It seems that two months is roughly the amount of time that I’ve been doing between these OMNI updates, so here’s what’s up as of this writing in June 2018.
It’s funny how life works. In March and April, I was adding to this site on a daily basis and cranking out DIA entries like they were going out of style. Once May hit, I got much busier with life stuff, and things have slowed to a trickle. DIA entries are more like once per week these days, though I do have lots of good material in the hopper, just waiting to be fleshed out and presented. In addition to the handful of DIA entries, I’ve also added things like this 1991 National Geographic magazine and new additions to the Pro-Line Gallery, including a Salt Lake Buzz cap that I was able to move from the “Suspects” section to the regular gallery. Satisfying!
Still not sure when…or if….I will “go public” with this site, but for now I’m enjoying it as a space that’s free from social interaction–I get enough of that good stuff from family, work, etc. It’s sort of a “if a tree falls in the woods” situation, so I guess if you’re reading this, as an archived article, I’ve probably put out some public feelers.
There are some juicy items in the world of minor league news, and I think I’ll jump in with a fresh one that quite surprised me, and prompted this OMNI flash to happen now.
Owl Be Damned!
The Orem Owlz will be moving to Pueblo, Colorado, possibly as soon as 2020. I first saw the news pieces about Pueblo expecting to get a Pioneer League team a few weeks ago, and wasn’t too surprised to hear of some more movement on this level. With the Helena Brewers set to move to Colorado Springs, it makes sense that there would be more geographic movement toward the southeastern side of the PL’s footprint. When I heard the news, I dug in and did a little research to come up with some suspects, and I was expecting to present some of these results in my next (this) OMNI post. My top two suspects were the Grand Junction Rockies and Great Falls Voyagers, and Orem (one of the more vital PL franchises) was actually quite low on my list.
Then BOOM, I got the news about the Owlz flying east, and I’m still quite surprised. The whole thing is contingent on a Pueblo stadium plan, though it all seems legit at this point. They will take two years to build the stadium and adjacent hotels, and then see the first pitch to start the Rookie season in June 2020.
Perhaps just as surprising as the move itself is that the owner of the team stated, in reference to the team name: “It will still be the Owlz. The first name will change, not the last name. We spent a lot of time on branding and marketing. We will change some of the logo sets to incorporate the locale here, but we will keep the Owlz name.” These days, when teams will use any excuse to form a completely new identity, it’s shocking to hear one take this conservative approach, especially since the alliteration with Orem was a big part of the brand’s appeal. The bird itself is pretty popular these days, and it would be satisfying to see the name Pueblo Owls, despite the moniker being used thoroughly by other organizations, such as both Rice and Temple universities. Keeping the z at the end, the same colors, etc. just seems like a bizarre choice for a minor league team these days. I’ll believe it when I see it in two years. Though the Orem franchise will have been relatively short-lived, they are a memorable team and will make for a good DIA entry when the time comes. Wow.
Change Springs Forward
The new Colorado Springs franchise (relocating from Helena) is soliciting new nickname suggestions for its team. Funnily enough, this bit of fresh news from another Pioneer League club is the opposite story of the Owlz. Everything I had read to this point seemed to suggest that Colorado Springs would continue use of the Sky Sox moniker in the new league. This continuation would have made sense (certainly much more so than the Owlz) because the Sky Sox are an established brand, and will likely lead the PL in attendance despite dropping from the top to the bottom level of the minors. With an unbroken chain of play continuity, I suspect than many (if not most) people in Colorado Springs wouldn’t have even noticed the difference had they kept the Sky Sox nickname.
Instead, cha-ching, Colorado Springs will be getting a totally new identity. I suspect that it will be of the wacky variety, and the team will get a boost of publicity and sell a bunch of hats online. Or maybe it will be something conservative like Pilots, to go with the city’s Air Force identity. Hmm…I think I will submit Violet Pilots to get the best of both worlds. As for the news, so be it. I will have fun writing about the history of the Sky Sox when I make their DIA entry this fall.
Aviators Taking Flight?
In the last OMNI, I mentioned how the Las Vegas 51s franchise announced their intention to change their name for the 2019 season. Well, it seems that there are now some hot rumors that the team will be called the Aviators–whether it be paired with the place name of Las Vegas, Vegas, Summerlin, etc.–although a Twitter handle for Las Vegas Aviators was also claimed, so that’s the likely place name. The nickname would be a reference to air travel pioneer Howard Hughes, and the team is owned by the family corporation.
Either way, this would be a good name. It’s unique (especially with the folding of the indy Frontier League’s Rockford Aviators) yet respectable in a Triple-A sort of way. It ties in nicely to local history without being the cash-grab that 51s was. Las Vegas Aviators rolls off the tongue nicely, so let’s hope this is legit. Either way, the team will have a new parent club, since the Mets will be linking up with Syracuse after the season.
