The other night, there was a brief conversation on Twitter about the upcoming team movement in the Southern and Carolina Leagues, specifically the franchise that will land in Pensacola, Florida next season.
(Beginning in 2012, the Carolina Mudcats will move to Pensacola, taking the place of the independent franchise that played there from 2002 to 2009, and the Kinston Indians will move to Carolina. Kinston, sadly, will be left without a team, at least temporarily.)
Someone, it maybe have been Jeff Perro (@MiLBClubbie), wondered about the name of the new team. At the time, I did a quick Google search, came up with an MiLB.com story about the ownership situation (the same people that owned the independent franchise own this team), and passed it along. The conversation soon turned in a different direction, and I moved on to something else.
Still, the question of what they will call this new team stayed with me. The obvious first thought was that they will continue to use the “Pelicans” name, an idea the esteemed Will Carroll (@injuryexpert – yeah, I know, I can name drop with the best of them) agreed with, mainly because he feels it’s a good name that the owners won’t want to change.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I wondered if maybe there was more to consider. For some reason I assumed that Pensacola had a decent professional baseball history, and I was right: the city’s first team debuted almost 100 years ago, in 1913, and has since been followed by a number of different teams, leagues, classifications, and nicknames. I’ve listed them below as a starting point:
1. Pensacola Pelicans (American Association, Independent, 2006-09; Central League, 2004-05; Southeastern League, 2002)
2. Pensacola Senators (Alabama-Florida League, D, 1961-62)
3. Pensacola Angels (Alabama-Florida League, D, 1960)
4. Pensacola Dons (Alabama-Florida League, D, 1957-59)
5. Pensacola Fliers (Southeastern League, B, 1946-50)
6. Pensacola Pilots (Southeastern League, B, 1927, 1937-42)
7. Pensacola Flyers (Southeastern League, B, 1928-30)
8. Pensacola Snappers (Cotton States League, D, 1913)
For starters, you can probably toss out the Senators and Angels, as I’m assuming those names were derived from relationships with major league organizations. I suppose you could, in that vein, consider Pensacola Reds an option, but I don’t think the Studers will go that way. Anyone that calls a team the Pelicans probably isn’t gonna take the easy way out.
That leaves six. Three of those – the Fliers, Flyers, and Pilots – would seem to honor the importance of aviation to Pensacola’s history: according to Wikipedia, the city is home to the first Naval Air Station in the United States, the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. It’s always nice to honor your heritage (and the 1949 Fliers were picked as the 67th-best minor league team of all-time back in 2001), but I can’t see that happening here unless they maybe go with “Blue Angels”. Besides, the city has also recently had two hockey teams: the Ice Pilots and the Ice Flyers. Redundancy no es bueno.
The other three are Dons (I don’t know where the hell they got this from), Snappers (the first nickname in the city’s baseball history), and Pelicans. Snappers actually isn’t half bad – local significance, historical relevance, potential for a cool logo – but Beloit has dibs. I hate when teams share names. It just feels so unoriginal and, with so many good possibilities out there, unnecessary.
So if you’re going for a name with some Pensacola history, it looks like Pelicans is still your best bet (point: Carroll). The previous Pelicans were reasonably successful, people seem to like the name, and it’s a good name with a quality logo. Moreover, the same ownership group that worked so hard to build that brand up is still in town. It makes sense on many levels for the new franchise to retain the name and everything associated with it.
I’d kinda like to see them go another direction though. Don’t ask me what direction that would be, because I don’t know, but I guess I see this as a new franchise that will need its own identity to be successful. Though the Pelicans appear to have produced a quality product, it was an independent franchise. As Pensacola moves back into the world of affiliated Minor League Baseball, they could establish and emphasize that the team they are bringing to town is a completely different animal than the one that left in 2009.
My best guess? They’ll probably have some sort of contest to determine the new name. It’s always nice to see democracy in action. I just hope they leave the Pensacola Mudcats out of the running.