The Greensboro Bats of Greensboro, North Carolina, was a team identity that existed in the South Atlantic League for eleven seasons. In that time, they served as a Single-A affiliate of two MLB teams–the New York Yankees and Florida Marlins. The Bats began following the 1993 season, when the Greensboro Hornets changed their name as part of a copyright settlement agreement with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. The two Tarheel State teams had coexisted for a handful of years, but unsurprisingly, it was the minor league team that was compelled to change.
They took on the Bats moniker, a clever play on a baseball theme, and developed a cutting-edge brand design that stood out sharply, even among the sea of originality that was already there in the mid-nineties. Team colors were a zeitgeisty black, teal, and purple, with fluorescent red as an accent color. Uniforms played up the nickname pun, with an oversized red baseball bat in place of an underline for the word Bats.
The original logo was memorable, if short lived. The wide capital G from the Hornets days was recycled, but the team colored it teal and replaced the hornet in the middle with what can be best described as a cartoon version of Batman–swinging a bat in a pinstriped baseball uniform. I’m not sure whether or not DC Comics filed a ceast-and-desist, but either way, the Batman character was only around in that inaugural season.
In 1995, they introduced a well-designed replacement–a purple animal bat in a baseball uniform, in a pose as if he’d just completed a swing of the bat from his perch inside the teal G. This logo looked balanced and elegant, and was used extensively in minor league merchandising promotions in the nineties.
The Bats kept Greensboro’s existing affiliation with the Yankees, and this relationship would continue for nearly their whole lifespan. Though they missed both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera (Hornets alums) by only one year, several future big-league notables suited up for the Bats, including Ricky Ledée, Rubén Rivera, Mike Lowell, Cristian Guzmán, and Robinson Canó.
In 2003, the Yankees and Bats broke their affiliation. New York’s new low-A affiliate became the Midwest League’s Battle Creek franchise, while Greensboro signed on with the Marlins. Though this arrangement only lasted for two seasons , it did add two more MLB notables to the alum list in Josh Johnson and Jason Vargas.
After the 2004 season, Greensboro was set to move into their recently-completed stadium, and they chose a new identity to go with it. A few seasons prior to this, the International League’s Louisville franchise took on the Bats moniker–a perfect nickname for a team from the city famous for Sluggers. I’m not sure if the existence of those Bats had anything to do with the switch, but if it did, that would be the second time that the Greensboro team was nudged out of a nickname. Though it might have been tough to top the Bats brand, it could be argued that the new identity is about as good as it gets in the minors. The Greensboro Grasshoppers bounce around in the Sally League to this day.