The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

March 20, 2014

Joplin pro baseball team to reveal name, logo in April

Joplin’s professional baseball team has a name, and it will be revealed to the public soon.

The Joplin City Council approved a lease agreement in January to bring an American Association independent minor league team to Joe Becker Stadium, beginning with the 2015 season. Soon after, owners created a naming contest to receive input from the public.

Shawn Suarez, a partner in the team’s ownership group, said Wednesday that a news conference will be held in April to announce the winner of the contest and unveil the team’s logo.

“The naming contest is closed,” Suarez said. “We do have a winner. What we’re going to do next is notify the winner and tell them what’s going to happen. Then the next step is we’re going to go through logo designs. We should have an announcement with the name and the logo in the next few weeks.”

The team, which played as the El Paso Diablos in 2013, will not compete in the 2014 season of the American Association, which includes such teams as the Kansas City T-Bones and the Wichita Wingnuts.

Suarez said there wasn’t any one suggestion that dominated the voting, but he was very pleased with the turnout and the variety of ideas.

“There wasn’t a majority winner,” Suarez said. “There were a lot of stong support for different ones. There were a lot of creative answers.

“When we were going in to it, we had kind of an idea what we thought would be the majority. It didn’t actually turn out that way. With the community, it was kind of a 50-50 split between the traditionalists and people who wanted something new and fresh. It kind of divided age groups. The older generation were traditionalists, which makes sense and is something to be expected. The younger generation wanted something more contemporary. It was kind of a 50-50 divide, which was interesting to us.”

One common suggestion from Joplin baseball fans has been to call the team the Miners, which was the name of the city’s New York Yankees affiliate from the early 1900s and up until 1953.

Columbus, Kan., resident Ted Eberhard, who was a pitcher for the 1948 Joplin Miners, said he’d like to see the old name used. Past Miners rosters included such future Hall of Famers as Mickey Mantle and St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

“That would be my first choice,” the 86-year-old Eberhard said. “When you talk about the Joplin Miners, you can go all over the country and they know about the Joplin Miners.”

Still, Eberhard said he plans to attend no matter what the team is called.

“When I played, that was 65 years ago,” he said. “It’s natural for us old-timers to look at the old-time ways. The new ones who come in may have other feelings. No matter what name they pick, I don’t think it will have any impact as far as attendance. And the bottom line is attendance.”

Other suggestions posted on the “Joplin Professional Baseball” Facebook page include the Chatters and the Lead Sox to honor the area’s mining tradition.Other posts suggest the 66ers to recognize the area’s role in Route 66 and the Volunteers to honor everyone who came to the community’s aid after the May 2011 tornado.

Suarez said the team name and branding are extremely important.

“It’s very crucial,” he said. “You want to make sure that the name you have is something the community will rally around. You want them to be proud for that to be the name of the team. We like to have fun with the logos and all that, but it needs to be an icon in the community.”

Suarez said he has been pleased with the support from the community so far. The team’s Facebook page already has 1,680 likes, and the owner said he receives about 15 to 20 emails each day from fans in the Joplin area.

“It’s not only fans, but it’s also from corporate sponsorships,” he said. “It’s been an outstanding response from corporate sponsors, which is something we’ve really been thankful for.”

Renovations to Joe Becker Stadium are scheduled to start this summer after the completion of the annual Premier Baseball Tournament.

Ticket prices for the professional team haven’t been released yet.

“Before we want to release ticket prices, we want fans to have an idea of what the stadium is going to look like,” Suarez said. “We want to give fans an idea of where they will be seating and what the vantage point is. Once we have a final look on that is when we’ll a better idea of what prices will look like. We have a general idea, but it wouldn’t be right to announce it until we’re 100 percent sure.”

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