Southwest Michigan Devil Rays
The Southwest Michigan Devil Rays of Battle Creek, Michigan, played two seasons in the Midwest League. For that short time, they served as a Single-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The team identity began following the 2004 season, when the former Battle Creek Yankees were not able to secure a PDC with their New York parent club, and signed on with Tampa Bay. Using the Yankees’ nickname was no longer an option, and the franchise opted to take on another COTOB identity, this time with the Devil Rays.
Since they were already going through with the process of changing their identity, the Midwest League club also changed their place name–pivoting from Battle Creek to a broader Southwest Michigan designation. The double-direction place name is always a mouthful, and this was a particularly curious decision, considering that the SW-Rays played in the same league as the West Michigan Whitecaps. Their uniforms and logos closely mirrored their parent club’s of the day, though they flexed some creative muscles on their cap logo. It was an M with the devil ray swimming in front of the letters. At first, it’s a headscratcher why it was only the single letter, but upon closer inspection, the initials SW are tucked into the lower left (or “southwest”) corner of the M. Despite only two seasons in a lower level of the minors, the Skeeter Barnes-skippered squad fielded a few future major-league fellows. Wade Davis is the standout name, but they also had Jake McGee and noted dreadlock-haver John Jaso.
When a team changes its place name from a city to a region, it’s often a signal that they need to expand their reach in an effort to keep the team afloat. The new branding wasn’t enough to change their fortunes, though, and the team was sold to an ownership group from Midland, Michigan. In 2007, the Great Lakes Loons took the field in a shiny new ballpark in Midland. Even though the Loons’ place name was a much broader regional reach than Southwest Michigan, it wasn’t done as an act of desperation. The Loons have been a successful member of the Midwest League ever since.