Minor League Baseball teams have adopted unconventional names in increasing numbers since the 1990s, from the Beloit Snappers and Lansing Lugnuts to the Savannah Sand Gnats and the ever-popular Albuquerque Isotopes.
Those innovative names — along with creative marketing — have improved the bottom line for many teams. Last year more than 42 million people attended games in the minors. That's an all-time record. Ticket sales were close to $175 million and since 1994, net income for teams has increased two-fold, according to Pat O'Conner, president of Minor League Baseball.
"I think, first and foremost, it comes down to what it would look like on a hat or T-shirt and the ability to then, ultimately, sell said hat and T-shirt," says Steve Hurlbert, spokesman for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The Isotopes' name comes from a 2001 episode of the The Simpsons, in which Homer learns his beloved Springfield Isotopes are secretly being moved to Albuquerque. In 2003 when the Calgary Cannons were being moved to Albuquerque, the local newspaper ran a naming contest and the overwhelming favorite was the Isotopes. The owners of the Cannons liked the name too.
Mascots are part of the marketing success. The Isotopes have "Orbit the Dog," who is said to have arrived on that spaceship that supposedly landed down in Roswell, N.M.
Toledo sports both "Muddy the Mud Hen" and "Muddonna." Fans in Hickory, N.C. are entertained by "Conrad the Crawdad."
C. Wolf — of the Erie (Pa.) Seawolves — is a bit of a rarity. He's a talking mascot.
"My favorite thing to do is to shoot my T-shirt gun, into the crowd," says C. Wolf, who goes by Brian Veschecco when he's outside his costume. "I also walk around — talking to people and, of course, having my tail pulled, which I do not like at all."
Just like the players on his team, C. Wolf looks up to the majors for inspiration. Despite being a wolf, his favorite mascot is the San Diego Chicken.