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New Year New Names: 2019 MiLB Rebranding Roundup

Amarillo Sod Poodles

With spring training right around the corner, several Minor League Baseball teams are preparing to debut new identities for 2019. Those teams have rebranded over the offseason and will be embracing a new moniker this season.

In Las Vegas, there is not only a new team name but a new ballpark and a new affiliate. The former 51s have rebranded as the Las Vegas Avaitors (Class AAA; Pacific Coast league). The team is owned by Howard Hughes Corp, which made the new name a natural fit, as Howard Hughes was a key figure in aviation history.

“Hughes’ vision and ambition were unmatched,” said David R. Weinreb, CEO of The Howard Hughes Corporation, in a press statement. “That, along with his imprint on Las Vegas where his legacy has helped shape the community for more than three decades, makes the decision to name the team in his honor an easy one.”

The Aviators are planning to move into the new Las Vegas Ballpark in Downtown Summerlin, which is slated to open on April 9. With a new ballpark in play, a new affiliation emerged in late September, when Las Vegas inked a new player development contract with the Oakland A’s. The A’s, who had had a Triple-A affiliation with Nashville for the past four seasons, take the place of the New York Mets as Las Vegas’ parent club.

The longtime Syracuse Chiefs moniker has been retired, replaced by the Syracuse Mets (Class AAA; International League). This rebranding is a nod to the New York Mets, who bought the Syracuse franchise prior to the 2018 season and are taking over as its parent club beginning with the 2019 campaign.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers

Another new name on the horizon for 2019 is the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (High A; Carolina League), a rebrand of the former Buies Creek Astros. The Woodpeckers’ new ballpark will be part of a downtown development being led by Prince Charles Holdings that will include 84,000 square feet of office space, a hotel, and residential and retail spaces. As our own Kevin Reichard wrote in November, the new ballpark is slated to open this spring with a capacity of 5,292, six suites, four concourse suites, and a group seating area that can be divided into six different sections.

Like Las Vegas, the name Woodpeckers is special to the Fayetteville community and has symbolism within local Fort Bragg. The name refers to the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species initially named on the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Fort Bragg officials have taken measures to preserve habitats and apply best practices to help boost the population, earning an award from the Pentagon. The red and black logo colors are also the same colors in the insignia of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command which has its headquarters at Fort Bragg.

The Elmore Sports Group had its hands full this off-season with three franchises shifting and several rebrands taking place. The former San Antonio Missions (Class AA; Texas League) shifted to Amarillo, where they will be known as the Amarillo Sod Poodles. The name is a nickname for Prairie Dogs and was chosen from over 3,000 team name suggestions from the community.

“Our goal from the beginning was to create an iconic identity that appeals to kids and families and is unlike any other in the country,” said Tony Ensor, Sod Poodles President and General Manager.

Amarillo is also getting a new ballpark that is slated to be open just in time for Opening Day 2019. The new ballpark will feature 11 suites (two luxury, five dugout, four concourse), a party deck, and group patios in left and right field. Earlier this month, the Sod Poodles announced they were naming the ballpark Hodgetown in honor of local resident Jerry Hodge.

The Colorado Spring Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) shifted to San Antonio and assumed the Missions name and branding. To take their place in Colorado Springs, the former Helena Brewers relocated and became the Rocky Mountain Vibes (Rookie; Pioneer League). The new logos feature a camping motif with colors reminiscent of the Colorado state flag. One of the primary logos is of a s’more on fire named Toasty Vibes giving the peace sign.

A handful of teams also unveiled new primary logos ahead of the 2019 season, including a trio of Pacific Coast League clubs in the Fresno Grizzlies, Nashville Sounds, and Round Rock Express.

More new team names could be just around the corner. In 2020, the Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) will relocate to Madison, AL and become Rocket City Trash Pandas, while the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are planning for a new identity to take effect with their move to Wichita next year. In addition, the Missoula Osprey (Rookie; Pioneer League) announced this week that they will rebrand for the 2020 season.

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