The Ottawa Lynx of Ottawa, Ontario, played fifteen seasons in the International League. Over that span, they served as the Triple-A affiliate for three major league teams–the Montréal Expos, Baltimore Orioles, and Philadelphia Phillies. The Lynx were born following the 1992 season, when, in conjunction with the National League’s expansion, the International League also expanded by two. A new stadium was built in Ottawa, and the Lynx pounced out onto the field in 1993.
The Lynx had the fortune of being affiliated with their Montréal countrymen right out of the gate, and their brand was also enhanced by riding the rising wave of unique minor league identities in the nineties. Choosing Lynx as a nickname allowed the team to be regionally-relevant, while also having the benefit of a cute animal to use for marketing purposes. Their primary logo featured an adorable smiling lynx wearing a black ballcap with interlocking OL initials. The X in the cursive script Lynx was formed in part by a baseball bat, and a maple leaf was tucked into the corner of the logo–as a tip of the cap to their canuck heritage. Team colors were black, silver, and white. Early uniforms were either pinstriped whites or black pullovers with red maple leaf sleeve patches. On-field caps were solid black with the kitty logo front and center.
On the diamond, the Lynx fielded a great many notable big-leaguers. Being at the Triple-A level and with relative proximity to the parent club, the Lynx were well-positioned for the Expos to send many of their players west for rehab assignments and last chances. And that’s to say nothing of the bountiful crops of prospects that Montréal developed, especially in the mid-nineties. In the inaugural season alone, the roster was stacked with the likes of Cliff Floyd, Rondell White, Matt Stairs, Gil Heredia, Curtis Pride, Kirk Rueter, and F.P. Santangelo. Subsequent seasons in the nineties featured Ugueth Urbina, Mark Grudzielanek, Carlos Pérez, José Vidro, Brad Fullmer, Ted Lilly, Orlando Cabrera, Carl Pavano, and Miguel Batista.
The affiliation with the ‘Spos continued into the new millennium, and around this time, the Lynx redesigned their visual aesthetic. Like many sports teams (both minor and major) at that time period, Ottawa sought to be more intimidating and in-your-face. Black and red became the team colors, and the smiling kitty was replaced by menacing cat eyes and claws. The maple leaf became a more prominent part of the set, with one alternate logo featuring a paw bursting through the red foliage. Prospects who came through in the early aughts included Milton Bradley, Brad Wilkerson, and Brandon Phillips, though few players from this time would ever suit up for Montréal.
This was a tumultuous time for Ottawa’s parent club, and when Major League Baseball assumed ownership of the Expos, they could give Ottawa no assurance of long-term security. Perhaps sensing the impending doom in Montréal, the Lynx opted to sign a PDC with the Baltimore Orioles, starting with the 2003 season. This affiliation lasted for four years, and things were pretty uneventful on the prospect front–with Mike Fontenot being perhaps the most successful future big-leaguer. One mildly amusing anecdote is that future Oriole Tim Raines Jr. suited up for Ottawa; just a few years after his Hall-of-Fame father put in a few rehab games for the Lynx–who at that time were still affiliated with the Expos. Both father and soon would later play together for a brief period in Baltimore.
Around the end of the Orioles era, the Lynx franchise was sold to an ownership group who had no intention of keeping the team in Ottawa. They became affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2006 season, and this would prove to be a clue of their eventual fate. The Lynx played out the string in 2007, and then the team was moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they now play as the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Since this relocation, the International League has been inappropriately-monikered, as it is now composed exclusively of teams from the USA. It hasn’t been the same without the missing Lynx.