nowadays for professional teams. Thankfully, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians finally bowed to public pressure and decided to change their overtly racist team names, but Washington has now gone as the “Washington Football Team” for well over a year now (because apparently picking a team name takes that long???) and Cleveland just recently elected to go as the “Cleveland Guardians,” which is possibly the single blandest, most corporate-committee-engineered team name/mascot I’ve ever heard. Is that really the best y’all could do? Where’s your local pride? Where’s your sense of fun?
Of course, there are lots of similarly awful pro sports team names. Here are a few more of the incredibly lame pro sports team names out there:
- Houston Texans
- Washington Nationals
- Orlando Magic
- Golden State Warriors
- Cleveland Browns
- New England Patriots
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Brooklyn Nets
To be clear: those team names are shite. Right? A five-year-old could come up with better team names. It really bugs the crap out of me. I mean, c’mon corporate America! Be better.
Thankfully, Minor League Baseball has done a great job over the years of setting the standard and showing the way forward for sports team names. There are dozens of fun, quirky, local-pride-based team names in the various minor leagues. Thus, without further ado, here are 32 of my personal favorites (with blurbs lifted mostly from Wikipedia):
1.) Akron RubberDucks
The Akron RubberDucks are a Minor League Baseball team based in Akron, Ohio. The team is the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The nickname “RubberDucks” refers to Akron’s history in the rubber industry, in particular as the birthplace of tire and rubber companies such as Goodyear, Firestone, Goodrich and General Tire.
2.) Albuquerque Isotopes
The Albuquerque Isotopes are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A West and the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. They play home games at Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The team’s name recalls the fictional ‘Springfield Isotopes’ from the long-running TV series The Simpsons. The “Isotopes” name was deemed appropriate, since New Mexico has a number of well-known scientific and military facilities dealing with nuclear technology, such as Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, as well as the site of the Trinity test.
3.) Amarillo Sod Poodles
The Amarillo Sod Poodles, nicknamed the Soddies, are a Minor League Baseball team of the Double-A Central and the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. They are located in Amarillo, Texas, and play their home games at Hodgetown in downtown Amarillo. The name is in reference to the prevalence of prairie dogs in West Texas. The name was meant to convey the values of sticking together, being family oriented, and self sufficient.
4.) Batavia Muckdogs
The Batavia Muckdogs are a collegiate summer baseball team of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. They are located in Batavia, a city in Genesee County, New York, United States. Their home field is Dwyer Stadium in the city of Batavia. The team name was changed from the Clippers to the Muckdogs in 1998 based on a fan poll that chose the nickname and logo. The “Muckdogs” name was inspired by Genesee County’s mucklands.
5.) Biloxi Shuckers
The Biloxi Shuckers are a Minor League Baseball team of the Double-A South and the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. They are located in Biloxi, Mississippi, and are named in reference to the city’s oyster industry and seafood heritage.
6.) Binghamton Rumble Ponies
The Binghamton Rumble Ponies are an American minor league baseball team based in Binghamton, New York. The team, which plays in the Double-A Northeast, is the Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets major-league club. The Rumble Ponies play in Mirabito Stadium, located in Binghamton. In 2016, the franchise announced a plan to stay in Binghamton for the foreseeable future, and to change the team’s name. The team held a name-the-team contest on its website; the finalists included the Rocking Horses (for the Triple Cities’ nickname as the “Carousel Capital of The World”), Rumble Ponies (also a carousel tribute), Stud Muffins (for the collections of carousel horses in Binghamton), and Timber Jockeys (for everyone who rides the carousels). The team ultimately announced that it would be rebranding as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
7.) El Paso Chihuahuas
The El Paso Chihuahuas are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A West and the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. They are located in El Paso, Texas, and play their home games at Southwest University Park, which opened in 2014. A name-the-team contest was held to decide the team’s nickname. Finalists were Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators, and Sun Dogs. On October 22, 2013, the Chihuahuas name, logo and colors were announced. The name is a reference to the Chihuahuan Desert encompassing the area.
8.) Erie SeaWolves
The Erie SeaWolves are an American professional baseball team based in Erie, Pennsylvania. They compete in Minor League Baseball as a member of the Double-A Northeast’s Southwest Division, serving as the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. The SeaWolves currently play their home games at UPMC Park in downtown Erie. The “SeaWolves” name refers to the city’s location along Lake Erie as well as their original affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Sea wolf” is a historical epithet for sailors who engaged in piracy.
9.) Florence Y’alls
The Florence Y’alls are a professional baseball team based within the Greater Cincinnati region in the city of Florence, Kentucky. The Y’alls are a member of the West Division of the Frontier League, an independent baseball league. In October 2019, the owners announced a rebranding of the team for the 2020 season, dropping the name Freedom. The new team name, Florence Y’alls, was announced in January 2020. The team takes its new name from the local Florence Y’all Water Tower.
10.) Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels are a Minor League Baseball team of the Low-A Southeast and the Low-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. They are located in Fort Myers, Florida, and play their home games at the CenturyLink Sports Complex at Hammond Stadium. In December 2019, the franchise announced that it would be rebrand ahead of the 2020 season and become known as the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels.
