Suzanne Perez Tobias

‘River Riders’ got Wichita talking. Now let’s find a name worth cheering about

Wichita River Riders?

I realize it’s only the first of seven potential new names for the city’s new baseball team. Officials say they plan to roll out others in an excruciatingly slow process — one every two weeks — until a final team name is revealed in November.

But on Option No. 1, I’m a firm member of team Hard Pass.

Neither the name nor colors — teal and lime green? really? — garnered much support on social media this week. In an unscientific, first-day Twitter poll conducted by sports-talk host Bob Lutz on KFH radio, River Riders earned a score of 2.74 out of 10.

The overwhelming response, from baseball fans and casual observers, seems to be: Next!

And that’s OK. We can’t expect all seven finalists, which were culled from more than 3,000 suggestions submitted online, to be grand slams.

I just hope Wichita joins the ranks of cities elsewhere that have gone bold and weird with their Minor League team names.

Names like the Carolina Mudcats in my native North Carolina, whose logo features a fiercely adorable, whiskery catfish.

Or the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Or the Chattanooga Lookouts. Or the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Or the Albuquerque Isotopes. Or the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Last fall, a new Minor League Baseball franchise in Madison, Alabama, made headlines nationwide when it named itself the Rocket City Trash Pandas.

The Trash Pandas name won a public vote, beating out similarly bizarre combinations: ThunderSharks, Moon Possums, Space Chimps and Comet Jockeys.

The “Rocket City” reference is a nod to a NASA flight center and aerospace research hub in nearby Huntsville, Alabama. “Trash panda” is a slang term for raccoon, recently popularized in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, which featured a raccoon named Rocket.

Not long after the Alabama team unveiled its adorable astronaut raccoon logo, its sales of jerseys, caps, shirts and other merchandise began breaking Minor League Baseball records.

I happen to think our city hit a home run with its previous team name and logo — the Wichita Wingnuts. And Spinner the Squirrel was a worthy and lovable mascot.

I liked the Double-A Wichita Wranglers franchise as well, and can still sing the catchy theme song they used to play over the loudspeakers: “Wichita Wranglers baseball . . . Stampede! Stampede! Stampeeeeede!”

I’ve heard rumblings about possible names for our new Triple-A team, and several have marketing and merchandising potential.

My colleague Dion Lefler likes the Wichita Wind Sox. And here’s a cool detail: If you flip the old Miami Marlins’ “M” logo upside down, you get a “W” with a stylized wind sock.

Lutz, a former Wichita Eagle sports columnist, has said he is high on the Wichita Flyboys, which would be a nod to the city’s aviation history.

I’ve heard Twisters and SkyCows, Wombats and Yellow Bricks. So many choices. I look forward to seeing the next one that comes down the river.

Suzanne Perez Tobias is a columnist and member of The Eagle’s editorial board. During her nearly 30 years at the newspaper, she has covered breaking news, education, local government and other topics. An avid reader, Suzanne also oversees The Eagle’s books coverage and coordinates the annual #ReadICT Challenge. She can be reached at 316-268-6567.
  Comments