The Wichita Linemen, the Keepers; the Sky Kings; the Lightning, the Bombers, the Funnel Cakes, the Aviators.
Mayor Jeff Longwell and Vice Mayor Bryan Frye are hearing a lot of suggestions these days of potential names for the Triple-A Minor League Baseball team that will occupy the new ballpark that will be replacing the venerable Lawrence-Dumont Stadium at Maple and McLean.
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“I’ve heard so many great, creative imaginative names,” Frye said. “Wichitans are really pulling out all the stops. I like to think I’m a creative person, but I haven’t found one that I’m ready to push forward yet.
He has some time left.
The team isn’t due to arrive in Wichita until 2020 at the earliest, but already, the town is talking about what to name it.
Clearly the team’s current name, the “Baby Cakes,” isn’t going to cut it.
It wasn’t all that popular in New Orleans, where it at least has some local relevance. Here, it would make about as much sense as calling a basketball team in Salt Lake City the Utah Jazz.
Naming Minor League Baseball teams is a delicate balancing act.
Ideally, a name will appeal to local fans and give them a sense of pride and place, while being far enough out of the mainstream to attract the attention of online buyers who like collecting and wearing obscure and unusual baseball caps and jerseys.
While the Baby Cakes made Minor League Baseball’s top 25 in merchandise sales, the name fell flat at the ballpark, where attendance pretty much tumbled.
Theoretically, the team could do what a lot of minor league teams do and adopt the name of the parent club, like the Iowa Cubs or Springfield Cardinals.
Except, the parent franchise of Wichita’s new team is the Miami Marlins.
While there’s a certain poetic irony in naming a team in Wichita after a giant oceanic fish, Kansas is at the geographic center of the United States, so that probably wouldn’t fly (or swim, as the case may be).
Far more likely is that Wichita’s new team will have a name with regional flavor, like the Aeros and Pilots and Wingnuts, whose names spun off Wichita’s aviation history; or the Wranglers (formerly the Pilots), a nod to our Old-West history.
Naming the new team will likely be done after some kind of public activity, Longwell said.
“All kind of different names (are being) thrown out there and I think that’s great,” Longwell said. “We’ll figure out some kind of contest potentially and the team wants to participate in this and we’ll figure out what a great name for our new team should be.”
That’s kind of sort of how it was done 11 years ago with the Wichita Wingnuts, an independent-league team that’s going away to make room for the new Major League affiliated franchise.
A name-that-team contest and vote was held and three finalists were selected: Dust Devils, Spirits and Dreamliners. And then the front office went rogue and picked Wingnuts out of thin air, although the team did award the prizes to the contest winners.