11.) Fort Wayne TinCaps
The Fort Wayne TinCaps are a Minor League Baseball team of the High-A Central and the High-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. They are located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and play their home games at Parkview Field. The name TinCaps was chosen following the 2008 season, alluding to John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. The Tin Cap refers to a fictionalized depiction of John Chapman wearing a cooking pot as a hat in the 1948 Walt Disney movie “Johnny Appleseed,” though this depiction has been disputed by historians. Chapman spent his final years in Fort Wayne and is buried in the city.
12.) Gastonia Honey Hunters
The Gastonia Honey Hunters are a professional baseball team based in Gastonia, North Carolina. They play in the South Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a “partner league” of Major League Baseball, at CaroMont Health Park in Gastonia, North Carolina. On August 15, 2020, a “Name the Team” contest was launched. On October 8, 2020, the names were narrowed down to Fire Ants, Hogzillas, Honey Hunters, Hotshots, and Uppercuts. On January 13, 2021, the Honey Hunters name, logo and colors were announced. “Honey Hunters” refers to the toughness of a honey badger (Mellivora capensis) and the ability to seek out positive things in hard times. The moniker also alludes to Ransom Hunter, the first freed slave to own property in Gaston County, of which Gastonia is the county seat.
13.) Hartford Yard Goats
The Hartford Yard Goats are a Minor League Baseball team based in Hartford, Connecticut. The Yard Goats, which play in the Double-A Northeast, are the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. The team was founded in 2016 when the New Britain Rock Cats relocated to Hartford. The nickname “Yard Goats” was selected as part of a “Name the Team” contest which drew over 6,000 submissions. “Yard goats” is rail-yard slang for the switch engines or terminal tractors that shuttle train cars between different locomotives. The stadium is adjacent to the Hartford rail yards.
14.) Hickory Crawdads
The Hickory Crawdads are a Minor League Baseball team based in Hickory, North Carolina. They are a member of the High-A East and the High-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. In 1993, fans were invited to submit suggestions for the team’s name. Among the finalists were “Woodchucks”, “River Rats”, “Valley Cats”, and “Hound Dogs”. The chosen name, “Crawdads”, was selected because of the animals’ strength and presence in local waterways.
15.) Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are a Minor League Baseball team that is the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. They play in the Triple-A East league. The Jumbo Shrimp are located in Jacksonville, Florida. The name combines shrimping, which is popular on Jacksonville’s St. Johns River, with the sentiment that Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city, still has a small town feel, hinting at the moniker’s oxymoronic nature.
16.) Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers are a Minor League Baseball team of the Low-A East and the Low-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. They are located in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and play their home games at Atrium Health Ballpark. From 1996 to 2000, they were known as the Piedmont Boll Weevils. From 2001 to 2019, they were known as the Kannapolis Intimidators, after Kannapolis native NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, who was known as “The Intimidator”. On October 23, 2019, the team unveiled its new identity as the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. Team leadership looked for a name that reflected both the city’s heritage and its association with auto racing. “Cannons” was among the most popular suggestions, which was refined into “Cannon Ballers” for a broader appeal. The mascot — a baseball-headed stuntman — has a mustache reminiscent of Earnhardt’s.
17.) Lansing Lugnuts
The Lansing Lugnuts are a Minor League Baseball team of the High-A Central and the High-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. They are located in Lansing, Michigan, and play their home games at Jackson Field. The lug nut, a fastener that secures a wheel to a vehicle, relates to the region’s history as a hub of automobile manufacturing.
18.) Lehigh Valley IronPigs
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A East and the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. They are located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and are named in reference to pig iron, used in the manufacturing of steel, for which the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania is well known.
19.) Midland RockHounds
The Midland RockHounds are a Minor League Baseball team based in Midland, Texas. The team, which plays in the Double-A Central, is the Double-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics major league club. The team is named “Rockhounds,” a nickname for geologists, as a reference to the oil and gas industry of the area.
20.) Missoula PaddleHeads
The Missoula PaddleHeads are an independent baseball team of the Pioneer League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball (MLB) but is an MLB Partner League. They are located in Missoula, Montana, and play their home games at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field. In 2019, the team rebranded as the Missoula Paddleheads, a term referencing moose antlers being known as “paddles” and a male moose being called a “paddlehead.” The brand also showcases the diversity of kayaking, canoeing and other river-based activities found in Missoula, while the logo features a baseball bat paddle and a partially submerged moose.
21.) Modesto Nuts
The Modesto Nuts are a Minor League Baseball team, aligned in the Low-A West North Division as an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. They are located in Modesto, California, and are named for the several types of nuts grown in the region.
22.) Montgomery Biscuits
The Montgomery Biscuits are a Minor League Baseball team based in Montgomery, Alabama. They are the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and play in the Double-A South. The club became known as the Biscuits when it moved from the Orlando area to Montgomery in 2004. Myers and Dickson selected the team’s nickname from over 4,000 entries in a “name the team” contest, due in part to tying into indigenous affiliation and potential marketing and pun possibilities (for example, “Hey, Butter, Butter, Butter” or the team’s souvenir store, the “Biscuit Basket”). During games, biscuits are shot from an air cannon, into the stands.
