JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin’s new independent baseball team still is nameless, but not for long.
Owners have extended the contest through this month and will make an announcement on the new team name at the end of the month, said Shawn Suarez, a partner in the team’s ownership group, WLD Suarez LLC. The original deadline had been March 4.
“The ‘Name the Team’ contest has been outstanding,” Suarez said in an email about the extension of the contest. “The volume of submissions and the creativity of the fans’ ideas really have been off the charts.”
The Suarez partnership has obtained a franchise of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball that succeeds the El Paso (Texas) Diablos.
The Joplin City Council in January approved a lease agreement that will give Suarez the use of historic Joe Becker Stadium beginning in August. Under a performance agreement the council approved in February, the city will pay $4 million to enlarge and update the stadium for the team. The team owners will build a new entry plaza at the stadium with an office and ticket booth, restaurants and lofts over the next few years, and will develop parking lots nearby.
Ideas for the team name are submitted to local radio stations, to an email address for Suarez at email@example.com, or on a “Joplin Professional Baseball” page on Facebook.
At the contest announcement in January and on the owners’ Facebook page, a resurgence of the Joplin Miners has drawn support. That name refers to the mining industry, which founded Joplin and some other area towns, and to a team that played minor league ball at Joe Becker until 1954. That team produced, among others, Mickey Mantle. A famed New York Yankees player, Mantle was called “The Mick” when he played. He also was called “The Commerce Comet,” referring to his birthplace in Commerce, Okla., and “Muscles.”
The stadium is adjacent to the original path of Route 66 along Langston Hughes-Broadway, and that produced recommendations among some Twitter users of the 66’ers and the Cruisers.
Joplin’s first minor league team, created in 1899, was named the Colts.
“We’ve actually had a couple of fans who felt particularly strong about their ideas send us emails about why they picked what they picked, and to hear their personal stories really just speaks to the strength and character of this community,” Suarez said. “There also has been people submitting their ideas who are from Joplin but have moved away for one reason or another. So it is great to see people who may not physically live in Joplin or the Four States community, but they still feel a sense of pride for this area and they want their voices heard.”
Suarez said a broad spectrum of names have been suggested, though he did not list examples. He gave no hints as to those in the lead.
“Of course, a few names have begun to stand out amongst the rest,” he said. “Part of the challenge in naming a new franchise is that a lot of names are already in use, so there are some legal concerns that go into it. But most importantly you want a name that is representative of the community and is something that the fans can rally behind.”
Suarez said the owners are getting good response for sponsorships and other business relationships related to team promotion.
He noted in his statement “how welcoming the corporate community has been to our cause. We’ve begun the process of seeking out strategic partnerships in advance of our 2015 season and so far the response has been more than positive. People seem ready for this opportunity and they have been seeking out ways to see how we can all fit together.”
THE PLAN is for the stadium renovations to start taking place later this year and for the stadium to be ready for team play in 2015.