JOPLIN, Mo. —
Will the Joplin Miners score, or will a new name hit home?
Joplin area residents can pitch their ideas for a “Name the Team” contest announced Wednesday by owners of a professional baseball franchise that wants to locate at Joe Becker Stadium.
A partnership, WLD Suarez Baseball LLC, has obtained a franchise of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball that replaces the El Paso (Texas) Diablos.
The Joplin City Council on Tuesday night approved a lease agreement that will give WLD Suarez the use of the stadium beginning in August. Next month, the council will be asked to consider a performance agreement that, if approved, would clear the way for the team to play ball here.
“What we’ve been saying since the beginning is that this is a true partnership between us and the city, and we want to make the community feel a part of it as well, and the first step in that is to name the team,” said one of the partners, Shawn Suarez, at a news conference Wednesday announcing the naming contest.
He said residents could listen to local radio stations for more details on the “Name the Team” contest. Prizes will be given as part of the promotion, he said.
Residents also may make suggestions in emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook by searching for Joplin Professional Baseball.
Jim Frazier, a former athletic director and head football coach at Missouri Southern State University and a founder of the Joplin Sports Authority, attended the event and said he’s rooting for the name to be the Joplin Miners.
The Miners played at Joe Becker from the time the stadium was built in 1913 until 1953. During those last years, when the team was a farm club for the New York Yankees, a young player from Commerce, Okla., took the field. Mickey Mantle played for the Miners in 1950, then joined the Yankees in 1951 and played center field and first base until 1968. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. His nicknames on the team where “The Mick,” “The Commerce Comet” and “Muscles.”
The Miners name was a nod to Joplin’s start from mining operations for lead and zinc.
Joplin’s first team was the Colts, formed in 1899. It was an independent professional team, the same type as the new franchise. That team was changed in 1902 to the Joplin Miners. The Miners played in what then was the Western Association of professional teams. Other teams included the Webb City Webfeet, the Topeka Saints, the Leavenworth Convicts and the Iola Gasbags.
If the performance agreement for the Joplin endeavor is approved next month, the partnership will start in May building parking lots on land it is purchasing in the area of the stadium. Construction work to enlarge and update the stadium would begin in August. Plans call for the team to start play in 2015.
The naming contest will go on for about a month.