23.) Norwich Sea Unicorns
The Norwich Sea Unicorns are a baseball team located in Norwich, Connecticut. Starting with the 2021 season, Norwich plays in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. In the 2019 season, the team renewed its long-term lease with the city of Norwich, and, as a result, announced a change to the team name, which would include the Norwich name and a nickname to be chosen following a fan submission contest. The five finalists from the contest were “Norwich Golden Roses”, “Norwich Mill Mules”, “Norwich Narwals”, “Norwich Salty Dogs”, and “Norwich Sea Unicorns”. Ultimately, the team settled on becoming the Norwich Sea Unicorns.
24.) Omaha Storm Chasers
The Omaha Storm Chasers are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A East and the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. They are located in Papillion, Nebraska, a suburb southwest of Omaha, and play their home games at Werner Park which opened in 2011. Following the 2010 season, the Omaha Royals began the process of changing their nickname. Fans had the opportunity to submit their choice of nicknames, as well as vote on the finalists. The list of 24 fan-submitted names was whittled down to nine finalists through voting at the team’s website, and the new name, “Storm Chasers,” was revealed on November 15. The name is a salute to storm chasers, people who pursue any severe weather phenomena for various purposes, but most commonly for curiosity, adventure, scientific investigation, or for news or media coverage, the state, and Omaha itself, being in Tornado Alley, has been a haven for many such chasers who cover tornadoes and similar severe weather occurrences.
25.) Pensacola Blue Wahoos
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are a Minor League Baseball team of the Double-A South and the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. They are based in Pensacola, Florida, and play their home games at Admiral Fetterman Field. The Blue Wahoos nickname was decided in a fan contest run by Wendy’s in conjunction with the Pensacola News Journal. It refers to the wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), a local fish species.
26.) Quad City River Bandits
The Quad Cities River Bandits are a Minor League Baseball team of the High-A Central and the High-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Their home games are played at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa, one of the Quad Cities. The Davenport franchise used “Davenport” before changing to “Quad City” in 1962, as other local minor league franchises had folded. In 1992, the team created its own nickname in a “name the team’ contest. The contest winning name was: “Quad City River Bandits”.
27.) Richmond Flying Squirrels
The Richmond Flying Squirrels are a Minor League Baseball team based in Richmond, Virginia. The team, which is a part of the Double-A Northeast, is the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants major league club, and plays at The Diamond. In 2009, the team name was changed to the “Flying Squirrels”. The name was chosen through a Richmond Times-Dispatch readers’ “name-the-team-contest,” which ended on October 15, 2009. Other finalists were the Rock Hoppers, Hambones, Rhinos, Flatheads, and Hush Puppies.
28.) Rocket City Trash Pandas
The Rocket City Trash Pandas are a Minor League Baseball team of the Double-A South and the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. They are located in Madison, Alabama, and play their home games at Toyota Field. In 2020, the team was renamed the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The name is a reference to both the area’s association with the space industry, namely from Huntsville, and the determination and ingenuity of raccoons.
29.) Rocky Mountain Vibes
The Rocky Mountain Vibes are an independent baseball team of the Pioneer League, an MLB Partner League. They are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and play their home games at UCHealth Park. A contest to determine the Pioneer League franchise’s new name was announced in June 2018. The five finalists in the name-the-team contest were “Colorado Springs Happy Campers;” “Colorado Springs Lamb Chops;” “Colorado Springs Punchy Pikas;” “Colorado Springs Throttle Jockeys;” and “Rocky Mountain Oysters.” The team’s name, “Rocky Mountain Vibes,” was announced on November 19, 2018. Though not one of the finalists, the name is related to the proposed Happy Campers moniker in reference to the happy feelings or “good vibes” one may feel when enjoying outdoor activities.
30.) Sugar Land Skeeters
The Sugar Land Skeeters are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A West and the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros Major League Baseball club. They are located in Sugar Land, Texas, part of the Greater Houston metropolitan area, and play their home games at Constellation Field. Their name is a Southern slang word for mosquitos, which are common on summer nights in Southeast Texas.
31.) Toledo Mud Hens
The Toledo Mud Hens are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A East and the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. They are located in Toledo, Ohio, and play their home games at Fifth Third Field. The team originally played in Bay View Park, which was outside the Toledo city limits and therefore not covered by the city’s blue laws. The park was located near marshland inhabited by American coots, also known as “mud hens.” For this reason, the local press soon dubbed the team the “Mud Hens”—a nickname that has stuck to Toledo baseball teams since.
32.) Vermont Lake Monsters
The Vermont Lake Monsters are a collegiate summer baseball team located in Burlington, Vermont. They play their home games at Centennial Field, one of the oldest minor league stadiums, on the campus of the University of Vermont. During the 2005 season, the club announced its plan to change the nickname and solicited suggestions from its fans. The team received 30,000 fan suggestions for the new name via a name-the-team contest. They announced the new name, “Lake Monsters”, and revealed the new team colors and uniforms on November 15, 2005. The name references Champ, the legendary Lake Champlain monster which had been the team’s mascot since 1994.