Minor League Baseball has been an American staple for over a century. Among the roughly 245 Minor League teams scattered across the nation, some have acquired rather unusual names. Here are 11 of the oddest.
1. The Lansing Lugnuts (A-League Affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays)
“It was just corny enough to fall in love with,” said co-owner Tom Dickson on why he chose the moniker “Lugnuts” out of over 2000 suggested names when the team came to Lansing in the mid-'90s. “ I’ll take the praise or the blame.”
2. The Savannah Sand Gnats (A-League Affiliates of the New York Mets)
Savannah has enjoyed a long baseball history and the city proudly boasts the nation’s oldest active minor-league field; Grayson Park dates back to 1940. So why “Sand Gnats”? According to locals, the pesky insects are everywhere, so the name was a natural pick.
3. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Triple-A Affiliates of the Colorado Rockies)
A now-defunct affiliate of the Chicago White Sox called themselves the “Colorado Springs Sky Sox” during the 1950s. When a new franchise was brought into town in 1988, the old name was revived, even though the team’s Major League affiliations had shifted.
4. The Vermont Lake Monsters (A-League Affiliates of the Oakland Athletics)
The Green Mountain State’s only professional baseball team was named in honor of “Champ,” the mysterious creature which allegedly stalks Lake Champlain.
5. The Modesto Nuts (A-League Affiliates of the Colorado Rockies)
A “re-name the team” contest was held in 2005 and, presumably to honor the region’s agricultural roots, the city chose “The Modesto Nuts,” an option which claimed 52 percent of the vote.
6. The Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A Affiliates of the Tampa Bay Rays)
According to team general manager Marla Terranova-Vickers, “A native of Montgomery, Tripp Vickers, submitted the name ‘Biscuits’ and we fell in love with it. Not only was it representative of the region, but it was campy, quirky, and playful.”
7. The Brevard County Manatees (A-Advanced Affiliates of the Milwaukee Brewers)
Named for Florida’s beloved (and endangered) sea cows, the team is also known for their similarly-endearing mascot, Manny the Manatee, who is apparently an excellent dancer:
8. The Asheville Tourists (A-League Affiliates of the Colorado Rockies)
Asheville, North Carolina is not widely regarded as the global mecca of tourism. Yet the name “Tourists” was coined for another local pro ball club in 1925. Though that original team has long since moved on, the name’s become ingrained into the region’s identity. According to assistant General Manager Chris Smith, “We have ‘Visitors’ [written on the scoreboard] and right underneath it, it says ‘Tourists’… people get a kick out of that.”
9. The Las Vegas 51s (Triple-A Affiliates of the New York Mets)
10. The Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A Affiliates of the San Francisco Giants)
11. The Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A Affiliates of the Los Angeles Dodgers)
Where did a name as bizarre as “The Isotopes” come from? The Simpsons. A 2001 episode titled “Hungry, Hungry Homer” followed the series’ bumbling protagonist in his attempt to prevent the Springfield Isotopes from relocating to Albuquerque. It turns out that New Mexicans were delighted by the name and, when the state’s largest city landed a new minor league team in real life two years later, “Isotopes” was overwhelmingly elected as its official moniker. To show its gratitude, the organization has since placed life-sized statues of Homer and Marge Simpson in Isotopes Park.