Early PDC Preview
That seems like a good segue to talk about where things stand with the upcoming PDC shuffle in September. Much could change between now and then, but here is my survey of the scene:
At Triple-A, the pivot point is in Texas, with the “promotion” of the San Antonio Missions up from Double-A. I fully expect that the Astros and Rangers will be vying for the new PCL team, with the “loser” getting/keeping the Round Rock Express. It’s possible that some other random team could swoop into San Antonio, but I highly doubt it. If this shakes out, it would mean that Fresno (currently with Houston) would be a free agent, as well as the aforementioned Las Vegas. Suitors for these teams would include the Nationals (currently with Syracuse) and the Brewers (currently with Colorado Springs/San Antonio) as well as possible wildcards like the Athletics (expiring PDC with Nashville) and the Twins (expiring with Rochester). EARLY PREDICTION: Astros with Missions, Rangers with Express, Nationals with Aviators, Brewers with Grizzlies, and Oakland/Minnesota sticking with what they have.
Double-A is fairly boring, but the new stadium in Amarillo could induce a bidding war of sorts, and Amarillo may get their pick of possible teams like the Mariners, Twins, Angels, or the franchise’s current Padres. Another item worth watching is the Mobile BayBears, who will be moving to northern Alabama in 2019. A two-year PDC would only mean one guaranteed year in the new facility, but a forward-thinking MLB team could ink a four-year deal too. Other than that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see another yawn-inducing musical chairs with teams like Arkansas, Chattanooga, etc. since the parent club-affiliate relationships are largely inconsequential. It would be satisfying to see the Reds back with the Lookouts, but that would only happen if Pensacola opts against hosting Cincy’s bountiful prospect crop. Everyone could stand pat, too, and that would be just fine.
At the Single-A levels, there’s not much I’ll say at this point. There are a lot of expiring contracts, but many/most will be renewed. Even though I’m sure there will be some reshuffling, there are few clues, so it would be blind guessing. Maybe things will change by the end of the summer.
In short season/rookie land, one thing to watch is the new Colorado Springs franchise. In a bit of coincidence, they are currently affiliated with Milwaukee (as the Helena Brewers) and the MLB Brewers have been with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox at the Triple-A level since 2014. The Brewers have not enjoyed the elevated offense in Colorado, and they have no obligation to stay with the former Helena franchise. Maybe they will bolt for one of the many other teams with expiring PDCs–whether Rookie or Class-A Short Season. I always thought the Hillsboro Hops would be a good fit. After all, brewers use hops to create their finished product.
Other Name Change News
In April, I mentioned how Amarillo was soliciting nicknames for their new team, and now it is down to five possibilities: Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky, Long Haulers, and Sod Poodles. This is one of those confounding lists that is tough to decipher. My guess is that Sod Poodles (a nickname for prairie dogs) has already won and Brandiose is working on the logos. But I’ve been wrong before with lists like this, so who knows? Long Haulers is interesting to me. Boot Scooters is a strong possibility too, especially considering how Amarillo has worked cowboy boots into their temporary logo. We’ll see.
Let us not forget Fayetteville, who announced over the winter that they would reveal in April the winner of the Fatbacks vs. Woodpeckers contest. April came, and that didn’t happen. From the get-go, I’ve been expecting and hoping for Woodpeckers. Expecting it since ‘Peckers is the same sort of eyebrow-raising cash-grab that the Down East Wood Ducks (or Woodies) used, and hoping for it because it’s a clean, adjective-free yet original animal nickname. Again, we’ll see.
I missed this in the last OMNI, but there are talks of the Potomac Nationals moving within region–possibly to Alexandria, Virginia. We’ll see if anything comes of this. If they do move, would they would change their name from COTOB to Unique? For what it’s worth, the PDC with Washington is expiring. Of course, would the Carolina League team prefer any other parent club than the one within region? Too early to tell, but the P-Nats need to be added to the Endangered Teams list.
I’m getting bored with this saga, but Worcester hasn’t stopped trying to get the PawSox out of Rhode Island. I still think they’ll stay in Pawtucket, but anything could happen. However tiresome, it’s worth keeping tabs on.
On the stuff front, Paul Caputo published a book based on the Story Behind the Name series he did for sportslogos.net over a period of a few years. I loved this series, so I will have to pony up for the book one of these days…..Topps released the 2018 edition of their Pro Debut minor league set. I always buy a hobby box or two, and was not disappointed with this year’s set. One of these days/years, I’ll do write-ups about all sorts of minor league baseball card sets here on the site….Ebbets Field Flannels and MiLB Hometown Collection released new lines of caps, but what else is new?
Till next time!