High Desert Mavericks
The High Desert Mavericks of Adelanto, California, played 26 seasons in the California League. The Mavericks were born when the Riverside Red Wave moved even further inland from the Inland Empire to the high-altitude Mojave Desert. With few red waves in the High Desert, the team was obliged to take on a new moniker. Along with the new name came an M-with-a-cowboy hat logo featuring tiny baseball-shaped studs ringing the perimeter of the Stetson. Team colors were red, white, and black, and would remain as such through the team’s entire existence. In their first season, the Mavs were managed by none other than Bruce Bochy.
Right out out of the chute, the Mavericks had a couple of insurmountable challenges to contend with. First and foremost, the high altitude of Adelanto favored hitters so much that both hitting and pitching stats from High Desert were effectively useless. On the team vitality side, reports indicate that the ballpark’s location was remote and separated from population centers. The surrounding countryside was vast and barren, and the ballpark was tucked in among ranches and industrial facilities. Though initial interest was strong, the honeymoon phase was over after a few years.
Things were never much better on the MLB affiliation side. Despite a promising beginning with relatively regional San Diego, the Mavericks soon became an unwanted puppy at the Class A-Advanced level. Over their 26 seasons, they were affiliated with no fewer than 8 MLB teams–the Padres, Marlins, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Royals, Mariners, and Rangers. They also operated the 1994 season independently, with a roster mostly full of minor leaguers hanging onto their professional dreams by a thin thread. Two of the affiliations (Marlins and Diamondbacks) began right as the parent club was added as an MLB expansion team. In the case of the Marlins, the affiliation lasted for only one season, and seemed to be merely a placeholder before the Brevard County Manatees could set up shop. [MLG Note: though it only lasted that one season, the Marlins year also has the lasting legacy of a Pro-Line cap.] The Seattle era, at 8 seasons, was by far the longest affiliation that Mavericks had in their history.
When any MiLB team exists this long, there are usually at least one or two transcendent ballplayers who pass through. Perhaps teams intentionally avoided sending their top prospects into that altitude, but for whatever reason, High Desert’s alumni list is shockingly bereft of future stars. Excluding Bochy, J.J. Hardy is probably the biggest name to have appeared on a Mavericks jersey. Future NFL first round draft pick/short-time Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Brandon Weeden at least bears mentioning, I guess.
Over the years, the Mavericks did very little to update their visual aesthetic, and considering the typical minor league branding churn, High Desert could be viewed as an admirable model of consistency. Though they always used the M-with-hat and consistent colors, they did start using two alternate logos toward the end of their time–an ‘HD’ towering over a mountain sunset and a grim-looking cowboy.
Though it only lasted for two seasons, the affiliation with the Texas Rangers was notable for a few reasons. On the trivial side, the team briefly left their branding comfort zone by introducing an alternate uniform set, mimicking the parent club’s red, white, and blue. The left sleeve featured a Texas flag while the M-hat logo on the jersey was superimposed on an outline of California. As best as I can tell, this set was used sparingly and only in the 2016 season. There was something satisfying about seeing the Mavericks with the Rangers. The ten-gallon identity jibed perfectly with Texan tradition, and the Rangers even share a market with another pro sports team that happens to feature the same nickname and (at one time) a suspiciously similar M-with-hat logo–that being the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. All these factors, especially the use of Rangers colors in that season, might have led some to believe that the affiliation was a serendipitous and sustainable arrangement. This view would prove to be incorrect.
Well before the Rangers came to town, the Mavericks’ stadium lease with the city of Adelanto was making headlines due to its tremendous civic burden. This situation, especially when considered alongside High Desert’s perennially paltry attendance (in the Cali League, better than only the flamed-out Bakersfield Blaze) spelled the end of the line. Another clue was the Rangers’ affiliation. With Texas publicly planning to own an affiliate at the High-A level and put them in Kinston, North Carolina, it was easy to see how the Rangers viewed their time with the Mavericks as merely a stopgap. Indeed, it was announced during the 2016 season that the High Desert Mavericks (as well as the Blaze) would be contracted from the California League following the season. In a concurrent move, two new teams would added to the Carolina League as expansion clubs. One of these new teams would be owned by the Rangers and operate in Kinston, where they are now known as the Down East Wood Ducks.